Photography on the Edge

Not your grandmother's wedding pictures — a bold, new kind of photographyA beautiful white bridal gown against a stark background — it's a signature shot for North Conway wedding photographer Jay Philbrick. But this year he was ready to push it up a notch. Why not have that stark background be a rocky ledge hundreds of feet off the ground? He lived right near Cathedral Ledge and, as a climber, he knew there was a narrow shelf 350 feet up that would work. He would enlist the aid of Marc Chauvin, an internationally certified mountain guide, to help him do the deed.He didn't think he'd ever get a bride and groom to go for it, but Steffanie and Joe Brackett of Hudson, both climbers, amazingly said yes. So, early one August morning, dressed in the bridal gown and suit they'd worn for their wedding a few days earlier, they were harnessed, lowered to the ledge and anchored in place. “We took a few deep breaths and we were fine,” says Steffanie.Jay hung in mid-air getting the shots. “Don't let anyone tell you it's not a big deal to hang in mid-air,” he says. “It's terrifying, but I loved it.” You can see the results on the previous page. There are more shots of it online at, Jay does the standard wedding poses, too. But even there he's always looking for new ideas. Many he gets from fashion magazines. “I used to read climbing magazines,” he says, “now I rush to the mailbox to get ‘Vogue.' I'll find a pose that's interesting and figure out how to incorporate it.”He recently shot a wedding held at an art gallery. He posed the bride in front of a portrait of a similar-looking woman. He grabbed the handkerchief out of the bride's father's pocket and had her mimic the stance (see below). Another time he got the couple to sit in front of an exhibit that, in post-processing, became a gallery of the couple's own pictures (see shot next page, top right). Jay's wife, Vicki, helps get the needed shots at weddings.Much of his work is done when he gets back to his studio. “I've really just started when the wedding is over,” he says. “I process the photo to get the effect I want. I call it artistic enhancement.” He uses texturing (note the effect on the couple seated next to a column) and color changes. Sometimes he uses another image entirely as an overlay. He once used a photo of bricks to get subtle reds, yellows and browns to sweep across the image.Day-after sessions — which could take place days, weeks or even months after the wedding — are where his more extreme photography is done. “It's a chance for the bride and groom, sometimes just the bride, to get shots they wouldn't dare get on their wedding day because they don't want to take the time or they don't want to get their dress dirty,” Jay says. He likes posing brides in the water (he'll likely do a “from here to eternity” shot one day) and at other scenic locations.“People that find me are usually very into their photos and excited about the type of work I do,” he says. “They like the artistic feel and give me the time to do it.”By Barbara Coles