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Checkerbox Weddings: Storytelling through Pictures

Jonathan Mandel is a San Francisco wedding photographer whose work is known for its lyrical storytelling quality, simplicity and humor. Clients love Jonathan's unobtrusive style and his eye for capturing the most precious shots of the day.

Interviewer: What sets your work apart from other wedding photographers in the Bay Area?

Jonathan Mandel: I tell stories with my camera. I get excited about the chance to shoot a whole day's worth of images, and I see it as a privilege to participate in such an important event in the life of a family. Weddings are a unique storytelling opportunity in our lives. How many times will you be surrounded by a hundred friends and family members who are there to share in and celebrate your life?

I believe that the freshest, most engaging photography happens when the couple and their guests are free to enjoy the day. I record the ceremonial high points and the formal portraits everyone expects, but I've learned that it's also important to pay quiet attention to the details that make you different from every other person who has ever been married. Often these are fleeting moments: the little flower girl who spontaneously wanders off-course. Or the feeling of being twirled in the arms of your beloved on the dance floor. The bride and groom are celebrities at their wedding. I think your wedding photographs should reflect that fact.

Interviewer: How do you approach the process of photographing a wedding?

JM: The process begins well before the wedding day, with a relaxed and creative engagement portrait session. This is a vital part of my photography process, because it gives the three of us an opportunity to develop a comfortable working style.

On the wedding day, I work quietly behind the scenes as much as I can. My assistant makes certain I have the tools at hand to make the images I want, so that I can keep a careful eye on the unfolding details and emotions of the day. I love being able to bring my own special combination of observation, humor, warmth and craft into contact with the drama and joy of a wedding.

Because I believe that a wedding is more than a few key moments, I place no limits on the coverage I provide. I find the process of carefully focusing my attention over the course of an entire day to be exhilirating. This attention shows in your photographs.

Off course, 1999

Interviewer: How do you go about deciding when to shoot color and when to shoot black & white?

JM: I start by asking my clients what ratio of color to black & white they prefer. Left to my own devices, I would shoot about 60% black & white, because I think it's beautiful and timeless. Since I carry four cameras at every wedding, I can easily switch between color and black and white. I can choose the right medium for the mood and style of the picture I want to capture.

Interviewer: What about special effects?

JM: A little goes a very long way. I think the best effects are careful composition, spontaneous reactions, and harmonious interplay of focus and blur, light and shadow. Occasionally I will employ a very wide angle lens, but really, the best part of a wedding is the drama that's already there. My job is to find it, and when I do, I rarely need to enhance it.

Interviewer: What is your favorite part of the process?

JM: After the wedding itself, I especially enjoy working with my clients to assemble the album. Envisioning the effect of a full day's worth of pictures in one book is exciting. People don't always realize when they're choosing a photographer that, while they might hang a few wedding pictures in their house, the thing they will really cherish for years to come is the album that tells the story. I can't tell you how many times my customers have thanked me for helping them to create a treasured family heirloom. It gives me such great pleasure to see how delighted my customers are as we create this family treasure.

Interviewer: So the album is an important part of your wedding coverage?

JM: Yes. The album really brings the story of the day together in a way that is more than the sum of the individual photographs. And the albums we make here at Checkerbox are nothing short of stunning. They are all beautifully hand crafted and exquisitely designed. I'm really proud of our albums.

Interviewer: Do you insist that your clients purchase an album?

JM: No, not at all. I offer packages that include an album and packages that don't. Regardless of how a couple chooses to work with me, I know they will enjoy the flexibility, attention and enthusiasm I bring to every wedding.

For availability and information, please email, or call us at 415-902-6944.