Steve Grogan interrupted his hectic napping schedule to spend some time with Manchester-based documentary wedding photographer and all round shadow master Damian Brandon.

Grab a nice cup of tea, a handful of custard creams and enjoy the interview!

Damian Brandon Interview by Steve Grogan
1) Lovely to have the opportunity to chat with you, tell us about your work, how would you describe your style of photography?

Thanks for the honour of the interview and BIG UP to you guys for starting this incredible movement – it’s AMAZING. Put simply, my style is to tell stories using an artistic visual narrative. I am a lover of natural light, polaroids and quirky & elegant romance.

My passion is to catch images that stir up emotions, emotions that take you right back to the moment so that you can almost smell it, sense it and feel it. I just love to photograph the beauty of genuine moments as they happen throughout the wedding day.

However, I do also enjoy capturing poetic portraits shot in a kind of editorial style.  My approach during this part of the day is to direct slightly and place my couples in the best light. I ask my couples to ‘feel the moment’ as I cannot deliver images if they are not real and I explain this too them beforehand.

2) Some of your images look like renaissance period paintings, is this something that happened consciously as your work developed? How do you get that particular look? 

It’s a strange one that, it’s not something I set out to do intentionally but by habit I do underexpose a little throughout a wedding day unless it’s super colourful wedding. I like to find dark corners lit by a single bulb with textured backgrounds or even just natural window light and create the mood from that.

I bring back the shadows a little in post production but don’t tend to do much else to the image, I use Mastin Labs for my black and white presets as they are the closest to film I have seen and the grain is just right for me, not quite film but very close.

3) I see you have quite the camera collection. Talk us through the kit you’d use on a typical wedding day.

I swear, no more new cameras now, well maybe just a few more vintage film cameras!

I shoot a wedding with a Leica M10 coupled with a 35mm f/1.4 lens which I use for around 50% of the day. I have a 50mm f/2.0 on my Leica M9 and the 28mm fixed lens on the Leica Q. These cameras pretty much get me through an entire wedding but I also use the Sony A9 for the ceremony, it’s ideal with the silent shutter mode and double card slots.

Using Leica for me was a game changer, no one really knows I am there or indeed the official photographer. I love the simplicity, you just have your apertures on your lens, a shutter speed dial, and an ISO button – thats it! The camera is fully manual focussing with a rangefinder system, so if you miss your shot you have no one else to blame but yourself. I like the fact you have to create the image the old way instead of letting the camera do everything for you, I’m a little old school like that and that’s why I love film photography so much.

4) You shoot film too on a wedding day? Is that right?

Yes I do. Every time I see an image I love, be it wedding, street or editorial photography – it’s always 99% shot on film. Film just has that in-depth soul (sounds super cheesy, I know) and I’ll be shooting much more this year on film.

I use a Plaubel Makina 67 medium format camera loaded with Portra 400 film, I shoot the couple portraits and an editorial style bridal party shot using this set up. I also use the Leica M6 with black & white Ilford HP5 film and a Polaroid Land-Camera 195 with expired B/W film.

I would love to shoot a whole wedding with this set up and I am actually thinking of second shooting for anyone who will have me this summer so I can give it a go!

5) Is it true that you photographed a wedding recently and didn’t realise beforehand there was a whole host of celebrities on the guest list?

I did indeed photograph the Strictly Come Dancing wedding at Sefton Park Palm House. It was a same sex wedding and one of the grooms was Jason Gilkison, who is Strictly Come Dancing’s chief choreographer. I had no idea of the sheer scale of it until I arrived, I think the grooms purposely did not tell me beforehand to ensure my backside didn’t fall out prior to the wedding! Ha ha!

I got to the Hilton Hotel that morning and met with the grooms, Jason and James. James then introduced me to Louise Redknapp so we hugged (I had her posters on my wall as a kid!). Frankie Bridge (S Club 7) and Arsenal footballer Jack Wilshere were guests too. As the day unfolded I noticed all the Strictly dancers and American Idol singers.

It was so surreal and although I am not a fan of celebrity culture in general, they were so, so welcoming, asking if I wanted a drink, making sure I was ok etc. My opinion on celebrities certainly changed for the better after this wedding.

6) I know you’ve had some problems with your hearing, how are the new ears? Do you think having the ability to hear better will alter your photographic style/approach?

This is a great question dude! I was born deaf, not fully deaf, but the best way I can explain is that my ears are like what your ears are like when they ‘pop’ on a plane. I have gone my whole life without wearing ‘aids’ having refused to wear them as a kid.

I did try some hearing aids 6 years ago but I hated the way people spoke to me, pretty much like I was stupid. So I got rid of them within a week! A lady in a bar saw I was wearing hearing aids and then said ‘OMG you’re handicapped’ and walked away – that didn’t do much to my confidence at the time that’s for sure, I laugh about it now though!

I shot a wedding for a couple last year who work at Amplifon in Wilmslow, who produce specialised hearing aids. They gave me an amazing discount and it’s been a life changing experience ever since. Little things like walking my dog and hearing the birds tweet,  I had never heard that in my life and it’s safe to say I had a little tear in my eye hearing things like that for the first time.

I’m now looking forward to attending my first workshop this year, now I’ll be able hear what is being taught. The beauty of being in this industry is that we are always learning no matter what level we are at.

As for affecting the way I work, I quite enjoyed the silence before as I am totally in the zone and have always relied on my sixth sense to anticipate moments. However since getting the hearing aids I can now focus on things like where the heckling is coming from during speeches, understanding the vicars, accepting a drink when asked (thats worth the change in itself), although I do miss playing the deaf card when my friends say ‘Damo, it’s your round’! Ha ha!

7) Who do you look to for inspiration? Any favourite artists/photographers we should look at?

Wow tough question, I am a massive book whore and I’m always on the lookout for photography inspiration. I love buying work by street photographers such as Joel Meyowitz, Trente Parke, Mary Ellen, Frederic Stucin, David Alan Harvey, Jacob Aue Sobol and Robert Doisneau. I also love to study editorial photographers like Peter Lindbergh, Anton Corbjin, Vincent Peters and Tim Walker. I have recently discovered Vincent van de Wijngaard’s work, his natural light fashion photography is just incredible!

I have massive respect for many wedding photographers too, I love discovering new photographers, it’s one of my favourite pastimes and I try and input what I have learnt from these guys into my wedding work.

Big thanks to Damian for stepping out of the darkness to chat to us.

Check our more of Damian’s work here: