Cover bands and Jordan almonds aside, the real make-or-break wedding detail comes down to the one thing that may even outlast the vows—the photos. One wedding photographer reinventing traditional wedding photography is Los Angeles-based lensman Max Wanger. With a confident eye, Wanger captures effortlessly elegant images of love-filled weddings, engagements or couple’s lives, creating tangible memories that wouldn’t look out of place in a glossy publication. Describing his work as “offbeat, whimsical and romantic” and inspired by everything from Mos Def to “little kids who are way cooler than me,” this blogger-photographer-retailer had plenty to tell us about love, lens choice and lifelong commitment.
Big one first, what does love mean to you?
I’m not sure how to adequately articulate that. As a photographer, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by love all the time and I’m lucky enough to be able to capture it. In that sense, love is what I see all around me.
Who inspired you to get behind a lens?
I built my first camera when I was seven-years-old. I made a Polaroid out of paper and scotch tape. I suppose that was the beginning of my photography career.
Did you plan to start shooting couples and wedding or was it something you just fell into?
As silly as it sounds, it just happened one day. I thought there might be a way to put my own spin on weddings, to photograph them differently. So I tried. Now, two years later, here I am.
How do you capture such intimate and private moments in your pictures without interrupting the moment?
I try to stay invisible as much as I can. The beginning of a shoot is always the hardest for clients because very few are comfortable in front of a camera. After a few minutes though, you get into a rhythm and it becomes all about them, and at that point I’m just an observer.
You are married yourself?
Yes, I got married last year. Shooting my own wedding would have been a pretty impressive feat, but, thankfully and luckily, we have amazing friends who are also amazing photographers so they shot it for us.
What are your tools of choice?
Photo mechanic to sort through images, Photoshop to process… Oh yeah, a few 5D Mark IIs, a handful of Polaroids and a Contax G2.
How did your popular blog and now online shop come about?
The blog was a necessity to get the work out there, to establish a voice. The shop was started because I wanted to do something different; I wanted to push myself in another way. The original idea behind it was to sell limited edition shirts based on my photographs. The hope was to sell a different shirt every month so people could collect them. I’ve since changed it so it isn’t monthly anymore. When I feel inspired to put another design out there, I do it. We actually just released our first hoodie and we also sell prints and postcards.
What is the greatest compliment you’ve ever received?
Someone once told me that I made them believe in love again. That was a pretty good one.
Does being behind the lens ever stop you from fully embracing the moment?
I don’t think so. If anything, I feel like I embrace it more behind the lens. When I’m behind the camera, I feel like I’m seeing a world no one else sees. I think that every photographer needs to feel that way, otherwise what’s the point? Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the moment that I have to be careful—I’ve almost fallen off of a cliff and a roof, and I’ve actually fallen into a pool. Not my finest moment.
What do you think of apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram?
I like them. I think they’re fun. Ultimately, that’s what photography is about—having fun, experimenting and letting go.
What do you do when you’re not shooting?
When I’m not shooting, I’m processing. When I’m not processing, I’m responding to e-mails. There’s no end to learning how to run a business.
What inspires you?
Off the top of my head—Rodney Smith, Tim Walker, Paolo Pellegrin, Mos Def, New York, Tokyo, negative space, simplicity, little kids who are way cooler than me.
What’s next for you?
The immediate are trips to New York, London and Ireland. In the future are commercial gigs, personal projects, a little golf and a lot of sleep.