Photographer Interview: Wolfgang Freithof & Chiaki Sato
Photographer Interview: Wolfgang Freithof & Chiaki Sato AKA A Day of Bliss
Can you briefly tell us a little about your life, where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Austria, came to the US at age 24 to pursue my dream of being a professional photographer. When arriving in New York I had the opportunity to assist some of the top NY photographers and studios where I learned a lot about lightning and production. My partner Chiaki Sato is from Tokyo and has been with our studio for over 15 years, starting just after completing her studies at ICP-NY (Intl. Center of Photography).
Have you always been a photographer? What was your path to photography and specifically to shooting weddings?
I started assisting photographers after film school, I quickly realized that I wanted to master a still image first before progressing to creating moving images. Little did I realize that this would be a lifelong challenge. Early on I followed my passion for fashion photography and was lucky to shoot with some of the big supermodels during my fashion career, like Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Iman to name a few for Magazines like Vogue, Time and Vanity Fair among many others. Chiaki started her career with the studio at that time, she was the driving force to pursue weddings as a line of work and A Day of Bliss was born.
Do you remember the first moment or time a camera/photography jumped out at you as something different/interesting/worth pursuing?
Again, for me it started early on, I received my first 'point and shoot' camera at age 7 and I knew right away that I am best able to express myself visually, it turned into my passion right away. Chiaki also mentioned her dream of being a professional photographer starting during her school years.
Do you have a style or widely understood approach to shooting weddings ie fine-art, documentary?
Chiaki and I understood that we wanted to capture weddings in a timeless manner, incorporating our fashion / beauty style. We both believe that every wedding we photograph has certainly a "High Fashion" elements, so we apply all our editorial fashion skills on all of these assignments.
What/who do you look at for visual inspiration? It could be a favourite photographer or blog? movies? etc
There are certainly industry leaders we look up to for inspiration, timeless shots of Grace Kelly's wedding and Audrey Hepburn and most of all we look at all fashion publications and blogs. We also like the Kate Moss wedding captured by Mario Testino, but also we also find a lot of inspiration by traveling the world, appreciating foreign cultures and food while interacting with people.
What would a perfect day shooting a wedding look like for you?
We enjoy weddings where we are given free reign with our creative approach, when the bride and groom trust our expertise and experience, they know that we will provide their big day's memories as we witness and capture them with our artistic viewpoints. Long shoot-lists would turn us more into shot collectors and do often hinder creativity, nobody can shoot or be everywhere, our weddings are an artistic rendition of what we saw that day.
Do you have any sort of routine before a wedding to get yourself into the right frame of mind to achieve that perfect day?
Personally, I try to come to the event with a clean slate, without any preconceptions and capture what the day brings with an wide open mind and heart, my partner Chiaki is a bit more structured and her preparations are more detail oriented.
Generally speaking, what do you focus on when you are shooting a wedding, by which I mean, what about a wedding is important for you to prioritise while your shoot?
Of course there are the 'must have images', but we like the in-between and unscripted, spontaneous shots, the fleeting moments. Sometimes turning around with the camera and capturing the scenes away from the usual subjects, also the occasional shot into the sunlight. Breaking 'photography' rules is important to us, taking a chance. We believe that the interaction with our clients is so important, but we never intrude on them, sometimes just making a quick suggestion to see what happens. We feel that it really matters how sensitive you are to your surroundings on such an important day for the couple but also to realize when to take charge.
I often think peoples experiences of marriages, theirs or their parents, can have an impact on their involvement in working in the world of weddings. Can you explain what weddings mean to you personally?
We quickly realized the emotional impact we have on the newlyweds on their biggest day. We are aware that we are under constant scrutiny by the entire wedding party. How often do we hear bridesmaids or groomsmen telling stories about their wedding vendors, we certainly leave lasting impressions on the families and friends for a long time to come, they invite us to their sacred spaces to capture lifelong memories.
In the feedback you've received from wedding clients over the years, would there be one word that keeps popping up again and again?
We enjoy our brides describing the trust they put in us and the way they honor our kind, sincere and warm personalities while we are creating amazing imagery for them on a high level of professionalism. That validates our effort and care and this also puts everybody around us at ease when working together.
Having seen lots of weddings, what would your advice be to a beloved family member if they came to you and said they were getting married and asked for (any) advice on how to approach their wedding day?
Our advise would be: plan your wedding well and relax on your big day, have a planner or coordinator at hand to assure a smooth run of events, keeping too much control might be stressful. Also make sure you like your photographers personalities, they will be with and around you the entire day!
What three pieces of advice would you give young photographers starting out?
Start out tips for young photographers: Show the work you want to do, if you like traveling show travel work, keep a consistent visual message with your presentation, find your strengths and keep shooting. My mentor once told me "shoot a roll of film a day" - work on your lightning skills all the time: photo = light graphis = painting.