2011 Wedding Giveaway couple: Tiffany & Charlie

This weekend we're in New Orleans photographing Tiffany & Charlie's wedding; they're the recipients of the 2011 Wedding Giveaway contest.  We were lucky enough to spend the afternoon in the French Quarter with them today.  I've never been to New Orleans before and I'm finding it delightful. I also find Tiffany and Charlie delightful.  Today they introduced me to the charms of New Orleans, their joint quirky sense of humor...and frozen slushy drinks. No beignets yet...that's in store tomorrow morning.  Here are a few from today's session and their popular vote winning entry.... (I'm so excited for the wedding tomorrow)


In their words: It stood in the field like an oversized replica of ALF, just more swollen and angry.  She called it a takin, and it was pissed.  Down the road was a camel, way bigger than I ever imagined.  She took us up a ladder to get nose to nose with a giraffe, then at the research center, produced a rhino horn from a safe because, apparently, it fetches a high price on the black market for its aphrodisiac properties.  As she explained in great detail the habits and needs of the large African animals strolling about the refuge in Ohio, I couldn't help wondering about this skinny woman in khaki clothing.  Why is she so passionate about these things? And why is her name "Tiffany"?  Late in the afternoon, she snapped a photograph of my son, Jack, and me posing in front of a rhino.  We're standing in a sunny pasture, just inches from one ton of African awesomeness.  I go back to that photo from time to time ; Tiffany behind the lens and us in front.  We look so damn happy, like we just hit the jackpot.

A year later, my phone rang.  It was that skinny animal lover.  She was in Minnesota to interview for a job and, to my surprise, she accepted the invitation to eat cheeseburgers at a crappy bar.  I waited at the bar for her, smirking she'd probably show up in her khaki outfit, smelling of zebra. What I saw walk through the door was not what I expected.  Not at all.  She was actually from New Orleans, not Ohio.  She loved music, not just large animals.  She wore sundresses, not just khaki.  At the end of the night we parted ways with a hug on a street.  It was an awkward hug, but I remember the moment as clear as a snapshot.

Eventually, Tiffany took a job at the Minnesota Zoo and moved to Minneapolis.  We'd get together on occasion.  Jack and I learned the joys of Louisiana style cooking and Tiffany learned how to dress for squirt hockey games in the under-heated arenas of Minnesota.  Sometimes we touched, sometimes we didn't.  We became friends and the hugs became less awkward. The time together felt better than the time apart, but we were both independent.  Fiercely independent.

Two years later, Tiffany told me she was going to buy a house.  Sitting next to her in the realtor office as she signed and initialed page after page, I watched closely and wondered why my hand shook more with each swipe of her pen.  I thought about our collective journey and images flew through my head.  She began to fade.  I don't mean fade in the sense that my friend was starting a new chapter in her life which would alter our course.  She was disappearing.  Remember in Back To The Future when Michael J Fox watched his siblings, and eventually himself, erase from the photo?  I was living that moment.  If Tiffany reached the bottom of that stack of papers, she'd be gone.  Back to her future, missing from ours.

A year and one very disappointed realtor later, Tiffany and I were engaged.  Jack and I slipped a simple ring on her finger while snorkeling in Mexico, whales sealing the deal with a chorus of calls.  Back on the boat we all posed for pictures taken by strangers.  We had become instant celebrities.  People love a couple in love.  But what I love most about those pictures is one in particular of Jack and me, our faces a mirror image of that day in Ohio, standing between a rhino and a skinny tour guide, looking like we just hit the jackpot.  Only this time there was no question about it.

Tiffany and I weren't an immediate Polaroid image of perfection. We developed slowly, a long exposure that brought crisp focus to our love.  This June, in New Orleans, the camera won't be documenting our wedding day, it will be capturing what we have become.