Jobs They Love: Wedding Photojournalist
Updated: May 7, 2021
Lucky are they who look forward to Mondays with joy in their hearts! Meet the folks whose talents and passions are happily matched to the jobs they have.
Montana wedding photographer Kent Meireis began his career as a news and sports photographer in Kansas and Colorado. During that time, he honed his ability to sense where and when the perfect visual moment of an event would reveal itself and then capture it as it happened. It is this gift that makes his wedding images so rivetingly beautiful, like stills from a Terrence Malick movie.
Indeed, Meireis’s coverage of any event – wedding, parade or protest -- captures not just the main action but the often-unnoticed details, the silly side glance or wiped tear, that play into the emotion of the day. Meireis shows us the real luminous images we will treasure, spooled tightly in the heart forever.
His work has won numerous national and international photography awards.
Your wedding photographs look so teasingly evocative of a great story with such interesting scenes and characters. Do you feel like a documentary movie director? In other words, does each event have its own unique storyline that you’re going for when you shoot it?
I like the idea of pictures looking and feeling cinematic. In still photography it’s considered layering where you have 2-3-4 elements each working edge-to-edge of the frame. My approach to a wedding or any event begins with doing my best to know the main characters and the schedule of events. Luck favors the prepared!
Shooting most events is like listening to two songs at the same time. Paying attention to the big scheduled action with one eye, while searching for elements on the edges of the main story. Years of experiences covering news, sports and weddings have taught me to always expect the unexpected.
Often the best pictures are the ones where your heart pushes the shutter button rather than your brain. That’s where being prepared, practiced, and living in the moment come together.
What was the first camera you owned? And what is your favorite camera?
The first camera I ever used was a Kodak Brownie. I played with it more without film when I was in 1st grade. My first 35mm camera was a Canon AT-1 in high school. My favorite camera is always the one in my hands! They are all tools and if you know how to use whichever one you have, it’s all good. Often, phone cameras are a great tool because you have it with you when interesting things happen. The quality can be nearly as good as a 35mm camera.
On every shoot, you’re documenting what’s likely the happiest day of your clients’ lives. That has to be a wonderful feeling. Do you ever get misty-eyed when they say “I do!”?
Wedding days are usually very intense with way more history and personal baggage that I may not know about until the moments play out like a well-played game over the course of hours. The big moments like the “I do’s” rarely compare to the unscripted moments that happen before, during or after the planned moment.
When I get the chance to be next to the officiant when the bride and groom kiss at the end of the ceremony, the moment when the couple pull apart and look at each other in a completely different way than they ever have before, and the bride reaches out her hand to touch the groom’s face – Boom! That’s the kind of moment I go for when I can. It can be the same set up for a news or sports picture as well.
Have you ever had wedding-crashers? Do they become part of the story that you document?
Yes, a wedding at the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in the foothills west of Denver. This was the same day the band Insane Clown Posse was playing there. After the ceremony while we were shooting portraits, a couple of crazed fans of the band ran up and posed around the bride and groom.
That was definitely a moment that I didn’t expect, and it made for a pretty funny picture. I’m not sure if the bride loved it but it was a big part of the day’s story as their reception was held in the event space beneath the amphitheater during the band’s concert. The couple had booked their wedding there before the concert was planned.
What was the wackiest photo assignment you ever got?
Covering the arrest of Ted Kaczynski, “the Unabomber,” near Lincoln, Montana on April 4, 1996. I got the assignment the afternoon he was arrested. I flew from Denver to Missoula that evening and then drove to Helena, where Kaczynski was to be arraigned at the federal courthouse first thing in the morning.
There was a huge crowd of media waiting for his arrival. Once the vehicle arrived, we all ran to get in position to photograph the perp walk. I jumped into a perfect position and just about the time he was being led out of the car, a national TV photographer ran into me, knocking me 10 feet out of position and broke the flash right off my camera! I did get a shot but it wasn’t as good as I wanted.
Later, sitting at a local restaurant in Lincoln listening to a woman talk about how Ted was a gardener and would offer people vegetables which was great until they found out he fertilized his plants with his own poop!