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Wedding photographers and clergy at odds, petition suggests

05 March 2024

Ed Lloyd Owen

A PETITION to “improve working conditions for wedding photographers in churches” — who have been accusing clerics of “abusive” behaviour towards them — has attracted almost 1000 signatures.

The petition on change.org refers to the “huge issue across the wedding photography industry” of clergy, who, it alleges, are “rude, humiliating, aggressive and abusive”. The petition calls for a “public conversation . . . to enable change”.

Ed Lloyd Owen, a society wedding photographer, described the initiative “as a storm in a teacup”: he had not signed the petition and did not intend to, he told the Church Times this week. He saw the issue as a matter of co-operation.

“There is always going to be some friction between two people trying to do their jobs and getting in each other’s way slightly,” he said. “It’s overcome by simply making sure you speak to each other. I also observe the rule of no flash and don’t go near ‘the bubble’. I wear smart clothes (usually tails) and rubber-sole shoes, only move during hymns, and use silent cameras with long lenses.”

“Do you think we’re being a bit negative?”

His view was not far from that of the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, who told The Sunday Times this week: “While some vicars can be a complete pain and over-controlling to a degree, clergy too need to be able to do their jobs.”

It was reasonable, he said, for officiating clerics to ask photographers “not to be intrusive during a service when something significant is supposed to be taking place at the spiritual level”.

Mr Lloyd Owen agreed that “a wedding isn’t about the photographer, but about something a bit special and, dare I say, holy between two people. It’s not about whether or not I get a shot, but if that is a couple’s priority then they should probably rethink why they’ve decided on a church wedding. It cuts both ways.”

As a guest at weddings, Mr Lloyd Owen had “seen photographers behave really badly in church, and it’s toe-curling. I’ve even seen a vicar stop proceedings and tell the photographer what’s what.”

The petition suggests that “wedding video/photographers are more than happy to be respectable, flexible, and non-obtrusive”. It continues: “More and more couples are choosing not to marry in church whilst more and more video/photographers are avoiding taking work in churches because of this [conflict].”

The General Synod heard last month how more than 30,000 services of marriage or dedication in 2023 were a “wonderful opportunity” for ministry (News, 1 March). It approved a reduction in the fee for a wedding in church from £528 to £505.

Read more on this story in this week’s Press column

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