Prelude to a Kiss

First published in PhotoYou (Spring 2010). Photos and words: Brian Ho (thegaleria)

Wedding photographer Brian Ho leads us down a memory lane of unforgettable kisses caught in his lens.

A couple of years back, I caught a glimpse of French photographer Robert Doisneau’s works and was instantaneously captivated by it. His most recognizable work is a very famous photo of two strangers sharing a kiss and embrace in front of Hôtel de Ville in Paris hence the title Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville). In many ways, that iconic image encapsulates Paris as the city of romance, a fact that was true in Doisneau’s time in the 1940s and still holds true today. Some years later, I saw Cinema Paradiso, an Italian movie directed by Giuseppe Tornatore and was immediately mesmerised by the last scene of the movie which had perhaps the best kissing scene montage in motion picture history. And that inspired me to create a series of images that had this special moment in mind – a moment of shared love, a moment of private intimacy and a moment we all experience at some point in our life.

Steven & Charissa. While sharing an intimate and private moment is a natural thing to do, carrying it out in front of a camera at close proximity (and before an adoring crowd) is really a different matter. The challenge of acting out a “kiss” is daunting especially when you need it to look natural as if the camera wasn’t there at all. Chemistry and trust have to be present and a special relationship has to develop between the subject and the photographer. This is not something that can be established with just anyone. Between the couple – Steven & Charissa – and myself, we shared a unique understanding that produced very natural shots that would have otherwise been difficult.

Nameera. This was a very quick shot and the only shot I took of Nameera and her great grand-auntie – the oldest member in the family. This was a classic example of being at the right place at the right time and clicking your camera shutter at precisely the correct moment. Like how French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson used to put it “Il n’ya a rien dans ce monde qui n’ait un moment decisif” (There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment).

Tim & Charmaine. In this picture, I love the expression of the priest most. I like the fact that he has probably seen couples kissing a million times and yet was equally bemused when Tim & Charmaine shared a kiss; as if he was witnessing this for the first time. I simply love photos taken this way. Somehow the bemusement of the priest added a very different flavour to this image, making it more amusing than romantic!

Robert & Jackie. There are simply so many kinds of emotions revealed in this image. In one take, the kiss was captured along with the emotions of people who were close to them. The symmetry of the dresses and suits and all the special moments were captured all together within a single frame. This was the only shot I caught that day and quite possibly the only chance I had to preserve this very special memory for eternity.

Tjerk & Marilyne. Tjerk & Marilyne are both personal friends of mine. It’s such a rare treat documenting a friend’s wedding. The emotions always seem more real and vivid as a person close to you is embarking on another journey in their life.

Shaun & Barbara. This image is, in my opinion, a classic Doisneau moment. While it is quite different from the Hôtel de Ville contemporary, it shares the same stark resemblance. In addition to the fact that it is in black and white, the voyeuristic nature of this shot adds to the mood and realism.