No doubt about it, Covid-19 has changed our world. We’ve all been affected in one way or another. As a physician, I’ve had to adjust to a new age where wearing personal protective equipment at work is the norm, and phone and video conferencing is now a preferred method of treating patients. My photography habit has been put on hold indefinitely, just as many other businesses are struggling under the restrictions that have been implemented to protect our vulnerable citizens. When I recently learned that my physician assistant and practice manager Judy was taking last week off to prepare for her daughter’s wedding, naturally I asked about the plans. Slated for the historic Saint Boniface Catholic Church in Louisville, her daughter Casey and fiancé Richie were still going through with their planned ceremony, albeit in front of only a handful of immediate family. There were no plans to have a professional photographer present, so I volunteered to fill in at the last minute. Judy has saved my skin at work time after time, so I figured I owed it to her. Add in the fact that in the past few months there has been no postseason NCAA basketball, no football spring game, no Keeneland, no Derby, no proms, no graduations. Honestly I was itching to shoot anything! Thankfully they took me up on my offer, and luckily for me, I ended up with a memorable image that is now one of my favorites I’ve ever taken.
So what makes a photograph memorable for me? When I think about my favorites, ones that I really cherish, a few come to mind.
I got into photography primarily because of my love of University of Kentucky sports. In 2012, I was relatively new to the media gig, and being credentialed to shoot the Final Four was a huge deal to me, especially considering my lifelong obsession with UK basketball. Even though I was assigned to the upper photo deck of the Superdome in New Orleans, it was a dream to capture photos of my beloved Wildcats bringing home an elusive NCAA title. My adrenaline was pumping, and I struggled a bit to get any decent pictures, especially since I had very little experience shooting a basketball game from high up in a football stadium. As I look back through my files, actually very few photos from the championship game were any good. But there was one. A photo that I somehow got in focus after missing the focus on scores of other ones, that basically summarized the entire glorious season in one image: Anthony Davis and his tremendous unibrow rising head and shoulders above the fray to reject a shot, willing Kentucky to the national championship.
Being a native born Kentuckian, the Kentucky Derby holds a special place in my heart. The very first year I was credentialed to shoot the Run for the Roses was 2015, which happened to be the same year American Pharoah galloped his way into immortality by winning the first Triple Crown in 37 years. There’s more to the story than just capturing history, and my tear-jerking explanation on why this photo is even more special to me can be read in this Facebook post from Dr. Michael Huang Photography.
Once upon a time I owned a pontoon boat and a piece of property on Herrington Lake, and I spent many hours enjoying the wonders of nature there. This photo of a blue heron in the perfect light of daybreak takes me back in time to a peaceful place in my heart. I entered the photo in a juried nature photography competition in 2015. To my surprise, it won first prize, allowing me to now refer to myself as an award-winning photographer, thus making it even more of a personal favorite.
Finally, I love this portrait of my beautiful wife, quite pregnant with our son Gabriel. She’s absolutely glowing, flawlessly frozen in time, showing the contentment of the love of my life embracing motherhood and carrying our precious child to term. This photo simply fills my soul with pride, joy, and love that I can’t adequately describe.
I love creating art that stimulates strong feelings, and I love certain photographs because I am emotionally invested in them.
I digress. Let’s get back to the wedding. Picture a stunning young bride with her handsome husband on the biggest day of their lives. They had originally planned to have several hundred friends gathered in the massively ornate cathedral to celebrate their marriage, but coronavirus had other ideas. The church was nearly empty, as the entire wedding party and guest list now consisted of only 10 people. It was truly a remarkable scene from a challenging and surreal time in our lives.
After finishing the post-ceremony family photos, almost as an afterthought, I suggested we take a group photo with everyone donning a mask to commemorate the occasion. Not everyone even had a mask, but Father Norman came through with a few extras, and we quickly took a few final shots with everyone appropriately spaced apart with a mask on their face.
I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but “Pandemic Wedding” as I’ve affectionately named it, has joined the short list of my favorite truly memorable images of my career. It almost didn’t even happen, if not for an idea that simply popped into my head as we were getting ready to pack up and leave. It may make you sad that a young couple’s big day was adversely affected by the horrible virus that has changed our lives in so many ways. It may give you hope that better days are ahead. It may even prompt anger if you object to the infringements on your personal liberty. It may actually make you happy that above all else, love still conquers all. It’s ironic (the bride and her maid of honor are nurses, the mother of the bride and the photographer work together as primary healthcare providers), it’s serious, it’s funny, it’s sarcastic, it’s beautiful, it’s ugly, it’s happy and it’s sad.
I’m thankful for Judy bestowing upon me the great honor and responsibility of documenting the wedding of her one and only daughter. I wish the resilient couple all the best and much joy and happiness in the years to come. I trust that I have provided them with something special to remember the sacrifice they made on their wedding day, and remind them that their love carried them through it all. Isn’t that what photography is all about?
To view a high resolution version of this photograph, you can click here.
Dr. Michael Huang is a physician and medical director of the Samuel Brown Health Center for Lexington city employees and their families. With what little spare time he has, he is a freelance photographer, shooting UK athletics (when they actually played games) for Kentucky Sports Radio and taking pictures of his adorable 4 year old son Gabriel. He may be available to shoot your pandemic wedding, as he does have some personal protective equipment, and he isn’t afraid to use it. Please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for any inquiries.