This month, I am featuring a man who is multi talented. A guy I have got to know quite well over the last few years. I first came across him as a bass player in one of my favourite wedding bands, then his name was constantly being mentioned in conversation with family and friends, especially those who went to Glenabbey [a church outside belfast]. From then, I have had lots of opportunities to chat to him about wedding band stuff and more recently photography. So not only is this man a bass player in one of Northern Irelands busiest wedding bands but he has branched out into wedding photography. So feel like I'm killing two birds with one stone in the feature, an insight into two strands of the wedding industry.
Darren, how did you get into both wedding band stuff and photography?
The band today is a million miles away from how it started out and who we started out. People will read this and 'no way you did that?!?' Its hard to put a precise date on when it started. In the formative years there was a youth conference in Whitley Bay, Mannafest in the Ulster Hall, various youth clubs and events mostly all in churches. We essentially started out as a worship band. Then friends asked if we could put a 2 hour set together for their wedding. It spiralled from there. We have never advertised, its always been word of mouth. We only recently joined facebook as a band. Some of the people who have played with us have gone on to better and bigger things. The photography? My line into Wedding and Family Photography has been a long process. It wasn't something I was initially drawn to. In fact there are still other areas of photography I enjoy. I'd always been interested in photography and had several people I knew to look up and listen to including Gordon Ashbridge(legend). I bought my first film camera just after I got married - a little while ago. After a few years I decided to do a course. And I found that most of the basics I already had read about. So I left. Then my friend (who now works with me at weddings) Martin Spence said he was going to do it. So eventually I went back and completed the course. So I actually have a professional qualification. And while that doesnt always mean anything - it keeps me happy.. Dylan McBurney another photographer I admire had just completed the course the year before and i was told to take a look at his website. He had by this stage shot a few weddings.His style was completely new to me. It was fully reportage. It got me more interested. Then it was my turn for a bit of stay at home parenting. During this time I have been able to build up a bit of a portfolio and just over 2 years ago did a friends wedding for the first time. It went from there.
Whats your favourite thing about what weddings on both fronts!?
The guys in the band. I think the reason we work is that we have fun and people see that and want to join in and be a part of that. But its the time in between when the supper is on or after its over when the band sit and chat and have stories. So many stories.
With wedding photography, Its like you become one of the close members of the family but for just that day. Only you get to see probably some of the most intimate parts, glances, smiles, tears, between a bride and groom, a groom and best man, a bride and her father. I love being part of that. Its always a special day and to be able to share it with so many couples means I consider myself quite fortunate to have the job I have.
Why do you do it?
Anyone who plays an instrument will know that you just love being able to do it. Anywhere, anytime where there is a group of people. Being able to do that and then for people to enjoy that is a great feeling (even if you are not the most accomplished musician).
Its about telling stories. And the biggest enjoyment I have is telling stories with a charity I work with (see below).On another note a few friends had also shown me their wedding albums and I thought I could do that. There are alot of amazing and great photographers in this little part of land. Probably more talent per square ft than anywhere in the world. But there are people that are not so good and so if I and all this other great talent is around, there will be less work for those guys who are not so good.
Whats the most challenging thing?
BAND: Everyone in the band has another job. So balancing both can be tricky and obviously the other jobs always come first. Also getting towards 12.30/1 am and playing those last few songs! You might see some of us with our eyes closed! Then having to pack all the gear away. I reckon we will still be doing this in our 60's and 70's only our kids will be carrying in the gear then.
PHOTOGRAPHY: The weather in this country! The first two weddings I did were a complete wash out. I had to skip a few plans and think i was on about plan D for the first ever wedding. Also each wedding I try to make unique to that couple. So I try to not use the same old poses for every wedding I shoot. That keeps the work challenging, fresh and therefore enjoyable.
I would like to thank Darren for taking the time to answer a few questions!
*The charity Darren referred to is called Stand By Me
Stand By Me (www.standby.me) use Darrens photos to document their work. The charity works in areas some other charities wont go. They rescue kids from poverty and give them food, a home and education. Darren has been out a few times to Ethiopia and it drastically changed his life. The money he makes goes to paying for his trips out with the charity. He pays his own way. He would like to do work for other charitable organisations in other countries - so if anyone takes a look at what he has done and you can contact him through his site . Stand By Me are also always looking to send out photographers, so if this is something that you would be interested in, please get in touch. The Ali Bennett Band give 25% of their fee to Stand By Me. In an climate and industry where it is all about getting as much money as you can, its great to see people standing up for more than just increased personal wealth!