Lina & James, Part I of IV
What is the big picture?
I ask myself and Bonnie this question at weddings. What is the picture that tells our couple’s greater story? — and not a story about what I think is the right “wedding” image?
As progressive as I fancy myself regarding the modern wedding and the way it can be documented, I’m still sometimes trapped by the thought of what I “should” be shooting. (Should I shoot more pictures of the flowers? Did I get a good shot of the venue’s exterior?)
It’s the dilemma of ego. Both loathing and loving what I create, and deeply desiring to be accepted.
Last night in my dreams I walked up Adelphi Street naked. I felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel wrong. I overheard a passerby commenting incredulously “it’s understandable to be naked at night, but in the daytime?”
What I know of Freud’s work — little — leads me to ask whether I perceive society (and myself) to accept vulnerability and honesty in certain situations while feeling like it will arbitrarily ostracize me in others.
The best picture I make is in that magic moment when I accept my voice and make the picture the couple shows me. It’s right in front of me, and all I have to do is see it. I don’t have to complicate things by wondering how I can make it better or change it. Technical skill notwithstanding, accepting it as-is is the best picture.
And also the hardest picture to see.
Lina and James see the big picture.
Deeply rooted in the community of New York City and Chinatown, Lina, James and their families celebrated their wedding with profound consideration to family and the bonds of history.
Marrying at the City Clerk’s office with their entire family and closest friends (a group of 25), the whole group processed through the busy Chinatown streets to the family porcelain shop with an incredible grace.
What is normally a bustling, unfamiliar, and thereby difficult place for me on any other day, the Lums and Huangs showed me their corner of New York City in a completely new way. I felt like I had traveled to a new country; and indeed, I had. The Chinatown community is culturally close-knit. The difference this time was that we were with Lina and James, who guided and graciously welcomed us.
The family porcelain shop, Wing on Wo & Co
, is on Mott Street, and has been in the family for generations. Lina told me that even though Wing is still a working commercial store, the shop has become more importantly a family home base. Walking through and past the main shop area, there’s a small hallway that leads to a hidden-away kitchen in the very back, with dozens of family pictures on the wall. Lina and her sister as children at the beach; a faded yellow image of the family laughing and squeezing each other in the shop in possibly the early 1980s; a black-and-white photo of Lina’s mom(?) on a city street when she was a child.
Lina and her sister have been going to the shop to visit with their grandparents since they were small children. When Lina told us at our first meeting that this was where she would take us all for pictures, we were floored. But honestly, not even the huge amount of excitement we already had could have prepared me for the beauty and sacredness I felt in that place.
Her grandparents have a dignity about them that surely comes from a steady love and preservation of the Chinatown community by way of nurturing this beautiful shop for so long.
Their roots in the city go deeper still. Lina’s uncle was a victim of the 9/11 attacks, working on the 111th floor of the second tower that was hit.
I believe Lina and James could have married anywhere and the only thing they would have seen is each other. I’m humbled by the new world I saw through them. There is so much beauty right in front of me.