People Without People

By Rachel LaCour Niesen in learning weddings photojournalism leica storytelling

The tiniest things tell us the most about people.

A locket on a bride’s bouquet contains a black-and-white photograph of her grandparents, a hand-stitched handkerchief is embroidered with a groom’s monogram, ornate hats are testaments to traditional British wedding culture.

Seasoned photojournalist Alan Berner calls these details “people without people.” He explains, “For me it is the sense of people without them being there. It’s the part representing the whole. It’s the significant detail giving instant insight into the person, organization, the culture.”

Sounds strange, but it’s a powerful concept.

Details reveal key traits about people without actually showing them. These photographs are often tight, close-up shots that give our eyes a chance to linger longer on objects. As photographers, we have a responsibility to use our experienced eyes to capture details that add meaning and memorialize our clients. A bride spends countless hours carefully choosing the details of her wedding day. Each one has a special meaning to her, or to her family. Perhaps she loved lavender in her mother’s herb garden as a child? Maybe she gave an engraved watch to her groom on the wedding day? It’s possible that a small card at the head table honors a cherished grandparent who passed away. These photographs are more than obligatory; they are visual values.

Don’t discount details; they are visual cues that tell a story.


The Categories

Twitter Updates