The face of bespoke wedding photography is changing. Breaking the mold of the patriarchal generational photography studio, which has dominated the industry since the advent of photography itself, are two best friends with a matching aesthetic and complementary skills.
Gina Esposito and Sheena Meekins take the expression “work wives” to the next level. They shoot every wedding together, navigating the subject landscape (wedding guests) with an unspoken language and a shared panache for fly-on-the-wall candids one minute, and gently influenced posed moments the next.
And when they are not working weddings, engagements or “encore editorials” (a term they coined), they are curating the most coveted gowns (Amsale, Galia Lahav, Ines Di Santo), florals (Ivie Joy), hair and makeup artists, and other top wedding vendors in the New York City-area for a magazine-worthy shoot, just for fun.
While the New York City photography market is arguably the most competitive in the nation, Anée Atelier thrives not only locally but also abroad: about 20 to 25 percent of their work is outside of the country. In addition to the “Big Day” proper, they have carved out a niche for the couple who desires a little more time in the spotlight.
“’Encore Editorials’…offer to create elevated, high-production and destination-based photo shoots for real couples and newlyweds alike,” they noted. “First created as an ‘encore’ to the wedding day portrait session, these custom experiences work with couples to create beautiful, cover-worthy photo sessions within full production support, in all the remote, exotic or stylized locations one can’t always feasibly capture during the wedding day.”
Of the two, Esposito has the longevity in the photography business. She started in high school, working weddings, and basically never stopped. With reverence to those roots, she still shoots select highlights of the wedding day in film with a Contax 645. While many photographers get their first paid gigs shooting nuptials, they either quickly burn out, or aspire to other subject matter: landscapes, food, characters on the street. They are all of us. Esposito recognized the importance of the work: capturing a couple’s once-in-a-lifetime day, memorializing their eternal commitment. How many people display a photo of an appetizing tablescape in their homes, versus a wedding portrait? Wedding photos are treasured, adored, and passed down through generations as heirlooms. It is an art that endures.
Meekins started as a photography hobbyist, a creative outlet to balance her first career in media marketing. At Condé Nast, she consistently swept departmental awards and accolades. The two shot together in their free time. Esposito would often be Meekins’s “plus one” on business trips, capitalizing on any opportunity for a change of scenery with which to fill the aperture. Then one day Esposito urged her BFF to assist her at a wedding, and in Meekins’ words, “I was hooked.”
In addition to shouldering half the cameras on the day of the event, Meekins also parlays her marketing prowess and fashion pedigree into powerful branding for the company. From a conventional perspective, it appears minimal: one ad on The Knot which they will likely discontinue, a lovely web site, and a luxe metal business card. It is nearly irrelevant, as 100 percent of their business is from word of mouth.
What sets Anée Atelier apart is their integrity, and their style. Capping their bookings at around 40 per year, the attention they dedicate to each event is paramount in managing expectations and developing relationships with their clients. With a large, legacy photography agency, a client may end up with any of their cadre of comfortably shod shooters on the day. With a solo star photographer, there will always be a percentage of shots left to an anonymous assistant.
When clients hire Anée Atelier, they know they will be getting “Gina and Sheena.” Not only does the duo come with high credentials and five-star reviews, but they also arrive in stylish, coordinating outfits thoughtfully selected for the dress code of the event (a departure from the typical photographer’s uniform of mismatched blacks), which has become part of their brand.
Their favorite pointed-toe flat mules may be practical for weaving between wait staff and long shooting days, but the glossy polish, finishing an outfit of “chic, modern looks from polished neutrals” or “black-tie attire with a touch of flair” helps them gain access to the couples and guests in a more intimate way.
A carefully selected outfit is a visual cue that makes people feel, “they’re one of us, it’s OK.” Said the duo: “It elicits comfort from couples and clients that allows them to let their guards down and aids in the candid images we’re able to capture.” Being women, they say, and multicultural, opens even more doors to behind-the-scenes moments and out-of-the-box points of view that they are known for delivering with excellence.