“Reportage” & The Decisive Moment

“Reportage” is a term that gets bandied around a lot by wedding photographers these days.

And that’s fine and I’m sure many good wedding photographers are experts at reportage photography. But I have to admit that it does get up my nose just a bit when the term reportage is used so cavalierly by photographers who I’m guessing have very little experience – in most cases, I suspect, probably none – in shooting the sort of news and photojournalism I cut my teeth on.

I wonder how many reportage wedding photographers know the work of the great Magnum photographers Cartier-Bresson (who coined the term, the decisive moment), Robert Capa and Elliot Erwitt, photographers who inspired me when I first fell in love with photography and who continue to sit on my shoulder nudging me to try just that much harder.*

What does it mean to be a reportage photographer? It means having a sixth sense, an inner radar, eyes and ears on the back of my head, so that I can sense when that decisive moment is about to happen. And this sense isn’t something you can buy at Jessops or simply bolt onto your website because it sounds good. It comes from years of experience working, as I have, as a photojournalist shooting wonderful, exciting and sometimes moving stories for the leading Saturday and Sunday supplements.

How many wedding photographers have spent a week with the Australian rugby team on their tour of Ireland (cover of the Mail’s YOU magazine); been deep inside a Romanian coal mine disguised as a miner to capture the appalling work conditions (Independent magazine cover); or spent days and nights in a hospice observing the truly heroic work that nurses and staff do to bring some comfort and joy to the terminally ill (Sunday Times cover story)? Am I bragging here? No … well, maybe just a little bit. It’s really more a case of immense pride in the photojournalism projects I’ve done. Does this work make me a ‘better’ photographer than anyone else? Certainly not! But it does give me the right to say that I shoot in a reportage style because that is what I’ve been doing for a long time.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that after more than 20 years experience as a published photojournalist, I’ve developed an instinct that allows me to capture those very special, those very magical and those wonderful decisive moments at your wedding.


If, like me, you love good photography and would like to see the work of the great Magnum photographers, have a look at their website http://www.magnumphotos.com/

Or, for an even broader view of stunning photography, check out:


This entry was posted in about John Cole

photographed by John Cole

I feel strongly that your wedding day is exactly that, your day, not mine. You tell me the kind of photos you want and then we'll work together to create a unique set of images.

I work in reportage style because that is what I am -- a reportage photographer who does weddings. I've shot dozens of stories for leading British and international publications, and I bring my magazine style of photography to your wedding.

I work unobtrusively and sensitively, concentrating on creating natural, spontaneous photos. I do group shots quickly and painlessly (though never sloppily), so that you are free to spend more time with your family and friends.

Your Wedding, photographed by John Cole