Sybil Rondeau- a lightness of touch

Priest laughing-couple hidden-wedding photo Sybil Rondeau

There are famous photographers whose work we revere, whose books we buy, exhibitions we visit, and whose iconic images become implanted in the corners of one’s mind. Usually we never get to meet these heroes. And then there are those photographers, who in the course of a professional career, we come across, and with whom we feel a particular bond and shared purpose.

I first met Sybil Rondeau, around 7 years ago. She had not long previously packed in her medical related job, deciding to make a vocation out of her passion for photography, in particular, for wedding photography. With the digital age and the growth of social media, the cool and glamorous appeal of earning a living by simply pressing a button on a camera has never, it would seem, been greater. Yet for Sybil, this was not the motivation;  she has always had her feet firmly rooted to the ground. Over the last 7 years, her passion, determination and work ethic, has been unstinting, and a real inspiration for me. She has risen to to the top of her craft, combining technical expertise with creative talent.

I have chosen this image of her’s as it sums up most of what I appreciate about her work and the photographic vision we share. It is a photograph that at first glance, needs no explanation. It makes us smile. The humour is contagious. The moment is beautifully captured, full of lightness and warmth. As a wedding photographer myself, I can particularly appreciate the singularity of such an instant, as more often than not, covering religious ceremonies, can be fraught with tension, with the priest keeping a scowling eye on the photographer, wary of their prowling presence. Sybil often shoots from low down, not only because it creates a dynamic viewpoint, often with a clearer background, as here, but also through a sense of discretion and respect, allowing all the guests to have an unobstructed view of proceedings.

The motif of something being hidden in an image is of particular interest, and an essentiel part of the visual humour. We can guess that the couple are kissing, but is there another joke going on, what was said just before, what’s about to happen? Did Sybil anticipate this moment- I don’t know, I’ve never asked her- I like to appreciate the image at face value. Here is the magic of photography: in the fraction of a second we have frozen an instant in time, but beyond the fixed image, a whole new story is suggested, imagined. This photograph, with the expressions of the main protagonists concealed from view, brings to my mind a classic image from a true legend of documentary photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Banker's Trust, Manhattan, New York 1960 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos
Banker’s Trust, Manhattan, New York 1960 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

The composition and the timing is simply wonderful. As with Sybil’s picture, the gesture and the look, imply so much more beyond the four corners of the frame.

Wedding photography has evolved enormously over the last decade, especially during the last 5 years, but it is important not to let style take precedence over content. While a very skilled practitioner, competent at many techniques, Sybil’s work has always retained its honesty and effective simplicity. It is reportage photography in it’s purest form :  being in the right place at the right time. Knowing her has helped me re-assess my own photography and up my game. Our’s is a competitive business, but that has never got in the way of mutual respect and an enduring friendship, sharing the lows and enjoying the highs. She will no doubt continue to take award winning pictures, but the freshness and instant impact of this photograph will always hold a special place for me, an uplifting, joyous moment inedibly sketched on my mind.