Vanessa Hall: Perfect bad luck

Antiguan Vanessa Hall is fast becoming one of the most sought-after wedding photographers in the Caribbean. She shares some of her spectacular photos

Anna and Maciej. Photograph by Vanessa HallAnna. Photograph by Vanessa HallArika and Van. Photograph by Vanessa HallRenata and Isao. Photograph by Vanessa HallRenata and Isao. Photograph by Vanessa HallSasha. Photograph by Vanessa HallVeronica and Gavin. Photograph by Vanessa Hall

It was a piece of bad luck that put Antiguan photographer Vanessa Hall on the right track to a new, exciting career. After graduating from the Arts Institute of Fort Lauderdale with a degree in interior design, she worked as a kitchen designer – until she was laid off as the US economic crisis began in 2007.

Looking back, she says, “The timing was perfect, even though I did not realise it at the time.”

Surfing the Internet while she was unemployed, she found the photo-sharing site Flickr.com, where she got to know the work of several talented photographers in Antigua. It was partly thanks to them that her hobby became her profession.

“I surrounded myself with passionate people who inspired me and who taught me the impossible is possible.”

Since then, Hall has become one of the most sought-after wedding photographers in Antigua, and her signature style is now being requested for weddings in other Caribbean countries too. So far, she’s shot weddings in St Kitts and Anguilla, and has other island ceremonies lined up for this year. She was the first photographer in Antigua to catch on to the “trash-the-dress” trend, which she came across online – a separate photo shoot after the wedding, when the bride and groom are photographed in their wedding finery in incongruous and more casual settings.

She says of her new line of work, “Though I am self-taught, I found many similarities between design and photography. Just as a designer uses the principles of balance, flow and focal points to produce an effective design, so too must a photographer use the same principles in order to get a visually striking photo.”

Hall tries to schedule no more than five weddings in a month, though she once found herself with five in a week. Since the season in the Caribbean lasts only from November to April, she has a short time to fit in many weddings and events. “Post-production of a wedding can take six to eight weeks,” she says. “Finding a good balance and managing my time is key.”

She sometimes uses a second photographer at a wedding, but does most of the post-production work herself. “Which means long hours in front of a computer – and carpal tunnel syndrome by the end of the season.”
More of Hall’s photos can be found at www.vanessahallphotography.com

Anna and Maciej committed themselves to a trash-the-dress session immediately after their ceremony at Cocobay Resort, Antigua. They had no guests – it was just the bride and groom having fun and showing their love for each other in a different way. The lighting was stunning and Anna’s eyes connected with the camera in a very special manner
Experimenting with light is always fun. The shot was backlit behind the hairspray to create the mist. This is Sasha, who married David at St George’s Church, Antigua, with a reception at Sandals
The black-and-white version of this image placed 11th in the Art category of the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers’ quarterly competition.
Trash-the-dress shoots can be challenging, as they may require special lighting or underwater camera housings, but the results are often very rewarding
Renata and Isao’s wedding was held at the romantic Cap Juluca in Anguilla. Veils are fun to play with – in this image the groom threw the veil, which caught the afternoon sunlight in a magical way
As she becomes better known throughout the region, Hall’s clients are flying her to other islands. This year Bequia and Mustique are on the cards. This photo of Renata and Isao’s wedding was taken on Sandy Island, Anguilla, last June
Arika and Van, submerged in the pool during a trash-the-dress photo shoot at Hermitage Bay, Antigua. Van was a little shy – but a few shots of a different kind, ordered from the bar, got him in the mood
Veronica and Gavin, from Canada, got married at Carlisle Bay, Antigua, in February 2011. After the ceremony they had a few magical moments while dancing on the dock at sunset. Planning a wedding from overseas takes a lot of research and the couple had to put a lot of trust in their photographer’s vision. It certainly worked out well in this case