The newest thing in proposals is to have a photographer jump out of the bushes
CATHY GULLI March 6, 2008
CATHY GULLI-->Casey Fatchett is a wedding photographer who has been hired more than 30 times by men to secretly take pictures as they propose to their unsuspecting girlfriends. A job not too long ago took Fatchett on a cab chase around New York City — pre-arranged by him and the groom-to-be — to the couple's favourite café, then to a dreamy spot in a park, and finally, to a river for the romantic climax. "I was trying to get close, but not too close," says Fatchett. "I didn't want her to think there's this weirdo following them."
However weird it may seem, hiring professional photographers to surreptitiously capture that intimate moment is becoming the latest creative way to pop the big question — Fatchett's received more than a hundred requests for information. Think drop-the-diamond-ring-in-a-glass-of-champagne, but newer, cooler and more narcissistic. In the age of MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, marriage proposal photography reflects the growing "need to document everything about your happiness," wrote one person on jezebel.com, an irreverent women's blog. " 'Now playing: Us!' "
Options abound. Proposers can preplan a surprise with Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Fla. The "ICE! Proposal Package" costs US$200; a photographer stakes out a hand-carved 14-foot-tall ice gazebo adorned with doves where the couple gets engaged. California's Romantic Room Designs charges US$150 to set up and take pictures of a surprise beach bonfire proposal at dusk. Whatever the setting, Cavanagh Photography in Sydney, Australia, promises to document the "proposal, the emotions, and the excitement, unobtrusively, using high-end zoom lenses."
Stealth is imperative. "You live out the James Bond fantasy. There's all kinds of private investigator stuff to do," says Fatchett, who charges US$300. "You have to be mostly photographer, but also part spy and part actor." If the proposer (who in Fatchett's case has always been a hetero male) doesn't want him to get too close, they plot out a schedule ahead of time, and then text message throughout the event about their precise locations and the best positions for lighting.
To get tight shots, Fatchett hides behind whatever could give cover — trees, statues, fountains, bushes, a lamppost. If the proposal is happening in a populated area, he'll pretend to be a tourist and snap photos within metres of the couple. One time, Fatchett got too close. The girlfriend noticed him standing nearby for an uncomfortably long time — camera in hand — and called him out to her boyfriend. "She said, 'I think there's something wrong with him. I think he's taking our picture!' " Fatchett recalls. The man played it down, and quickly proposed. After she said yes, and Fatchett was identified, the woman squawked, "I knew it!" And she liked it.
Of course, "it's probably not for everyone," says Erika of Rowell Photography in Barrie, Ont., which she runs with her fiancé Ryan. They have been wanting and advertising to do proposal pics for a few months, but haven't found any couples willing to try it out yet. They suspect that's partly because it's relatively unknown. Dave Cheung of DQ Studios in Calgary says that, so far, "it hasn't been that popular in Canada," and he doesn't know of many photographers offering the service. Erika and Ryan Rowell also recognize that some people wouldn't want that personal experience caught on film.
Critics slam marriage proposal photography as egotistical and even misogynistic: "It's another creepy thing that men do to women," wrote William Saletan on slate.com, and "the women are so vain they email the photos to all their co-workers." Others, such as Jezebel blogger Anna, say it's as inane as the fabled Jumbotron proposal: "Most women don't want to be photographed without their permission, and they usually like to keep these 'life-altering' moments to themselves to describe (or not) at their own discretion," read a recent post.
Maybe. But for couples who have had their proposal snapped by "engagerazzi" (as one commenter aptly referred to the photogs), the pictures immediately become a treasured record. "There's emotion on the wedding day, but it's anticipated," says Erika. "Here's an opportunity to capture another level of emotion, it's genuine surprise."
So what happens if the proposee says no? Fatchett says that's never happened to him. But if it did? Says Ryan: "We would walk away and pretend like we were never there."