Four Weddings and a Fundraiser

Yes, I know it's been far too long between posts.

I know this because my sister Jennifer will usually call me after a certain period of time has elapsed and whisper into my ear, "Um, I think you need to blog again." But I don't need Jennifer to tell me this. It's been a very busy month--one which started with our annual fundraiser, Photo Marathon, not to mention four consecutive weddings and oodles of portrait sessions. I love to keep this blog, as you all know, but the folks at the Dep't. of Tail Wagging The Dog keep reminding me that it's the taking of photos--not the writing about the taking of photos--that pays the bills around this joint. Hence the slight delay in posts.

So let's get right to the great news: Photo Marathon '07 was a huge success. In one day of shooting portraits we raised....(drum roll, please)....$10,800! Yup, that's right. Today I had the pleasure of mailing two FedEx envelopes containing the entire proceeds to two very deserving families. The children of Capt. Christopher Petty and Capt. Brian Freeman, both killed in Iraq, will have those funds to use for their college educations. All four children are very young and it's my hope that this money will have ample time to grow in the bank.

Photo Marathon would not have been possible without the kindness of all of you who took part--including those who couldn't be present at the studio but still sent in donations. Every year I do this I'm truly floored by the generosity I witness. Whether former brides and grooms, friends and neighbors or total strangers, people always rise to the occasion.

For the first time we even had a little media coverage! Fox News and Newschannel8 both came out and did little features on Photo Marathon. We also had some very special visitors: Capt. Petty's dad happened to be in D.C. that morning and stopped by, moving all of us to tears as we watched some home movies Chris had made in Iraq. Later in the day his mom stopped by as well. We thank them both.

For any of you who still want to help out, you can always mail a check payable to either the Owen and Oliver Petty College Fund or the Brian Freeman Memorial Fund to me at: Matt Mendelsohn Photography, 3823 N. Chesterbrook Road, Arlington, VA 22207. I'm more than happy to forward them along.

(You'll remember that Capt. Freeman spent months trying to secure a visa for a little Iraqi boy who needed heart surgery in America. And Capt. Petty was involved in school rebuilding at the time of his death. You can still read this emotional piece about Capt. Freeman here in the Washington Post, as well as this follow up story about Charlotte Freeman meeting the boy, Ali, after his successful surgery in New York. And for more information about Capt. Petty, please go here.)

Photo Marathon kicked off October with a bang. That same weekend I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of Samantha Sterling and Chris McCormack in downtown Baltimore. As I walked into Sam's hotel room and saw her adjusting her dress underneath this striking painting hanging on the wall, I knew things were going to be great. It reminded me of a perfect scene straight out of Vermeer.

After a ceremony at St. Leo's in Fells Point, we all headed over to the Peabody Library, the site of my sister's wedding many years ago, for a great reception. If you haven't been there, the Peabody is really one of the most stunning venues in this area. Floor upon floor of bookstacks, crowned with a gorgeous conservatory ceiling, it is simply breathtaking.

A few months back, after shooting their engagement picture, I wrote about how much respect I have for nurses like Sam. Their dedication and professionalism is always something I admire. It was a pleasure returning the favor.

Next up was the wedding of Jennifer Dlouhy and Christopher Doering. Jennifer is a journalist and it was fun bumping into my friend--and great photographer-- Linda Creighton at St. Peter's on Capitol Hill. (St. Peter's is one of my favorite churches for purely selfish reasons: it is bright and airy inside, a stark contrast to most other Catholic churches of that era.)

Like Chris and Sam, Jen and Chris opted for a classic reception venue, the grandeur of the headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. A stone's throw from the White House, DAR is a regal place for a wedding if ever there was. Guests drank cocktails outside, always in the shadow of the Washington Monument. And as the sun started to set, Jen and Chris danced their first dance amid the soaring white columns of the portico. It's no wonder the producers of The West Wing used to use DAR as a White House stunt double!

And we're only halfway!

The next day was a new experience for me. After ten years, one thinks he's seen every venue Washington has to offer, but that wasn't the case with the wedding of Sarah Greenberger and Matthew Engel. They threw me for a loop by choosing the fantastic Music Center at Strathmore. Located in North Bethesda, Strathmore Music Center is a 1,976 seat concert hall, home to the Baltimore Symphony and its dynamic new conductor, Marin Alsop. The first woman to lead a major American concert orchestra, Alsop has re-energized the BSO. (I had to laugh, too, when I read in the program that she's a big fan of John Adams' incredible opera Nixon in China. Name aside, it's one of my favorite works. I listen to it constantly, though it drives Maya crazy. If she could just get past the name, I think she'd love it.)

Anyway, Sarah and and Matt had a glorious day for their outdoor ceremony. It's been absurdly hot this fall in Washington, a trend that forebodes terrible things for our gardens and lawns but has provided for a rain-free streak of weddings going back several months. Lucky for everyone, the ceremony was late in the afternoon, just as the temperatures found a perfect comfort level. And as Sarah was led down the aisle by her mother and father, the setting sun (notice a trend here?) perfectly backlit her veil, providing one of those moments where I whisper to myself, my Canon 5D clicking along, "Ohhh, this is killer light."

(One other thing: I am the last person you want commenting on fashion. The folks at Project Runway would gasp if they knew that my wardrobe, outside of weddings, consisted of mainly jeans and t-shirts. But I have to say that Sarah had one of the most beautiful dresses I've seen in a long time. Bucking the strapless trend of the last few years, it was something right out of a Greek myth. Way cool.)

Okay, gang, almost there!

I can't forget the fabulous Virginia wedding of Christina Princi and Michael Outten, who were married on October 13. Both graduates of Mr. Jefferson's university, Michael and Christina had a UVA blowout, culminating, quite amusingly, with all the guests dancing the Virginia Reel, a dance that dates back to 1695! (My sister, also a UVA grad, would have explained the whole thing to me. She was a guide back in her Charlottesville days.)

So stay with me: it is hard enough for a DJ to keep everyone happy at a reception. After all, some folks like Cole Porter while others prefer hip-hop and rock. And it's not the easiest thing in the world transitioning from "I Get a kick Out of You" to "Sweet Home, Alabama." So if you told me that someone could get an entire wedding reception to stop dancing to "I Will Survive" and start do-si-do'ing to Thomas Jefferson's favorite line dance, the hot, hot, hot Virginia Reel, I would said you were crazy. But it happened.

Thanks to the energy of one of Michael and Christina's college friends, who looked like he was going to have a coronary as he shouted instructions to guests, everyone learned the required steps. And those steps, I should add, are far more complicated than your average Arthur Murray routine. I was trying to focus but I could swear I heard instructions to "stare your partner down like a bull." Maybe I got it wrong. Anyway, my first thought upon seeing this commotion was to echo the words of my four-year-old, Alexandra, whose favorite saying these days is "this is not going to be good." But you know what? It was great. People were, as they say, a-whoopin and a-hollerin. Thomas Jefferson would have been proud.

And there you have it: four weddings and a fundraiser. Not a bad three weeks!

Once again, a big thanks to everyone involved in Photo Marathon. We'll do it all again next year, hopefully under the auspices of our new 501(c)(3), The Bronia Fund, named in memory of my twelve-year-old cousin killed in the Holocaust. Look for details here.

Thanks for reading, and, as always, double-click the images for better viewing.



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