The Wedding, Wapping 1988.


Other than for close friends or family, I've never been very keen on shooting weddings.  It's an onerous responsibility because there can't usually be a reshoot and one never quite knows what's going to happen.

And some weddings are not necessarily the happy occasions they should be.

This would certainly appear to be the case here.

You can see from the photograph above that one fellow, the best man as it happens, is laying drunk and comatose on the ground. 

On the right, none of the bride's family look too happy.  The bride's father looks particularly sour.  The fact that he's standing there with a twelve bore shotgun doesn't help.

Though she looks cheerful enough here, the bride was supposedly eight months pregnant.  This may go some way to explaining the bride's father's attitude.

The groom - the guy wearing a back to front baseball cap and severely disheveled  trousers - sports a black eye.  It's also fairly obvious that he and some of his friends must have been fighting immediately beforehand.

The two guys with beards, one in a dress, to his immediate left were Peter Fluck and Roger Law.  At that time they were well known caricaturists and creators of the '80s comedy show 'Spitting Image'.

This is something of a clue.

This photograph was commissioned by the comedy team of Harry Enfield (the guy with the gun) and Paul Whitehouse (the groom) for their book 'Wad And Peeps.'  Don't even ask what that might mean, in the context of 2013 the reference is now way too obscure.

The guy on the floor was the Harry Enfield comedy creation ‘Loadsamoney’ (but played here by a stand in - if that’s not too much of a contradiction).

It had been our intention to find an abandoned or deconsecrated church somewhere and just to turn up during a weekday morning and quickly take some photos, guerrilla style, without bothering to get an okay from anybody.  I had a whole book load of photos to take over the course of about 10 days and we'd done similar things all over London.  We hardly spent more than half an hour on any one shot.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I don't remember exactly who it was that found this particular church (St George's In The East in Wapping) but I suspect it might have been me.  I'd worked around that area a lot  and never seen any activity going on around that church.  I assumed it had been abandoned or fallen into ruin inside, like several churches in London had at that time.

On the day in question, me, my wife and my assistant, a management/PR man and a make up artist or two, plus all the characters for the photo assembled on the steps outside the church.  Then everyone got into costume, got in a line and things were ready.

Since I don't think I'd been thoroughly briefed beforehand, I had no idea the assemblage would be quite so left field, as it were.

My wife Jo-Anne even got roped in to play the mother of the bride, though you can't actually see her face.  It was a visual joke in the rich literary tradition of Godot, 'er indoors and Columbo's wife.  It was important that the character was there yet not actually seen.

Because there were a lot of steps in front of the church, I had to stand on the top of a very large step ladder, so that my perspective would be level with the wedding group.  My assistant did his best to hold the step ladder steady.  My precarious position wasn't helped by the fact that this particular wedding party included several world class comedians and I was finding it hard to keep a straight face, let alone a straight anything else.

I'd only managed to shoot a couple of test Polaroids when the door behind the group opened and out came a rather incredulous looking priest in a white cassock.

I didn't know what to do or where to look.

Luckily the management/PR guy was made of sterner stuff.

He took the priest aside and explained what we were doing.  He explained that it was all in pursuit of good clean fun and it had been commissioned by a reputable publishing company - Penguin.  It seemed that the priest was a decent enough chap, with an evident sense of humour.  I can't say for certain and I don't want to libel anyone who may, for all I know, still be working there but I think some money changed hands - for the church funds.

In nearly 35 years of professional photography, this was my single most embarrassing moment.  And I had a few.

As for the rest of the time spent shooting that book, I've never had so much fun  or laughed quite as heartily in my life.  Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse (both massive Spurs fans like myself ) were extremely amusing and enjoyable to work with.  It really wasn't much like work at all.  They're both brilliant mimics too and those ten days went far, far too quickly.

If all weddings were that much fun I'd certainly do more of them.