A Photographer Who's Everywhere at Once

by Shayne Bowman, Detroit Hour
February, 1998

Most photographers don’t like to admit that they shoot weddings. It is the bane profession, a necessary evil to pay the bills. For them, it ranks with shooting a bar of soap. “This specialty is ridiculous or simply ignored by most shooters,” says a 1996 Michigan Friends of Photography Newsletter, “and wedding photographers themselves rarely have nice things to say about their chosen profession.”

For Steven E. Gross, a budding photographer in the early ‘80s, this was no exception. “Early on, I wouldn’t even tell people I was a wedding photographer,” says Gross. “It wasn’t ‘til the ‘90s that I came out of the photo closet.”

Actually it was his work that outed him. The 42-year-old Oak Park native is respected for a unique black-and-white, documentary approach to the big day. Brides-to-be wanting a departure from the stiff, color family portraits seek him out.

“I hate the normal wedding pictures,” says Birmingham’s Roz Turner, who hired Gross to shoot her upcoming marriage to builder Scott Jacobson in June. “His style is great. It’s not the posed pictures. It’s really what happens. It tells the story.”

Gross was features for his story-telling prowess in the “Man At His Best” section of January’s Esquire. “He makes the party,” says Ted Allen, author of the article. “It’s sort of his modus operandi, sneaking up on people like a guerrilla.”

In a time when black-and -white wedding photography is coming into vogue, it is this approach that separates Gross from the Johnny-come-latelies. He’s so much in demand that couples have changed their wedding date to accommodate his schedule.

It has parlayed into the perfect gig for a photographer – art for hire. Gross has had about 20 exhibitions of his wedding photos. He also had a book in the works, due out in 1999.

Drawing inspiration from the street imagery of Cartier-Bresson to the portraits of Arnold Newman, Gross aims to create timeless heirlooms for his customers. “People treasure these photographs,” he says.

The bill for this type of quality isn’t cheap, averaging about $7,000. But his clients says he’s worth his weight in film. The testimonials, in fact, are gushing.

“The wedding is an event with a feeling and momentum of its own,” says one Chicago couple. Gail Donnelly and David Sack, ” and he takes pictures of a mood that is already there. His philosophy seems to be: Be everywhere at once and let it happen around you while constantly shooting pictures.

“Everyone was so impressed because this is a rare and very desired quality in a wedding photographer.”