Wedding Magic

by Lisa Lenoir, Chicago Sun-Times
March 24, 2002

Get ready to be whisked away to the world of fantasy with the stunning black and white wedding photographs of Steven E. Gross.

A bride’s wedding dress blossoms with rosettes, tulle and lace. A man in seersucker suite and a woman in a bold floral halter dress stand out. And a little girl smiles proudly, fanning out her dress for all to see.

These glimpses make Gross’ work passionate and precious at the same time.

“The nicest comments come from women,” he says about his exhibit “Black and White: Defining Moments of Weddings and Marriage” at City Gallery in the historic Water Tower, 806 N. Michigan. “After seeing the exhibit, one couple emailed and asked me to shoot their wedding. I told them I was booked on that date. They changed their wedding date.”

For almost 20 years, he has snapped the stressful and serene moments of more that 400 weddings, traveling near and far to do so. His handsome fee, starting at $7500, hasn’t deterred couples from hiring him to record their nuptials, from Maine to California to the Bahamas.

“On the wedding day, there’s magic,” he says. “There is passion not just for the bride and groom but also for the guests. Something about a wedding lets the hormones fly. It’s sexual energy, sexual tension, passionate energy, passionate tension. It brings out the best and worst in people.”

And he tries to capsulize it all in black and white.

“The feel of a black and white image… it’s nostalgic. [The images] are harder to date. It’s archival and will last for hundreds of years. We see color as normal. But when you look at black and white photos, it’s one step from reality.

“A black and white print speaks to you differently. You see details –lines, shadow. You can take the same photos and make them in color and they don’t have the same magic.”

Gross’ photos, through his use of light and technique, offer profound insights. No automatic cameras for this artist.

“I am a Luddite when it comes to technology. Manual cameras give me a lot more control and they are a lot easier to work with in a larger crowd. There is an ephemeral quality with low technology. It makes the photo sing.”

To wit: A $2 1960’s Diana toy camera zeroes in on a bride posing outside.

“It makes really beautiful photos,” Gross says about his Diana camera. “Put any camera in my hands and I will make a cool photo