Asylum Chapel reportage wedding photography
The Asylum Chapel where Ashley and Paul / Jessica and Chris (‘the London family’) swapped roles. The wedding of Jessica and Chris last year, Ashley and Paul this year. Another London wedding – with the roles reversed. The bridesmaid becomes the bride, the best man becomes the groom – friends in support. Plus, in addition to last year’s wedding, a new member of the team – little Aubrey. Ashley got in touch with me a few weeks after that wedding last summer (follow the link to see the naked cyclists!) to say they were getting married too and “and one of the first things we agreed upon is that we’d love to have you capture the day as well.” (Hopefully these images reward that faith? Been a year of weddings with previous bride and grooms there too – always nice to see couples again, often with young ones in tow).
So let’s start the coverage. The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. Same makeup and hair team that Jessica had last year. Was this wedding going to be special? I guessed it would and the banner on the wall of the hotel room confirmed it!! 😉 A relaxed wedding just the way they wanted it – a small concession of no nose ring for the day for Ashley! Both mums getting ready there too, helping with Aubrey, getting emotional. Down then to the lobby to meet Paul and hail a black cab in the drizzle.
Destination…Peckham. “South of the river!”
Caroline Garden’s chapel – The Asylum wedding venue
Asylum – a bombed-out chapel in Peckham(?!) doesn’t sound that glam a venue really? No offence south-east London! (I was south-west London 😉 ) But The Asylum Chapel seems to be on every London wedding photographer’s bucket list. The distressed walls, the history, the uniqueness of the space. Above all, the quality of the light that bounces around that box….well that last bit, no such light on a cold and wet Saturday in November… The Georgian chapel to a large complex of (once) almshouses for retired pub landlords. Asylum as in ‘sanctuary’, not Bedlam. A bomb took off the roof in WWII and messed up the interior a bit but a subtle restoration (new roof) turned it into an arts and wedding venue, with a unique look and character. Sadly no receptions there now but there would be some hot cider inside, after the confetti under the portico.
Both Paul and Ashley were escorted down the aisle by their respective parents. Ashley’s mum just about holding back the tears. (Plenty to come) A ceremony, a marriage sealed. Back down the aisle and out into the drizzle, as the guests exited the front for the confetti ambush. Then back in for drinks, before a fleet of taxis arrived to take everyone across South London, to Brixton.
Wedding reception at Brixton East 1871
Just off Coldharbour Lane, an old Victorian furniture warehouse. Another wedding venue with character. Drinks before heading downstairs, to the tables, to start the quiz. A quiz about Ashley and Paul. The table that had the question setters on it, came second…..? The prize was the order in which tables would go up for their food – chilli, hot dogs, etc.
In between courses, the speeches, lots of them. Emotional, tearful, funny. The traditional script was ripped up, with both sets of parents speaking and the last speech, by Ashley. Some very good speeches but Ashley’s! Wow! I’ve now photographed almost 600 weddings, over the years, and that speech is up there with the best of them.
Pie cut, back upstairs for the first dance. The first hugs, after the B&G romantic shuffle, from another recently married couple. The party then kicked off…
Congratulations Ashley & Paul!
( Bit of trivia to end with….my first wedding in Brixton and as I was writing this, I happened to glance up at a frame on my office wall. In the frame – a remittance advice. The first payment I got from a national newspaper. Dated November a-year-a-very-very-long-time-ago. As a (lot slimmer) photography student at The London College of Printing (Elephant & Castle), armed with a scuffed up Nikon F3 camera, two lenses from the 1960s and a big Metz flashgun, my first experience of a riot. Just metres away from the Brixton East venue.
Running battles, riot police, bricks, bottles flying and petrol bombs. Quite an introduction. Slammed into walls by police riot shields and ducking flying bricks. Shooting in chaos – it was very exciting. At one point I was used as a ‘shield’ by a copper. As he fell to the ground, dragging me down with him. The bottles, stones and bricks smashing into the ground around us. What hit me, somehow bounced off. As I got back up, all I could do was laugh at the situation. The cop beat a hasty retreat with his colleagues as the volleys caught them. I was later warned by some protestors, that a group had seen this exchange and were ‘targeting’ me as a police photographer. Not sure if true or not – they didn’t get me. Did get a riot shield slam me into a wall as they charged down Electric Avenue though.
But amongst the images, I got that night, as the clashes spread down the A23 towards Kennington, was a picture of a police motorbike being torched. A Sunday Mirror photographer who didn’t get it told me to take that to his office. As it died down, I made my way to Holborn. They processed the film (only B&W), made some prints and thanked me. No picture in the paper the next day, but a few weeks later, a payment of £75. A few months later I was working at The Times. )