If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen your share of engagement photos — since literally every friend you’ve ever had is now married. You’ve marveled at the subtly coordinated outfits and soft focus. You’ve longed to live in these sun-dappled worlds, where the light is always beautiful, peaking through the lush trees. And boy, that couple. They are either really happy or really good at faking it, because your natural impulse when commenting on Instagram is to type, “LOVE THESE! LOVE YOU TWO!”
The problem is, except for a few, far-too-rare cases, the sessions all blur together (except this one, which was an accidental win). (And these hilarious photo-shops!) (And obviously the famous Bill Murray engagement photo-bombs!) Still, those are exceptions — most of the time engagement photos feel like they’re lacking that fresh factor.
Which explains why it made me happy to see Baltimore photographer Nessa Kessinger playing with the form. A recent nostalgia-overloaded session was full of recreations of some of my favorite TV shows and films — October’s favorite family movie The Addams Family Values and the binge-watch-from-the-first-episode-Netflix original, Stranger Things. There were also scenes from, Wet Hot American Summer, Friday the 13th, The Blair Witch Project, and Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson-y film, Moonrise Kingdom.
This week, I chatted with Kessinger about her unique photo shoot with a creative pair of theatre-grads (you don’t say?), Nick and Ash.
Why do you think the couple asked you for this kind of session?
I’m their wedding photographer, and we really hit it off from the first meeting. They ended up staying at my house for like two and a half hours. Normally it’s like a 45-minute meeting. They sort of pitched the idea during the wedding talk, and I was like, “Yes, please. We have to do this.”
What do you think made them want to do this kind of shoot? You said they’re actors. They said they saw the venue and were like, “Oh my gosh, Wet Hot American Summer.“
Yeah, it definitely speaks more to who they are, and what they’re interested in, and how they sort of want to show themselves to the people that they love. This is so them. They’re a really neat couple.
I read that you’re a big fan of Wes Anderson. Were you particularly excited for that recreation?
I was so excited. I feel like of all of the love stories that Wes Anderson has told, Moonrise Kingdom is definitely the sweetest, and the most true to romantic intentions. It’s awkward, and it’s funny, and it feels like reminiscent of things that I haven’t experienced, which is an interesting thing that Wes Anderson does.
Were there any other shots that you were particularly excited about?
I love Adams Family Values so much. I was Wednesday Addams for Halloween when I was seven years old. I had a Barbie and I dismembered her so that way … She has the headless doll.
I particularly loved the Stranger Things photos. I was so obsessed with that when it first came out. Were there photos not shown of Ash gorging out on waffles. Did she recreate that?
Yes, oh my gosh, Ash ended up eating so many of them during this shoot, and then she took them home and put them back in her freezer, but since we’d been outside for two hours and they had defrosted, apparently they re-froze into these little globs. She was like, “I ate them anyway, but just so you know, it was really weird.”
Are you open to doing more shoots like this in the future?
If somebody has a really cool concept I’m not going to veto it. I feel like it has to come from them for it to feel really authentic, so I probably wouldn’t push it, but if somebody comes to me and they have cool ideas, I’m totally down.
Are there any particular movies or TV shows you’d like to see recreated?
I immediately went to like dark places, like “Black Swan,” but I don’t think that that’s …
For an engagement shoot?
Yeah. There’s no really love story in that. [laughs]
I think “Scrubs” would be cute. I feel like there are enough people that are professionals that have really stressful jobs that a really fun engagement session that was based around an ER would be kind of a nice break and still something that was really telling of them.