Vintage wedding photos — the beauty of the imperfect

Vintage wedding photos — the beauty of the imperfect

The Vintage Weddings Photos Project arose when a social and historical researcher began unearthing the stories of people, place and culture behind the treasures of sepia-tinted photos in secondhand shops around the country. Project founder, Charlotte Sibtain, discovered just how many precious images are lying in boxes and stock rooms and was determined to tell their history and perhaps even return them to their families.

Her pre-Photoshop pictures depict wedding days in all their fabulous variety: the stiffness, the sometimes strangeness, the beauty of the imperfect.

Love Lost and Found exhibition

Between 15 and 17 February, Charlotte brings some of her collection to the chapel in an exhibition which will restore your faith in love and make you return once again to the fading wedding photographs of your aunts, great-aunts and great-great aunts. Here’s our interview with her about the origins of the project and why she’s partnering with the chapel on the February exhibition, Love Lost and Found.

In this unusual photo, the bride is positioned on the end of the group.

The chapel interview

Chapel: Charlotte, do you have a personal story behind the Vintage Wedding Photos project?
Charlotte: Weddings are expensive! Every year millions of couples spend thousands of pounds on ensuring that the big day is perfect. From the dress to the venue to the wedding breakfast, every detail is obsessively planned. When I started to plan my own wedding two years ago, I also fell into this trap. I emphasised the dress, venue and food without giving too much consideration to other important aspects of the wedding, such as photography. Finding a photographer was in fact quite far down my list of wedding priorities because I just didn’t see it as a hugely important part of the day. I was more concerned with securing giant light-up letters (our initials ‘C’ and ‘J’ ). Since my own wedding, I have come to realise that the most enduring aspect of the day is the photography. You can have the most beautiful cake, dress and venue, but if you don’t have the photographs to remember it by, you are likely to forget a lot of it.

An informal moment during the 1933 wedding of Jocelyn Morgan-Smith.

Chapel: Where did you find your inspiration for the project?
Charlotte: I have always been staggered by the amount of wedding photos that get lost and discarded. This is particularly alien to me as I come from a family that takes great pride and comfort in their collection of old family photos. Perhaps this is where I find my inspiration. Obviously, circumstance plays a deciding factor in whether family photos are kept or lost, but it’s also clear to me that there is often a lack of care. If for some reason my own wedding photos became lost, I would hope somebody would find them and look after them in the same way I do with the photos in my collection. This is the rationale behind the whole project. It is about rescuing, sharing and ultimately looking after other people’s lost wedding photos.

Chapel: Why did you decide to hold an exhibition at the Fitzrovia Chapel?
Charlotte: As the project has grown it has become more and more important to share the collection with as wide an audience as possible, and this exciting collaboration with the Fitzrovia Chapel has enabled this to happen. I hope this exhibition will inspire people to treasure their own family photos!