Lately, I’ve been doing more of these shorter portrait sessions in and around Durham, and really enjoy them. Becky used to give mural tours in downtown Durham, so she had a simple vision for her shoot with Dean. She wore her favorite blue dress, and we headed to The American Tobacco Campus where we used the late afternoon light and the Burt’s Bees mural to have a little fun. Congrats, y’all!


Intimate and easy backyard weddings are becoming a staple as I photograph more couples in downtown Durham. Jessalee and Aaron’s big day was a perfect example. The mild October weather and slanted fall light were ideal, and friends and family from afar enjoyed a short walk to their reception at Motorco Music Hall in the Central Park District.


1. What was most important to you in planning your wedding? Why did you split the wedding festivities across two days?

We wanted our wedding to feel like ‘us’ – not too fussy, with the emphasis on fun versus formality.  We planned two days of festivities (three if you count brunch on Sunday at our house!) because we had lots of loved ones traveling from far away, and we wanted to share as much time with everyone as possible.

2. What did you learn about yourself and your relationship in the process of planning the wedding?

We were proud that we really approached the whole endeavor as a team.  We divided up the planning work equally, and we were definitely allies throughout the process – when there were difficult questions about the budget or the guest list, we could always work through it together.

3. What was the biggest challenge?

The guest list.  It forces you to make tough decisions!

4. What advice do you have for other couples out there?

Try to keep things in perspective!  It’s easy to get swept up in feeling like wedding planning is stressful, but the truth is that for most people, it’s something you’ve chosen to do, and it’s just one day in a long life together.  Try to enjoy it, and don’t let the little things stress you out too much.

5. What was your favorite moment from the days?

We really had SO MUCH fun the entire weekend.  Our ceremony was really special to us, and we loved dancing at Motorco at the reception.

6. What factors other than photos went into your decision on a wedding photographer? Why did you decide to pick me?

We felt like your documentary photography aesthetic was a good fit for us, since we were trying to keep things as natural as possible.

7. From booking to delivery of images and seeing the results, what in your mind made it the right choice for us to collaborate? Did anything surprise you?

We enjoyed getting together with you several times before the wedding, so we had the chance to get to know you and become comfortable with you in advance.  We also loved a particular moment during the ceremony.  We were in our backyard, which is surrounded by trees and has lots of shady patches even on a very sunny afternoon.  During the ceremony, our officiant (Jessalee’s stepmother) asked if anyone had any objections, and Justin piped up!  To everyone’s laughter, he said he did not in fact have an objection, but that Jessalee was standing in shadow and not in the nice light like Aaron, and it’d be great if she could step forward slightly.  We really enjoyed the moment because it was very much in keeping with what we were aiming for – a relaxed and comfortable ceremony.  And we would have been so sad if Jessalee wasn’t in the light in any of the images, so we were extremely glad Justin spoke up!

8. What’s next for you as a couple?
We had a great honeymoon in Spain, and now we’re just enjoying life in Durham.  🙂


Usually, this is the yearly blog post where I saccharinely reflect back on the year, and thank my couples and families for the work we did together. I couldn’t have done it without them. Thanks to all of you for making 2016 a year of wild dance floors, hot kisses and silly unscripted moments:




Now let’s talk about 2016 — a year marked by huge triumphs and losses, death, schisms, and setbacks, personally and globally.
In September, my divorce was final, and I said hello to a healthier life. In October, I watched my aunts, two of the most important women in my life, get married after nearly 14 years together. We reveled in joy and justice. A few weeks later, I watched, unsurprised, as a masterfully manipulative yet incompetent tyrant was elected President of the United States — the most powerful office in the world.



Donald Trump may be the most imminent threat to democracy, decency and justice we Americans have ever faced, and his election confirms that we have lightyears to go before this country lives up to the ideals it professes.

That said, in 2017 I will:

  • Call out and stand against bigotry, especially in this industry.

  • Continue to affirm same sex couples, and serve couples of all faiths, combinations, constructions and persuasions and backgrounds. Images help normalize humanity, and offer a platform for voices to be heard against the noise — the long-festering and emboldened bigotry, racism and homophobia we will face. I will offer to blog and interview these couples as often as I can, as often as they agree to participate.

  • Teach photography, video and journalism skills to marginalized communities so they can tell their own stories. Help create platforms for those stories. Then, step aside.

  • Because of my journalism, my photography and my nature, I have toes in many diverse communities. I will continue to ally with queer, minority and people-of-color-led organizations. I will hear and connect and translate ideas and conversations between these communities and the communities they are at odds with.

These are my vows to you.

Justin Cook, out.



Back in 2012, I photographed Elissa and Shaul’s wedding outside Asheville, N.C., and we really hit it off. Fast forward to 2016, and her cousin, Hannah, hired me to shoot her and Kyle’s giant wedding-palooza at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro. I love working with their family; their sense of humor made it easy for Alex and I to do our best work on a wedding day full of moving pieces.  Without further ado, Hannah and Kyle take it from here:


1. What was most important to you in planning your wedding? Creating a personal and memorable experience for our guests. Since the majority of our friends and family came from out of town, we wanted the entire weekend to be a welcoming and enjoyable experience for everyone.

2. What did you learn about yourself and your relationship in the process of planning the wedding? We decided early on as a couple what the “really important” aspects of our wedding would be (photographer, food, band), and learned to trust our instincts. There are a lot of people who enjoy offering up their opinions of what you should or shouldn’t do for your wedding, so it was really important that the two of us shared the same vision and priorities in the planning process. Kyle had a few things that were really important to him, and vice versa, so we advocated for each other and respected the unique elements we each brought to our wedding weekend that made it an authentic representation of both of us.

3. What advice do you have for other couples out there? It is really easy to get swept up in wedding planning and let it consume all of your time and energy, remember for the sake of your relationship and sanity to spend some “non wedding planning” time together to just relax.

4. What was your favorite moment from the day? My favorite moment was in between the ceremony and the reception, Kyle and I got a few minutes to ourselves where we could sit and just be together. The entire day flew by so fast, I loved being able to take the time to pause and just take it all in with my new husband! The favorite moment of the day for Kyle was the reception. It was his way of blowing off all of the built-up steam from wedding planning and wedding-day jitters and nerves. Letting loose in the same room with our favorite people present just for us was an incredible stress-relieving and celebratory feeling. The band, the food, and the people all came together for the perfect celebration.

5. What factors other than photos went into your decision on a wedding photographer? Why did you decide to pick me? The first thing we picked (even before our city and venue!) was our photographer. Both of us wanted wedding photos that were genuine and reflected the emotion and excitement of the day. We knew we needed the “traditional” group photos, but were more excited about the idea of candid/documentary style photos of the day. When I saw the photos you took of my cousins’ wedding, I fell in love with the images. You were able to capture the personality and emotion of each person and moment with a single image. I wanted to be able to look at our photos years from now and be able to remember the exact moment they were taken.

6. From booking to delivery of images and seeing the results, what in your mind made it the right choice for us to collaborate? Did anything surprise you about working with me and Alex?  From our first conversation, you immediately understood our concerns and what was important to us in capturing the day. As people who hate being photographed and often dislike posed photos of ourselves, you managed to capture how beautiful/handsome we think our spouse is, and how truly happy we were on that day. I love that you both went above and beyond to find the right angles and locations for some truly unique shots. During our first look on the grand staircase, you said “you won’t be able to see me take this photo, but trust me it is going to be awesome.” And when I looked through the viewfinder I was absolutely blown away. I knew had picked the right photographer, by far my favorite photo of the day! (also, you were willing to hold my lipstick for touch ups in your bag all day! thank you!). Justin’s note: I have no problem carrying a bride’s tools and accessories in my giant Fanny-Pack-of-Justice.

7. What’s next for you as a couple? Next week we leave for our honeymoon, a culinary tour of Italy!

Be sure to check out Greensboro wedding planner Leigh Pierce’s blog for a rundown about the look and details of Hannah and Kyle’s big day.