A photographer first and foremost, Hardy Klahold, lives for and dreams about photography. For over 30 years he has been a visual story teller, from his first days at a German news agency to his current career capturing moments in fashion, weddings, portraits, architecture, travel and the endlessly fascinating world he sees around him. Were thrilled to have an opportunity to promote Hardys work on our Worlds Best Wedding Photographers Hotlist, and to share a little about his life and work with you here today.
Blair: How did you get into wedding photography?
Hardy: I worked in Munich for the German news agency, ddp, when I first met my wife Tammy. She is from Denver, Colorado and we moved here in 2003. My wife suggested to me that I should look into wedding photography and I said NO WAY. I thought of it as sort of the end of the food chain for a photojournalist.
At that time one of my wife’s staff members got married and the couple couldn’t afford a photographer. As a favor, I agreed to shoot their wedding but I honestly had no clue as to what I was getting myself into. I was unaware of what this couple expected of me, or what shooting a wedding in the US was all about. I just took my camera and showed up at the beautiful Manor House in the foothills of Denver.
I decided to handle the wedding as if I had received an assignment from my old news agency: Id go in, document what I saw and go home. It thought it would be easy. It turned out to be serious work and I had so much fun doing it, I loved every single minute. As a news-shooter I was already trained to capture the important moments as they happen, so shooting weddings in a documentary style was a natural thing for me to do.
Blair: What is your favorite moment or tradition at weddings?
Hardy: Sometimes, its before the ceremony, when Im in the bridal suite. It feels like I am at the back of a runway at New York Fashion Week and the bride is my super model. The moment when she opens the bag that protects her wedding gown, this is one of my favorite moments on the wedding day. All the bridesmaids come together to watch it, and see the wedding gown for the first time. The bride pulls the gown slowly out of the bag and lays it carefully on the bed. She handles the gown like she is putting a little baby back in its crib. As a wedding photographer I live for moments like that.
Blair: What are your favorite destinations locations?
Hardy: Thats a tough one. I have seen some really nice locations since I began shooting weddings. The light during sunset at the Plantation House Golf Course on Maui is magnificent. If I have to pick one location it would be the Schlosshotel Friedewald castle in Germany where I shot a wedding in 2010. The castle was built in 1492. Its the kind of place that American brides dream about when they want to feel like a princess. Everything was right out of a fairytale, like it was almost unreal. I am from Germany, and I should be used to seeing castles, but shooting a wedding in this one was different. It was just the perfect setting.
Blair: Can you describe your wedding photography style in less than 6 adjectives?
Hardy: Unobstructive, fashionable, storytelling.
Blair: What is one thing you’d like every bride and groom to know before their wedding?
Hardy: I tell all my couples that this is their day and Im there to document everything. I encourage them to enjoy their wedding day, to be who they are and let me be who I am. I also tell them the story of one of my former grooms, who told me after his wedding: Looking at your photos showed me all the wonderful moments I wouldnt have remembered. I shoot weddings to ensure that couples never forget what made their day so special.
Blair: Do you have a favorite wedding story?
Hardy: Almost all photographers start the wedding day inside of the bridal suite. For us guys, its always a little awkward to knock on the door and then just walk in. So, at this one wedding I walked into the bridal suite, and I found about fifteen girls along with the brides and the grooms moms getting ready. The person missing was the bride. Everyone was dressed and all started staring at me, this tall guy with a camera in his hand. I was about to explain who I am, when the bride walked into the room. She put her arm around my shoulder and said May I introduce my best friend for today? – my photographer Hardy Klahold – I loved this introduction, it felt so right to me. To think a photographer should be a brides best friend on her wedding day; I was so glad she saw me that way.
Blair: How has being a wedding photographer made you a stronger photographer over all?
Hardy: I wouldnt say that being a wedding photographer has made me a stronger photographer, but it has completed my work. I am a photojournalist first. To me wedding photography is telling the important story of 2 families coming together.
Theres also an element of fashion photography with all the colors, the dresses, and the excitement and there is portrait photography as well. On a wedding day I meet people of all generations. I watch them, their laughter and their tears, and I find the moments to photograph them as they really are.
I sometimes hear photographers saying: I only shoot weddings. – What? – Im a photographer and I love photographing life everywhere it happens. I get my inspiration to shoot weddings from my fashion work, my journalistic assignments and my architectural shoots. Im a photographer in the first place, and I just happen to love shooting weddings.
Blair: How has being a photographer influenced your outlook on life in general?
Hardy: In so many ways. All throughout my career Ive been inspired by the people and places around me. When I was working for a news agency in Germany we interviewed a prominent artist from Yugoslavia. While he was there the war in Yugoslavia broke out, and he found out he had been put on a death list and couldnt return to his family all because he was an artist. That had a very profound impact on me, his strength still inspires me and gives me a deeper understanding of how impactful art is on life.
Basically, I love life in general and I take photos of it, thats what I do. Weddings have become a big part of what I love about my life today. When I look at the work Im doing, I feel good about it. I am always thrilled to create an important part of a couples personal history, 2 people and 2 families joining together. Its good to know that in years to come they will look at my photos, thinking about their special day, telling their kids and grandkids their stories and they will have those photos to share. Its a huge responsibility for me as a photographer and a huge honor.
Blair: What makes you give yourself a mental high five?
Hardy: When I look through the final edit of a wedding shoot. Believe me, I am my own biggest critic. After a wedding Im always really mad at myself, I am always second guessing what I could have done better. Then, when I look through my final edit, everything makes sense again. The perfect sequence of events are right in front of me, and the story of two very happy people, living their perfect day makes me want to shoot the next wedding. I love seeing all the emotions and all the wonderful little moments. Thats when I give myself a quick high-five and get back to work.
Blair: Can you name the three photographers you admire most right now?
Hardy: Since I started photography Ive admired the work of Elliott Erwitt and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and as a former news shooter, of course I admire Robert Capa, and not to be forgotten, Erich Salomon. He was the first news photographer.
When it comes to fashion photography, Im inspired by the work of the Canadian photographer, Babak, and 2 Germans Jim Rakete and Frank Dursthoff. All 3 are crazy guys and full of ideas because of it. Oops! Thats more then 3, but I just can’t narrow it down, I love all of them.
Blair: Do you have a favorite image you’ve taken lately?
Hardy: I recently did a fashion shoot for a Colorado wedding gown designer. The stylist brought a top hat to the shoot and we played around with it. I shot this portrait of one of the models wearing a wedding gown and a top hat. I just love this photo. For me it is the perfect bridal portrait. I would love to have a bride wearing a top hat at a real wedding. That would be cool.
Blair: What’s your favorite camera? lens?
Hardy: My favorite camera? – Thats easy: Ive always loved my Leica M6. I bought it in Germany in 2001. My Canon Mark IV and my D5 Mark II are my work horses. Ideally there would be a Nikon body with Canon lenses attached, but thats not gonna happen, so I shoot a lot with my 50mm/1.2. But you know, its never the camera that finds the moments and takes the photos, its always the photographer.
Blair: Do you shoot film, digital or both?
Hardy: For weddings I shoot digital only. I dont favor one process over another, but to be honest, I feel that shooting with film is a romantic idea that usually isnt necessary. My clients love the ease of working with digital files, so why go backwards? Dont get me wrong, I do love shooting with film, and the look it gives, I just dont think it is better than digital. My digital cameras give me a wider range of possibilities when shooting weddings. The chip inside of my camera handles everything, I dont have to take the time to load film, so as a photographer I just have to follow the moments and find the perfect lighting.
Blair: What gets you up in the morning?
Hardy: Daylight? No, but seriously, Ive been a photographer my entire life and I cant imagine doing anything else. I dream about it and Im literally living the dream, my own dream come true. I have a wonderful wife who supports all my crazy ideas, and she believes in me even when they might seem really crazy. Ive gained a lot of wonderful friends living in the US and I still have my family and friends in Germany. So life is good.
Blair: What is your favorite reaction from a client when you deliver their images?
Hardy: My favorite reaction so far has been a letter from a groom, he was writing all these things that I usually hear from my brides. At the end of his long letter he wrote: Im the guy and Im not supposed to be the one saying this, this is supposed to come from the bride – I laughed out loud when I read this, and I was also very touched at the same time. He did say it, and as a guy he was brave enough to admit how he was feeling.
Blair: What are looking forward to most right now?
Hardy: The upcoming season. Im so pumped up to shoot weddings!
Thank you Hardy, were pumped to see them. Get out there, have fun, make history and well be following you all along the way!