Using her ability to read people, Charlotte Jenks Lewis puts the entire wedding party at ease with her friendly smile and innate understanding of the sentiment of a wedding day. Her wedding albums feature an uncomplicated balance of candid and spontaneous images, all of them charged with emotion. One of Charlotte’s signature photography styles is using natural light to emphasize specific aspects of her images. Whether it’s morning light breaking through the trees or soft afternoon sunlight shining on the guests’ happy faces, Charlotte freezes these moments in time with her lens and gifts her couples a present that they will treasure forever.
Charlotte has been featured in many international wedding publications, including Brides Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, Marie Claire, New York Weddings, ELLE Marriage, Cosmopolitan Bride, Town & Country Weddings, and The Knot, both New York and New Jersey editions. She has also been listed as a Top Photographer Worldwide by Harper's Bazaar four years in a row, and as a Top Photographer Nationally by Martha Stewart Weddings. Charlotte was one of only six photographers selected within New York. She also shot the wedding of Zanna Roberts Rassi, a leader in the fashion industry and a beloved correspondent for E! News.
"When I started out, telling someone you shot weddings was cringe-worthy"
I was actually a language major in college! I didn’t have much of a plan at that time, but I wanted to travel the world, and I saw languages as a way to do that. But once I finished school, I realized I was missing art in my life, and I changed my path. Fortunately, my career has taken me all over the world and I’ve visited many extraordinary places. At the time that I was finishing school, there was a big shift happening in the world of wedding photography. The photographer was suddenly seen as an artist or an auteur, after so many years of being treated as the “bottom of the barrel” in the industry of photography. When I started out, telling someone you shot weddings was cringe-worthy. Then, a new crop of photographers started re-inventing how weddings were represented. A new, editorial style emerged, with far fewer posed shots, and a more sincere quality. The color palette was softer, the black and white images were low contrast. Everything felt nostalgic, elegant, beautiful, soft, unscripted. The photographer became more of an observer and much less of a director.
"I would dress to look older, because I was younger than all of my brides"
I was so inspired by the photographers whose work was filling the pages of Martha Stewart Living and Weddings at that time. I wanted to learn the craft and be as amazing as Thayer Alison Gowdy, Meg Smith, Susan Baker, John Dolan, and Liz Banfield. Once I got going, I realized I was pretty good at it. Within my first year of shooting weddings, I booked a wedding in Hawaii and one in Florence, Italy. As a young shooter, I had an impressive portfolio for someone just starting out. In meetings, I would dress to look older, because I was younger than all of my brides, and I looked it. I remember when I traveled to Hawaii, I wasn’t even old enough to rent a car, and I needed to figure out another way to get from place to place on the island because I didn’t want to admit to the bride I wasn’t 25 yet.
"One thing I love about wedding photography..."
One thing I love about wedding photography is rather than a commercial or editorial assignment, you're delivering images that are very personal to your client. You're giving them pictures that will be treasured, and become part of a family's history. I always shoot some black and white because it brings a certain historical significance to an image, which is just right for a wedding.
"I feel like my greatest strength is my personality"
Honestly, to capture personal and candid pictures, I feel like my greatest strength is my personality. Every photographer has their own approach, and some people accomplish personal images with a very quiet approach. I am a warm, chatty, disarming person. I smile a lot, laugh a lot, I learn everyone’s names, and I’m a tease. I have a quick sense of humor, and I’m good at getting a laugh. Everyone is nervous on the wedding day! It’s helpful to have someone around who keeps you on task but can make a joke at the same time.
"The wedding album is a culmination of all of the best images of the wedding"
The wedding album is a culmination of all of the best images of the wedding. It should absolutely represent all of the joy and the fun of that day. I love images where people are touching, and I try to highlight those moments in my work. Hands are actually very expressive, and a small touch on a back or arms wrapped around each other can be representative of the love that is present on a wedding day.
"I bring 5 to 8 cameras with me to every wedding"
My favorite camera is my Contax 645 and my second favorite is my Rolleiflex. I use the Contax to create the central core of my body of work, but the images that people really swoon over, the ones that get me the next assignment, are the Rollei images. And they’re the ones I frame and put in my own house! The Rollei gives a nostalgic, airy quality that just seems to create little serotonin bursts in your head. It makes everything feel more poignant, meaningful, powerful.
The Contax, on the other hand, is what I use for most of my color images. It has a crispness, but then a beautiful soft fall-off as an image goes out of focus in the background. Once I discovered that camera, it was a game-changer for me, and I’ve never left it. But in general, I use different cameras to create visual variety and texture within a body of work. Typically, I bring 5 to 8 cameras with me to every wedding.
"Black & white is a classic combination"
There’s a simplicity to black and white images. They’re so timeless. The coloration of images has trends just like anything else, but black and white is a classic combination. There is also something about black and white’s ability to focus our attention on the composition that I really love.
"A ritual that I try to do as well..."
The location and the venue are so important to set the tone and to give a sense of place. A photographer I studied under once told me he liked to take a picture of the sky by itself, to remember what it looked like on that day. It’s a ritual that I try to do as well (when I remember)! And then I say hi to the bride and get going!
"I love the visual representation of sisterhood"
There are so many moments that I try to capture at every wedding! I’ve always really loved the ritual of getting the bride dressed on her wedding day. The women who surround her become her caretakers, preparing her literally for the day but more figuratively they’re preparing her for her life ahead. I’m the youngest of three sisters, so I love the visual representation of sisterhood, and of women supporting one another.