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Symposium Speaker: Exclusive Interview with Photographer John Nassari
Melanie Anglesey | a month ago
 
Constantly re-evaluating the nature of photography, 360 multimedia pioneer, celebrity and social portraitist John Nassari brings his dynamism to the Bridelux Symposium. He talks to Melanie Anglesey about being an Olympus Visionary, making the Evening Standard list of top wedding photographers and give tips on how to tell a wedding story with simplicity and style.


You first became interested in photography at the age of 13 - what was your first camera and what subjects did you choose to photograph?

I had a Zenith EM, given to me for my birthday by my stepfather. In the beginning, in 1983, I was infatuated with objects and wanted to be a still life photographer. After my degree and working in the field by the early 1990s, I became much more interested in people.

Throughout your career you have undertaken training to perfect your craft - what has the beautiful world of luxury bridal taught you to consider?

You never stop learning. To be the best I can be I always want to change and grow. Working in the luxury sector of weddings has taught me more about managing my team, the clients expectations and protocols, adapting to working with a diverse range of planners, refining my brand - all of these things are more heightened at the top end in my opinion.

Your work has been exhibited for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery - can you tell us more about the images that made the selection?

One of the proudest moments in my career was being selected for the prestigious prize. And I achieved it three times! I love portraiture and my entries were all about the people and relations. The first time was a self-portrait of dad and me. The second was a comment on youth - a young girl in a doorway holding an unlit cigarette. The third time was a street photograph of a family in East London.
You were voted one of 13 top London wedding photographers by the Evening Standard in 2016 and by Masters of Wedding Photography recognised you as a Top Wedding Photographer in 2017, what did they pick up on about your work?

Actually, that’s hard to pinpoint sometimes. It’s so subjective and I am fascinated as to how these lists appear. There are some incredible photographers out there that never get widely recognised.
I am a photographer who does weddings not a wedding photographer. Having notability and achievement outside of weddings has helped my appeal within it.
I am well known for my pioneering 360 work, which the Evening Standard recognised. I think also the combination of my video and photography team, creating a one-stop shop for both does enhance my appeal. I have reached a certain level where I can bring in a team of eight and we can all handle the pressure and always deliver. Being good at taking pictures is the easy bit!

You have photographed celebrities and public figures including Richard E Grant, Jeremy Irons, Emilia Fox, Salman Rushdie, Kevin McCloud, Roxanne McKee, Princess Royal, and David Cameron. Who was the easiest to capture and do you have any anecdotes to share?

Actually all of these photos are ever so quick. Sometimes one minute portraits against a background for a press or PR event. I enjoyed meeting Salman Rushdie, I quoted from his book Imaginary Homeland, in which, in the introduction, he talks about migration, memory and return. I have a PhD in Refugee Studies and referenced him in my thesis. I remember he was a bit staggered that this press photographer at an event was talking to him about his writing on migration.
You are renowned for your pioneering 360° multimedia interactive photography service. What challenges did you have to overcome and what other breakthrough technologies are you involved with?

I pioneered the 360 project in 2007 and brought it into weddings in 2014 to great success. So much so, in 2018 I launched a software platform called nassari360.com which allows users to create interactive 360 websites - it’s been taken up in the property and hospitality sector so far. It’s a very exciting venture for me.

You can see an example of John's 360 work here. This is the wedding of Neena and Hamish, planned by Snapdragon London.


I think it’s important to always reinvent yourself and explore. Last year I launched an online wedding photography course and have been writing a fantasy novel in my spare time for some years. It’s currently with agents.

Storytelling is at the heart of your photography and videography, what are the key elements of a good visual wedding story?

I think honesty, emotion, the natural, humour and simplicity. I can’t stand over-constructed films and images. Sometimes I watch wedding films which look like film sets and see images that are so highly posed. My approach has always been influenced by street photography and narrative based films. That way each wedding film is beautiful and unique, not a set of visuals built by a formula. They have to be shot well, true. But the day is a story untold, an unrehearsed fluid event - surely the job is to capture it, not impose aesthetic, or a misconfigured storyboard on it. They way we stay invisible. I still feel shocked when I work alongside outside teams shooting photos or videos and they impose their personalities and will on everything.

Tell us about your work as an Olympus Visionary where has it taken you to and what have been the highlights of this prestigious relationship?

I am very honoured and privileged to represent Olympus. I shoot with their equipment, firstly because it’s right for me. The relationship has brought me many exhibitions, workshops, talks, articles, books and projects. My proudest is the Mandarin 80@80 project in 2016. I spent ten months as an artist-in-residence at the hotel, shooting colleagues backstage, a project which resulted in an exhibition and book publication.

There must be so many magical moments you have documented at luxury weddings - can you share some of the most glamorous shoots and the lengths you’ve gone to just to get the perfect shot?
 
John Legend in Monaco singing for the first dance was a highlight in 2014. Every year there is always a milestone, like being published in HELLO! In 2018. 
 
I guess it’s the unseen lengths that pay off in the work. Often, as a team of eight, we spend hours planning how to shoot the arrival ceremony so we can remain invisible and not appear in each other’s shots. Having great planners to liaise with is essential to our success.
 
You were a guest speaker at the Photography Show in March, what new trends in image making will you be sharing with our Symposium attendees?
 
I think the demands are getting higher. Not so much an aesthetic trend but an expectation from couples, at the top level, at least, that you have to miss nothing and be brilliant at everything. I am seeing more and more unplugged weddings, which I welcome, but then see a complicated schedule that requires shooters everywhere at once, with a team that needs skills in groups, portraits, reportage, fashion, still life, room sets, and children! I guess if I have learned anything over the years it’s never to arrive with a known weakness. Success is all about the planning!

You can see John Nassari at the Bridelux Symposium Wedding Conference in October this year. For more information click here
Thank you so much for including me in Bridelux. It was a huge success and I enjoyed every bit of it. You should be very proud. Johnny Roxburgh
Very well done again to the whole Bridelux team for the organisation of the Atelier show. It has been an immense pleasure to work with you. Ladurée
The ultimate wedding emporium. Mayfair Life
What an absolutely fantastic event and it has been a very successful initiative for our brand, thank you again for letting us be part of it. Giuseppe Zanotti Design
You have been awesome to work with and handled the whole event really well. Thank you very much for all your help, the show was great and we loved our space. We hope to see you again in the future. MonAnnie Cakes
The Bridelux Gallery