An interview with Arnold Szmerling INTL Photographer

Photo credit: Peter Van De Veer @ Grand Hyatt Hotel Collins Street Melbourne

An Interview for a Bridal Magazine

Since I remember, I have always loved photography. I came across this photo recently and realise I was destined to be a photographer from an early age.

I received my first camera at the age of 7 and remember taking it to my first summer youth camp, where I captured moments depicting life over the summer. During my teens, my father gave me his SLR and this was the catalyst to develop my technical skills and experiment with photographing various subjects.

At the age of 16, I received my break and joined on a casual basis, the most successful wedding & portrait studio in Melbourne, Australia. This was my entry into the wedding industry. I commenced assisting predominately in the film department and later became the first assistant for the principal Michael Warshall. 

In no time I was surrounded by top photographers in the industry attending various seminars, and training and sharing ideas with them. Michael took on the role of my mentor and educator. In a very short time I was appointed the cinematographer for the studio and concurrently trained as a stills photographer under Michael. He would often refer to me as his protégé’.

After submitting prints at the annual AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photographers) Awards I became the youngest most highly awarded photographer in Australia at 22.

In 1995 I commenced my own photography business and in 2008 launched our business in Israel. 

Moving to Israel became the springboard to increasing my international clientele. Jerusalem is a magnet for weddings and I take pleasure in photographing them in the holy city. I love Jerusalem’s ancient architecture and streetscape of action and diversity of visitors.

Jerusalem has some very swank hotels such as Mamilla and the great icon The King David Hotel. The King David recently underwent renovations and their rooms have an art deco feel. The wedding of Lihi and Tomer is a great example also featuring the YMCA across the road. Soon to be completed is the Waldorf Astoria  which I am looking forward to photograph in.

Tel Aviv is the total flip side of Jerusalem, a modern city on the sea rather than an ancient city on a hill. Lonely Planet has included Tel Aviv as one of the world’s top ten beach cities. There is Old Jaffe on the south side, which is a very popular destination for bride and grooms to be photographed, and at the north end is of course the trendy Tel Aviv Port.

There are many reception venues and hotels in the area and which also make a great combination for photographic possibilities. Here are some examples of weddings in Jerusalem: Tiia and Joona,  Justin and Mark. Other weddings I have captured as an Israel Wedding Photographer also can be found in a galleries section.

As far as the photographer’s technical abilities are concerned make sure you are shown a variety of complete weddings from beginning to end, not just a folio of images across a selection of different weddings. Make certain the photographer is forthright with exactly what you are receiving.

Once these things have been satisfied it is imperative you have a connection with your photographer, as he or she will be spending the whole day with you. Personally, if I feel I haven’t connected with a couple I will not take on the assignment. 

I enjoy the variety of clients and their unique weddings so it is difficult to narrow what I prefer. I do enjoy more intimate events without the “rent a crowd” some people may have with over 600 guests.

It is more important to hire a skilled photographer who has mastered his craft.

I have photographed destination weddings and look forward to increasing this side of the business.

When I lived in Melbourne, Australia one wedding, which stands out, took place in a popular resort called Sanctuary Cove which is very close to Port Douglas in Queensland. It was a three-day event where Pip Mushin, actor, director and film producer married Bindy Edelman a portrait photographer at the time. We took pre-wedding photos at the spa resort the day before. The ceremony the next day took place on the beach in the shade under these huge palm trees. The following evening they held an intimate dinner on the beach for their guests who all flew up for the event. The atmosphere during the entire time was utopia.

Now living in Israel it feels I am 24/7 at a “destination” location. As an Israel Wedding Photographer I now find many of my clients are flying from around the world to be married here. Living in such a central location I see opportunities to photograph in Europe while remaining competitive in pricing. 

My repertoire expands from the Rembrandt classic, the Hollywood glamour, Lifestyle reportage and the popular Pure Candid grab shot. This stems from learning classical portraiture and over the years incorporating my own interpretation through experience and further training.

A common attribute and theme you see in my images is the ability to capture my subjects “Neshama” which is one’s spirit, soul, or inner-self. When you look at my wedding stories you quickly absorb who the bride and groom are.

We do offer albums and photo books as part of our complete service. Our products are sourced from different countries to enable us to offer our clients the best albums worldwide at various budgets. I also developed the world’s most exclusive “Platinum Album”, inspired by the Cinema viewing experience.  We recently sourced a close alternative for budget minded clients.

I feel it is important to offer a complete service and our clients have peace of mind they will end up with a quality artistic album stress-free. All they have to do is choose their favourite images and we will do the rest. Some clients even prefer us to choose the images particularly for their second or third functions (not weddings).  Also statistically, I have found couples who only receive files never do anything with them. Photography was always intended to end up in print form and I believe it still applies today. 

No doubt cinema is a huge influence for inspiration for both composition and lighting techniques. I have always considered myself a movie buff and approach my locations as a movie set.

 I frequently refer back to the greats including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Jeanloup Sieff, Horst P. Horst and Helmut Newton.

 I also have to mention my artistic mentor and friend Peter Van Der Veer whom nurtured my talent to the level it is today. Peter was a student of Athol Shmith together with Bill Henson. Peter’s level of understanding and knowledge is a rare find.

My initial success has been attributed “to the jobs I didn’t do”. With a no-compromise attitude, I have and still am motivated by giving the best, with full heart, to those who appreciate that photography is a true art form.

As a result of this strict discipline to remain true to myself, I pursue clients with the same passion for great photography and enjoyment of life. 

I believe the major challenge to wedding photographers applies to all photographers in general.  In most countries to work even as a plumber or electrician, one has to be licensed. The photography industry has no such filter mechanism and anyone with a camera can call himself or herself a photographer and believe it.

With the advent of digital technology, some skills relating to post-production have become accessible to the public and are no longer monopolised by professional photographers. Instagram is one example of this.

The upside is; photography has become cooler than ever before and people’s appreciation of photography as an art form is at an all-time high.

In my opinion, the middle market has wasted away and photographers are enjoying success both in the mass volume end and exclusive markets.

The key to success is to specialise in a particular area of photography and identify one’s own niche.

He is serious about his profession and committed to excellence. Easy going, gentle natured, loves life and caring.

Just a good guy.

No doubt they love my work. However, I feel it is much more than that. My clientele’ seek quality and value for their investment.

I am not the only photographer offering this level of service. So it really comes down to the connection I make with my clients.

In a nutshell, they “get it”, that I am only interested in servicing their best interests first. At the end of the day, you are only as good as your last job.

A photographer. I feel this was my destiny. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Sure, it’s quite normal for the families to be a bit nervous on the wedding day. Participants may have mixed emotions and sometimes not everything goes to plan. I often am able to bring calmness to the situation and assist because of my experience. I also offer a photography concierge service to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day and the pressure is taken from the bride and groom and their respective families.

Examples of what we have done are last-minute dress-making repairs, diffusing misunderstandings, and coordinating with other vendors so everything plans on time in a smooth fashion.

All in all, we want to make it the most enjoyable experience for our clients.  

Next Project

A Dedication to Peter Van De Veer

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