Photographer Harper Cowan from Harper Pictures is a documentary style photographer based in Kingston NY, near the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson River Valley, just over two hours north of NYC. Harper Pictures shoots both film and digital, as well as Super 8, and focuses on taking natural photographs. We recently asked Harper to share a little bit more about herself and her business with us.
Tell us about your business!
I am a wedding photographer, based out of Upstate NY. I shoot film, and digital, and I also make super 8 videos. I’d like to think I offer really beautiful, natural feeling portraits of couples and the people they care about, that capture the energy of the day, and document the details. I like to capture a lot of special moments between the big moments.I love how every wedding is different, and I’m not trying to make them look the same, or fit couples into a mold that doesn’t feel like them. I do a lot of weddings close by to me, I live in a beautiful area for weddings, but I’m also lucky enough to get to travel for some weddings too, and get to see different parts of the country/world! I love working with all different types of people, and getting to learn a bit more about their stories and what matters to them. And I try to get them the kinds of pictures I would want to have to remember these rare and special moments.
How would you describe your style?
My style is mostly candid, documentary, colorful, natural, sometimes with a little bit of a sense of humor or whimsy. I really don’t like things to look like they were staged or feel inauthentic. I want the pictures to really feel like you and capture the energy of the day, and I want the documentation to feel colorful, organic, authentic and observant. I get to see a lot of things that the couple probably doesn’t get to see that day, so I like to think of them getting to relive the day through a loving observer’s eyes when they get to go through their photo gallery from me.
How long have you been a photographer?
I’ve really been a photographer since I can remember. When I was a child I definitely always loved a disposable camera, and would walk it to the One Hour Photo and wait impatiently for it to get processed. I’m never the person that forgot to take a photo of something! My dad gave me his old film camera when I was in college. And my boyfriend gifted me a lovely film camera about 7 years ago, that got me back in to film, and that’s when I really started documenting a lot of our lives and travels, and taking portraits of friends who are artists or musicians and needed some photos of themselves! I started photographing weddings in 2019, I actually fell into it when a friend of a friend had a last minute cancellation and I wound up covering their wedding for them, and that was like a lightbulb moment that this would be a perfect job for me.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I’ve always been naturally inclined to documenting. I feel strongly that you deserve to be seen, and to feel seen, and have your memories preserved, good times documented, and joy shared! I love photography, I love capturing moments. I love getting to circle a room, feel invisible behind my lens, and really get to study the faces of the people around me - see how they laugh and how they engage with each other, there’s kind of an anthropology and a sociology element to it, I get to be a quiet observer of these big intricate worlds combining for a day or a weekend. I love getting to meet so many different peoples’ families, communities, special friends, and hear their toasts, and hear about what they mean to each other, learn where they came from and how they make each other feel. And I love photos so much, I love getting home from a wedding, uploading all the photos and going through to see which ones really sing for me.
What would you like couples to know about you?
I’d like all my couples to know how much I genuinely enjoy and am honored to be a part of their day. They put so much trust in me, and I take it seriously that we’re spending some very important moments together. I try to be mindful for them all day, because I know they don’t get married often, and I spend a heck of a lot of time at weddings. I try to not have them feel rushed, or feel like they have to worry about me getting good photos. I try to stay receptive, creative and inspired our whole time together, and I truly cherish getting to make photos they and their friends and families are going to look back on for years. I really love weddings, and I really love photos, and I feel so lucky that this is my job!
What is your ideal work destination?
I will forever take any excuse to go back to France, again and again. In America, it would definitely be California in the Mt Tam area, or coastal Maine.
What inspires you?
Oh so very many things! My friends - watching what they’re doing with their lives and what good and interesting people they are constantly becoming, documentaries, Agnes Varda films, travelling, silliness, being close to the ocean, listening to long interview style podcasts with people who are good at talking about feelings, folk art, good books where you fall in to another world, kindness, Leonard Cohen, and obviously, the inimitable Joni Mitchell forever!
What is your favourite travel destination?
My family is in Scotland, it would definitely be my grandma’s house there, then to see some of my best friends in Wales.