If you only come to Prague for a few days, your body clock still stays tuned in to your regular time zone, so you’re up at six local time because your brain tells you it’s actually 9AM already. If you normally wake up at seven, than four in the morning is definitely time to get up in Prague. Being out of bed this early may look somewhat extravagant, of course, but you never manage to go back to sleep till (at least) seven o’clock. Here you are, leaving the hotel at 5:30AM, walking down Charles Bridge, perhaps as far up as Prague Castle. The early morning between six and seven is probably the most interesting part of the day here. All the clubbers who spent last night pub-scrolling have left by now, so the old town and Charles Bridge open themselves up to avid photographers.
Early dawn is setting in, and the bridge is filled with gazillions of photographers trying to capture the haze, the mist, every shade of color, and the sun gleaming on the eternal towers, domes, and spires. You’d think Prague’s historic quarters have been photographed millions of times, at every angle, in every season, in every possible light. Yet the hero photographers are bent on taking their own perfect shot that looks like the already existing masterpieces – or possibly on creating something quite out of the ordinary. So, numerous photographers with their very professional-looking, tripod-propped equipment are a very common sight on the early morning bridge.
A little later, there comes a time slot when the bridge is relatively uncrowded and the natural lighting is more or less fixed for the day, and something exciting always happens at that point. Here is a young woman and her bowed friend, engaged in a photo shoot.
Incidentally, Prague’s pigeons are always photobombing people’s pictures and driving photographers crazy – just like careless tourists.
You can also come across a photo shoot with professional models: they are sashaying here and there, eye candy for both their camera team and all the passers-by.
This time, the feeling I had when doing my morning walks was that of some sort of a ‘Chinese wedding’. Photographer crews were busy doing either wedding photo shoots (the bride-dress-groom-suit kind) or something along the lines of a ‘love story’. I saw three teams working with three bridal couples in Old Town Square that day. The teams comprised a photographer, a second camera assistant (in control of video and lighting fixtures/reflecting screens as well), and a young woman with a trunk who was obviously in charge of the bride’s props and logistics. Sometimes, there would be one more person at work. The equipment and appliances were clearly expensive, as was all the preparatory work.
Flying from China to Prague is understandably a challenge, and you need a separate trunk for the wedding paraphernalia, and this apparently comes at a price. Prague is a very fashionable wedding photo venue; workshops are coordinated on the bridge every morning as well as at daytime: the Chinese photographers are learning and polishing their skills.
One conclusion you can make from a cursory glance at the European-Chinese wedding photo practices is that they have for now remained conservative. You can’t say it’s trivial: I have only seen bits and pieces of the shooting process. This will probably come out as quite decent shots with good quality setup, lighting, and ambience. Here’s one of us on the bridge, here’s one of us next to the town hall, and here’s the horse and the carriage.
The Chinese actually pay a lot of attention to positioning. That is, the focus is not on ‘here’s a picturesque tower, and here’s me in the foreground’ but rather on ‘here I am, striking a pose, and here’s a tower behind me that’s also kind of neat’. This means the newlyweds have to brace themselves for both the views of Prague and the many poses en vogue at the moment.
The photographer is trying to find the perfect shot settings, and the bride and the groom are waiting patiently till they can get captured. Strangers, road workers, and cleaners are forever finding their way into the picture.
It’s one thing just following a photographer around (as is often the case with Europeans and Russian-speaking couples), and it’s quite another having your dress train spread out on a space of ten square meters around you, which leaves you virtually immobilized.
Still, the Chinese photographers are obviously taking their job very seriously. You can both see and feel their bossy attitude with its ‘Get over here, listen to me, it’s going to be like this…’
I think, however, it won’t be long before they have enough pictures taken (in fact, they might already have; I haven’t seen the final shots, after all). These are, come to think of it, ‘official’ photo sessions with well-known landmarks in the background. No one knows what shots are taken in less touristy places, but it’s clear they have some ideas in mind, and these ideas rely on designers’ work.
I saw an average of one European ‘love story’ against every three or four Chinese ones. The Europeans seem somewhat less pompous and have their photos taken inconspicuously; they are quick and unpretentious.
In a word, this season’s photographic Prague is the city of Chinese wedding ceremonies and love stories. This is what it looks like to me, at least; may they all be healthy and happy.
Here’s to the bride and the groom!
In Russian: photoekb.ru/?p=10613.