“When I’m seeing moments happen, I’m seeing them happen from a different perspective,” says native New Yorker Harley Hall Reinhardt, our Modern photographer who is also in-demand for weddings, publicity shots, model testing and more (he’s a recipient of The 2013 Brides’ Choice Award).
The reason for his in-demandness? It could be the pretty blue eyes that were snapped into focus by his awesome ‘80s upbringing, sharing a bohemian Lower East Side pad with dad.
“I helped my father renovate his apartment,” Harley recalls. “We knocked down walls and created this incredible place to live. There was a lot of bonding between my dad and me. I remember him playing a lot of Paul Simon and James Taylor. When I think of my childhood, I think of those moments.”
And Eighties New York was nothing like the gentle, gentrified mini-mall it has become. Growing up on the Lower East Side in the 1980s was somewhat, uh, gritty. A walk on the wild side, as the late Lou Reed had said.
“I would hang out with the Hell’s Angels in Compton Square,” he recalls. “They liked me because my name is Harley.”
These days, nervous brides like him for the assurance he provides in amazing photos of their Manhattan-based destination weddings (see the slide show below).
“You can tell that they are just in awe of this amazing city,” Harley says of his clients, many of whom come from Europe just to exchange vowels in the Big Apfel (that’s German for apple, by the way, and German destination weddings are a huge part of Harley’s clientele). “It’s fun to capture those moments of them being in awe of these crazy buildings and all the taxis and the energy. They are truly experiencing New York, maybe for the first time. You can see it on their faces and in their eyes.”
To keep the photos from taking the downtown train to the intersection of tiresome and clichéd, Harley’s pulls from his own life experience.
“I grew up in an abandoned building,” he says, “and most of the people in there were very eccentric artists and musicians. Very unique people. So when I see New York, I see it from a child’s eye, because I was so fond of my childhood.”
To this exterior end:
“New York is filled with all kinds of incredible landscapes and landmarks,” he says. “There are a lot of interesting moving things, like taxis and colors. It’s very dynamic. All the backgrounds in the city, from the cobblestone streets to the brick walls to the yellow taxis to the store windows, and pools of water on the ground picking up cool reflections. There are shadows from the buildings, and the sunlight coming through creates really amazing effects. The history of New York is so interesting, but mostly it’s just timeless. It inspires me. It’s my city.”
For a time, he also called the entire planet home, as a globe-trotting runway/print model and ski instructor. He was also a deep-sea fisherman for a time, but New York kept reeling him back in.
“I’ve traveled to so many cities and I always come back to New York, because it’s just home,” he says. “It feels good.”
The advent of gay weddings has increased Harley’s demand (sorry, fellas, he’s straight), and he finds himself photographing ceremonies that are not only loving, but historic.
Would he do anything different for a gay couple?
“Absolutely not,” he says. “I’m just as inspired by the love that two guys would have as a straight couple would have. It’s really about love. It’s not about who they are, or aren’t. It’s the look in their eyes. That’s what inspires me. When I see that couple that is truly in love, it’s very inspiring. It doesn’t matter who they are.”
How does a man who spent so much time in front of the camera advise his subjects on how to take a stellar photo?
He says, “Most of the couples I shoot tell me ‘I take terrible pictures.’ Honestly, yeah, that might be so. It’s uncomfortable for most people to be standing in front of a camera. Even for me, I don’t like having my picture taken. So I make my couples interact with each other. I make them sing songs, or laugh out loud. I tell them how beautiful they look. I tell them to look into each other’s eyes, to feel that moment when they first saw each other. If you get them to relax, you can get beautiful photos of anyone, if you understand light and you understand people. It’s not about being good or bad, or innately having some kind of photogenic gift. Sure, there are couples that are a little easier to work with and are a little more free. Usually their pictures do better because they are more animated. But you can get anyone to open up if you go about it correctly.”
Seems like Harley is gunning in that direction.
For more information on Harley, click here.