by Ted Allen, Esquire
If they plan ahead about six months – right about now for a June wedding- they might be lucky enough to get him. And this is what people say when they see him, the man with the flash held aloft and the Leica out to here (he don’t need no stinkin’ viewfinder), whirling and ducking among the dancing tuxedos like a guerrilla mambo king looking for moments to steal. What they say when they see him is this: “Who is that guy?”
And they say this not because they don’t know that he is the wedding photographer, because that is readily apparent. Rather because Steven E. Gross of Chicago is like no wedding photographer they have ever seen. For starters, he is proud to shoot nuptials-love it, in fact. More than one couple had changed its wedding date to accommodate him.
But it’s more. Gross elevates a bastard genre to an art. It’s strictly black and white-gallery quality, film-noir, photojournalistic candids, all lushly rendered on fiber paper. Here’s his MO: He weaves himself into an evening; he becomes the wedding. No grip-and grin shots. Gross startles his subjects with the first flash-and then they laugh and come to life, and he fires in staccato bursts, sometimes four, sometimes fourteen shots of a single scene, often burning forty, fifty rolls in a night.
Were he not a charmer, he would be decked on a regular basis. He shoots the bride and her maidens as they dress, documenting the inevitable satin catastrophes, the teary embraces, the pensive moments. He pursues the hams and the wallflowers and the catering staff, warming up to them until they smile. He particularly loves shooting women in backless dresses, the busty second cousin spilling out of her black number, the flower girl trying on the veil.
For this, he relieves you of at least $4,600 just to walk in the door and $30 per eight-by -ten print. But he’ll barter. He once accepted a Honda Accord as payment. Besides, you do this only once. Right? “I’ll tell them to spend less money on the flowers,” Gross says. “The pictures last forever.”