Kelly Prizel Photography in CT, NYC, and DC

Pretty. Witty. Gay. And as talented as they get.

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

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One of the interesting thing about running APW over the past almost six years is seeing the way the wedding industry, and the greater culture, have slowly evolved. Back in 2008, a lot of the things we were talking about here were so out of line with the culture of weddings that APW was regularly (and rudely) referred to as a “super niche” blog. Now the ideas that you might want a simple wedding, or an elopement, or to focus more on your marriage than on the chair covers, don’t seem so far out of the mainstream (thank God). But there is no place that we’ve culturally made more progress than LGBTQ weddings. And I’m so glad, because there is no area where change was more desperately, vitally, in a life or death way, needed. This was before Martha Stewart Weddings had published their first gay wedding, before the big wedding blogs were talking gay weddings, and when talking about LGBTQ issues on a wedding site was considered “very political” (you know, when people say “very political” in the non-complimentary way). So I have been proud of, and humbled by, working with sponsors over the years who have pushed existing boundaries of the wedding world—hard. And it has been a particular joy to watch the wedding industry catch up with these (mostly) ladies. For me, one of the most notable among those is Kelly Prizel, wedding photographer in Connecticut, New York, DC, who has been on the forefront of pushing issues of LGBTQ weddings and diversity in wedding media and photography.

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Kelly Prizel isn’t just an out gay wedding photographer that passionately shoots gay (and straight, and everything in between) weddings. Kelly is someone who’s spent years being vocal about the wedding industry’s various shitty practices when it comes to photography. (For a long time it was considered acceptable to only publicize photos of your skinniest, blondest, most conventionally pretty clients… and be blunt about the fact that you wouldn’t publish pictures of people who were “not pretty enough” because it was “bad for your brand.” You can’t make this shit up.) But more than being vocal, Kelly came into the business with something to say, and she has used her beautiful images to say it. In 2011 she told us:

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The reason I started in this industry was because I had something to say. Namely, “Where are the f*cking gay people? Where are the people of color? Where are the rip-your-heart-out emotionally gorgeous weddings minus the trendy hipster-gear? Where are the over-size-two people?” I’m not here to show you models in a field with a piano. Yes, it’s super-pretty. Yes, it’s great portfolio material. But IT’S NOT REAL. I love real people in love. I love people choosing to commit publicly to each other. Those commitments look different and ARE different. They mean different things to different people. But at the end of the day, it’s a celebration of love. Let’s face it: your dress isn’t going to be in style forever. Your wife might find that grad school gives her a few wrinkles. But your pictures aren’t about trendy clothes and perfect skin, despite what the wedding industrial complex tells you. Because your wedding isn’t about those things either. And in each wedding I shoot, whether the couple is twenty or fifty, gay or straight, black, white or anything else, I strive to tell the story of what your wedding IS about: love, community, and commitment.

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I mean. So it’s probably going to come as no surprise to you that Kelly’s clients love her. She’s had a ton of APW clients over the years: Clara & Sarah, Brigid & Ximena, Sarah & Chris, Kristin & Laura, Becca & Jason, and Jacquetta & Shaneequa, just to name a few. And there was even the time she stepped up to take over at the last minute when a photographer dropped off the face of the earth. While I know for a fact that all of her clients will corner you in a bar and talk to you for ten minutes about how great Kelly is, and how amazing their wedding pictures are, and really did they mention how great she was, recent APW wedding grads Emily + Alan summed it up succinctly:

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I can’t say enough great things about Kelly. First, she’s just great to be around: sunny, fun, full of energy. This came in handy because I usually hate having my picture taken, but she made it a blast. Moreover, she’s totally professional. She knew exactly how to manage folks at my wedding so they moved where they should be without even knowing they were being moved! And most important, her photos are fantastic. Absolutely beautiful. Unlike anything I’ve seen from any other wedding photographer. You can totally tell her background is in fine art photography. I actually asked her to travel to my wedding in PA because her work is so original, and it was totally worth it. She captured the most wonderful images from our wedding. I can’t recommend her highly enough.

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And her work. I don’t need to spill a lot of words on Kelly’s work, because it so strongly speaks for itself. It’s deep and rich. It’s honest and clear. It’s the work of someone with serious photography training, who has spent years giving every ounce of herself to her craft. Kelly is someone who will not only make your wedding photos better, she’ll make your wedding better. Because she and her camera will show up and make some magic.

But now, I’m going to let Kelly tell you about her philosophy and the way she’s thinking about her work these days:

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Some of you may have noticed that my logo in the ad over to your right reads “Pretty. Witty. And Gay.” And I’m not even a hardcore Westside Story Fan. No, I use this tagline because I feel like it describes me and my photographic philosophy really well, and I thought it was high time that I explain why.

PRETTY: This is a word that I use to describe YOU, dear reader. One of the most important parts of my philosophy, as I’ve demonstrated over the past five years I’ve been in business, is that I truly believe that every couple—every size, age, race, gender expression, religious practice, etc.—is beautiful, and that it’s my job to take your beauty and make beautiful pictures. I’m not about only shooting “photogenic” people, whatever that means. Love is photogenic. My job is to see the pretty and reflect it back to you.

WITTY: So, this one is about what happens when you and I get together. I have ADHD and learning disabilities. I spent my high school years struggling, until I gathered up some savings and paid for my own learning disability testing at age twenty. Best money I ever spent: all of a sudden, I understood not only my weaknesses but my strengths. Yeah, I suck at math and my working memory isn’t the best, but I have a pretty awesome brain. I can see things. I can make things. When I decided to start a wedding photography business, everyone in my life thought my weaknesses would trip me up. But no one realized how much even my weaknesses would help me in this business. When I have a camera in my hands, I know what I’m doing. And when I’m with you, I can be myself, goofy laugh and all. And hopefully, this makes you feel a little less self-conscious. I’m not this judgmental person on the other side of the lens: I’m a nerd who has struggled with things before finding my passion. And with our nerdiness combined, some pretty awesome things have happened photographically.

GAY: I’m not sure that I need to come out on APW; I think most readers know I’m gay. And I think most readers know that I’ve been working for the past five years to push the boundaries of the wedding industry to make sure that people of every gender expression and sexual orientation are represented. And even though now marriage equality is gaining ground and momentum (hallelujah!), I’m going to continue pushing those boundaries. If you haven’t seen the retrospective posts I wrote after DOMA was repealed, click herehereherehere, and here to have a look at some of the amazing people I’ve gotten to know. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

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Really, what more do you need to know? Kelly’s wedding packages start at $3200, with a special package just for Friday/Sunday weddings. She loves doing elopements in NYC or CT, and those start at just $750. Plus, with Kelly, you get a friend for life. She describes her services as, full, boutique service, from prepping you for your engagement session, to timeline review, to blotting your face on the wedding day. From “Meeting my big gay family (wife and furry children included)” to “Dinners and The Wire viewings at my house for years to come.” That’s my kind of lady (and I think yours too).

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit #NASTY

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  • Christina McPants

    KELLY PRIZEL. Kelly shot my wedding and a friend’s and I cannot recommend her enough. Her enthusiasm and spirit make her a joy to have around and her shots are amazing.

  • emily

    LOVE this. Well done, Kelly! Love everything about your message, your voice and your photos. So proud to see you succeeding and to share the industry with such a rockstar–keep it up! Oh, and that photo of the bride dancing with the fan–LOVE. AMAZING. WELL DONE, GIRL!–Emily

  • elle em

    I would have loved to been able to hire Kelly for my backyard lesbian wedding last June! Her work is so fantastic and I’m so happy for all her success. We did find an awesome photographer in our area (Chicago) who was also gay which really added a level of comfort and understanding during the planning process and on the big day. There was a lot of family crap that came up along the way and he really understood the dynamic between gay kid and not-so-supportive parents of gay kid and did a masterful job of wrangling my parents and respecting my wishes to make sure there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on them in the photos. We had a really rad moment together during the cocktail hour talking about gay history and it just felt so great to have an out gay vendor at my little backyard gay wedding. Solidarity is real y’all.

  • Amy

    Don’t mind me, I’m just gonna sit here and blow off work for a few minutes and swoon over these pictures. I genuinely cannot pick a favorite.

  • Katy

    Kelly worked an APW wedding that I coordinated, and I can confirm, from the vendor perspective, that she is absolutely awesome to work with. Love her!

  • emilyg25

    I’m the Emily of Emily + Alan quoted above and I want to reiterate that Kelly is totally awesome and you should definitely hire her. Just a lovely, talented person who you feel lucky to have hovering somewhere (practically invisible!) on the sidelines when you get married.

  • I’m the Sarah of the Sarah + Chris above and wanted to jump in to say how much we all LOVE Kelly! She’s the best! She made beautiful photos that still make me cry, managed to get pictures of me ugly crying that make me feel all the emotion I was experiencing without judging my crying face, and she made everyone at our wedding feel comfortable. My mother in law was stunned to find out Kelly wasn’t my friend of many years who’d agreed to shoot our wedding, because she never ever felt like a vendor. She felt like an old friend. Also, she’s one of the few people in this world to get photos of my little brother grinning AND she left her house at 4am to make sure she got to us in time (traffic after Hurricane Sandy was horrific in NYC) and did it with a smile.

    Seriously. I can’t say enough good things about Kelly!

    • emilyg25

      Yes, we also had a guest who thought Kelly was an old friend, not a vendor we’d only met 6 months earlier!

  • Meigh McPants

    You guys. Hire her. For real. Her work is beautiful, but beyond that she’s just a joy to be around. She can move people around pose group shots with the best of them, and then fade into the background to get the authentic, emotional stuff that your grandkids will look at and think “damn, our grandparents were seriously into each other. Awww…and ew.” Give her your dollars. You will not regret it.

  • some great photography work there, well done!

  • C

    Wow, Kelly clearly has a talent for making everyone look gorgeous. I totally want to fire my DC wedding photographer now and hire her. If only I had it in the budget to do so!

  • Awesome photography work! The moments captures here are really a work of art! Wow!!! :D