Cooper adjusts career focus

Saturday 18 May 2019 | Written by Richard Moore | Published in Weekend


Cooper adjusts career focus
Mel Cooper never has a template of places at which to conduct her photo shoots. “I like to be in the moment and work with light and what unfolds on the day,” she says. 19051501

Rarotonga’s sought-after wedding photographer Melanie Cooper is ready to lift the veil, so to speak, and spread her wings within new and exciting projects.

Cooper is still passionate working with couples in love so she will not be hanging up her wedding photograph camera, rather exploring other genres.

“It must have been a sign; when I launched my wedding site in 2010 one of my first enquiries was shooting for Oxfam! I got the job and did some work on receding shorelines.”

“Recently I have landed a job with Reuters (international news organisation) around climate change and community. I’m very excited to take this path.”

“I’m adaptable between genres … my focus is on the moment rather than the event and I’m driven by capturing those in-betweens rather than an event.

“Some of my most rewarding work I’ve captured aside from weddings is shooting for Bank South Pacific and personal projects such as Ariki Day.”

Cooper says her creativity is fed by exchanges between people, nature, animals, lines and light.

“Just the way that the water laps the seashore. Watching the ocean ripples … moments that excite me.

“I focus on moments, exchanges, a beautiful light ray that passes through the room and creates an element of mood.”

When she was starting out in her career one of her first jobs was working as an assistant for a wedding photographer in the days of film.

“It wasn’t my style, it was very Rembrandt-like. I did some studio work and then went on to video.

“I also did TV commercials and outside broadcasts for television stations in Australia. That was a lot of fun. I did that for a few years. I was assisting holding the big wooden tripods and lights. I did everything from skydiving to scuba diving to carpet commercials.

“That’s where I discovered my passion for not having a 9-5 job … and that sense of adventure of being on the road.

“I miss that freedom. I miss the long journeys.”

Having said that Cooper adds: “I adore living here, I have my moments where I wake up and I’m grateful for living in paradise, but I do miss simply getting lost.”

It is that love of spur-of-the-moment photography that sets her wedding work apart.

“I tend to attract wedding couples who have an appreciation of photography … couples who place an emphasis on the photography. This is where my wedding planning business complements the photography, especially for couples eloping.”

And the slight anarchy of people running away to get married seems to suit her style.

“I never have a template of places to go to. I like to be in the moment and work with light and what unfolds on the day.

“How do they react? If they have trust in me and I have their best interests at heart – which I always do – they will be receptive to the situation and will go with the flow.

“Obviously it’s a wedding and there are time frames.”

Her wedding shoots vary in length but are usually between six to eight hours, although she will do up to 10 hours.

Cooper always asks her clients what they would like to do?

“You can get a point of difference between each wedding and put the emphasis of the story back to them, which is where it should always be. Otherwise it is just a wedding.

“I’m really big on that.

“When a couple asks ‘what do you do?’ I ask ‘what do you want?’”

While she isn’t a fan of people jumping she will do it.

“I can’t tell them ‘no I’m not going to shoot that’.”

While her clients are generally inbound tourists, Cooper says she would “really like to start doing more local portraits, lifestyle shots and event photography. Cooper also has a wedding-planning business that “draws people with a love for photography and that’s why they come to me because the photography is a top priority”.

Her reputation is such that she is flown to Australia and New Zealand to shoot weddings and she holds photographic courses for people who are interested in enhancing their camera skills.

And there are few better teachers to learn from than the experienced Cooper.