Barbie and Ken get married. In my back garden.

Nothing could have prepared us for the crazy weeks following Easter Sunday of 2020. In the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, Ryan was inside working on his computer and our daughter Sofia was innocently playing in the front garden with 2 dolls and a model Fiat 500 car. This was the exact moment that would see the start of a crazy journey that would cumulate in hundreds of emails, tens of thousands of shares/likes/comments, countless media publications in countries ranging from Australia to Argentina, an appearance on TalkRadio on a Saturday night and a Facebook reach of over 8 Million people.

All our weddings had been postponed right up until June and I had been really missing photography so much. We had only shot one wedding up to that point of the year and by Easter, I should have been on double figures. I said to Ryan that I was going outside to take some pictures of Sofia with her toys, but when I got out, the idea just hit me.

The dolls looked so detailed and the car Sofia was pushing them about the garden in, was intricate and lifelike, so I thought I’d just have fun with them. Sofia was so excited and loved the idea of some mother / daughter artistic collaboration, and so began the engagement shoot of Barbie and Ken.

Engagement Shoot

We decided to start inside and with the first picture above, which was taken on a radiator in the house that nicely caught the light of a nearby window. The shot below was when I first questioned Ken’s authenticity – Why is Barbie noticeably bigger than ken?

From there we went outside the house and used the all the props we could muster, such as the hose for rain and the flowers as trees. We had such a good time thinking of ideas and capturing the images.

Sofia contributed so many ideas to the shoot and we had such fun together, putting the dolls into the pond and spraying the car with the hose to make it look like they were driving in rain. I explained to her that the dolls needed to take their clothes off so not to get them wet, rather than having to explain to her what ‘skinny dipping‘ was.

 

I had a flick through the results in camera and thought to myself that there were some good images in there, so I started to edit them like I would a standard shoot. I was so pleased with the results and when I showed them to some friends, they were all laughing and saying how good they were, so I thought I’d share them on my Facebook business page for my friends and clients.

To try and make it a bit more humourous for people, I joked about the lack of work I had, by starting the post saying:

‘Yesterday I had my first photography job in weeks. It was an engagement shoot for a lovely couple called Kenneth and Barbara. I really had fun capturing them in the confines of my back garden and although they were a bit stiff and rigid at the start and didn’t really talk much, they took directions well and we got some lovely shots.’

Response

The response was as unexpected as it was exciting. The post got shared on an Australian photography group and it gained around a thousand likes and shares. People were writing things like ‘We need to see this wedding’ and friends began messaging me asking was I going to do it, so we decided that is exactly what we would do.

I loved reading all the comments – i was laughing at so many of them. One of the many hilarious comments in the post alluded to the point that the doll was in fact a 1Direction doll and not a Ken doll……..and with that – The wedding was of Barbie and Louis was in planning phase.

Barbie and Ken (Louis) Wedding

When I posted that I would be creating the wedding, neighbours and friends offered their children’s toys as props for guests. One such neighbour provided a real Ken doll and another provided a Harry Styles doll, which had the same jacket as the Louis doll so it was just meant to be that he’d be best man…… and so with this, the scene was set for the wedding of the year…potentially the only wedding of the year.

We all spent a few hours on Easter Saturday just chatting through ideas and what way we’d capture the wedding. Ryan comes with me to all weddings as second shooter and we discussed shooting it like it was a real wedding for us – so bridal prep, guests arriving, ceremony, romantic shots and first dance/evening shots.

We started shooting the wedding on Easter Sunday. The Preparation shots were taken early in the day to catch the morning light for authenticity.

With the bags of toys provided, came an abundance of comical guests and situations. The ideas were flowing from the minute the bags were opened and disinfected with Dettol spray (thanks Covid-19). There were WWE wrestlers, Star Wars characters, Marvel action figures and more barbies than a Mattel manufacturing warehouse.

The shot above was just created organically on the spot and involved the contrast of the tough wrestlers carrying pink shopkins bags – This remains my favourite – i think i’m going to get it printed for the wall at home. The shots of Chewy and Hulk with matching partners (Chewy’s girlfriend’s hair is intentionally like that haha and Hulk’s girlfriend is in green) were also just created organically as we laughed and joked through the day

It was no coincidence that Darth Vader and Ken were paired as friends – the two evil couples were dressed on point and Ken’s girlfriend wearing white to a wedding was thought of the minute we saw her in the bag of toys given to us. Ken was always going to play a big part too as the jealous ex. I mean, who wears white to a wedding?

The avengers arriving with dates and accompanying soldiers on dinosaurs was a logistical nightmare to set up. I still look at this picture and wonder how they all managed to stay upright for this shot. It was a minor miracle. We loved reading the comments and seeing people picking up the details in all the shots and people seemed to like Spiderman and Ironman holding hands 🙂

When the Chewy toy was given to us along with Darth Vader, we knew there had to be some sort of confrontation between them but we thought, as with most weddings we have captured, that eternal enemies would bury the hatchet for the sake of the couples big day.

   

The shot below was created by our daughter – she appeared with a toy piano and said ‘you could use this piano in the wedding’ and so we did. We love her creative little mind. We chose this wrestler due to the way his fingers were set. Ryan thought it was Chuck Norris like a lot of people in the Facebook comments – We later learned it was Jon Moxley.

How would have known the Hard Rock cafe cocktail mixers, with novelty guitar heads, would have been so useful

We actually waited until the evening to get the ‘golden hour‘ for the wedding ceremony, but that made everything tighter with time. Earlier we could set dolls and figures up in a relaxed and laid back manner – but with the light now fading It was pressure from here on, but just like any wedding day, photographers thrive under pressure.

The below shots were forged in our minds the minute our friend messaged us to say her daughter had a real Ken doll that we could use. We have never seen this at wedding yet, but we always brace ourselves when the below words are read out at a ceremony. Needless to say, someone was going to interject at this wedding. Someone being……

…..Ken.

There was only ever going to be one man that was going to evict young Kenneth from the wedding and it was good old Hulk.

below is Ryan’s favourite shot. I focused on Hulk and Ryan threw Ken up in the air. Hard to believe as it is – this was captured in one shot. We were both amazed when we looked at it in the back of the camera. We thought we’d be there for 50 takes before getting this right.

The wedding could then resume…

The next collection of shots were taken in a field beside our house. We had to climb over that barbed wire to get in and the fence actually nearly fell down as I jumped it. All in the name of that perfect shot ha ha.

We had to include the standard bouquet toss which was based on real events and things we have seen before at  weddings before. Ladies becoming very unladylike in the name of competition. Elbows, knees and fists flying, the standard crotch shot and the MMA wrestle between each girl who has a handful of the bouquet. It wouldn’t be a bouquet toss without it. Chewy’s girlfriend caught it by the way.

After the bouquet toss we moved onto the first dance. The camera flash was set up behind the couple with a red filter on it. The haze behind them is actually water being sprayed from a dettol spray bottle.

Finally, the evening shots were taken at the fire pit by the lake where Ken made his infamous return. Judging by the look on Harry’s face, it went down better with some than others. Ken ended the night by diving into Tadpole lake. If only we had a David Hasslehoff doll, we could have staged a dramatic rescue.

Unlike the Hulk shot earlier, this below shot below did take 50 takes (at least). We saw the potential for the reflection of Ken on the water in mid dive. Trying to capture the image when he was at the right angle, close enough to give the reflection and completely in focus, was not easy at all. With much patience, we got there in the end though.

What a way to end our most prestigious wedding. We planned the wedding shoot to try and bring a bit of light-hearted humour to our clients and friends in these dark times but we could never have imaged the reach this has had. Ryan, Sofia and I had such an amazing time creating props and setting up every scene and from the results of that family fun day, we have had so many touching messages from people all over the world, who have told us that the pictures have brightened their day in isolation – that has made all the effort so worthwhile. Thanks to everyone for the amazing response.

Much Love, Nush, Ryan and Sofia

The End……

or is it?