Watching love blossom among our friends, seeing how the passage of years can sweeten life and deepen the magical connection between people, is a profound gift. During a recent pre-wedding photo shoot, with my friends Julian and Anca, I got to experience this joy first hand.
If you have been following my work for a while, you know that I have photographed this couple before in 2012, during one of my trips to my home country, back when their love was new (the session can be seen here). You can thus imagine my happiness when I got the news that Julian had proposed Anca and they plan to get married next year. In no time, I had my camera ready to shoot the beautiful moments of hope and anticipation that come before a wedding.
We decided to hold the pre-wedding photo shoot in Suceava, a picturesque place in Bukovina. Part of Romania today, Bukovina is one of the most beloved historic regions in Europe, known for its rich medieval history—much of which is wonderfully preserved in the form of old villages and monasteries. For this shoot, however, we headed out to experience the region’s natural wonders, wandering the fields, woodlands, and ancient pathways, transcending our current time and place for something simpler, gentler, and more peaceful.
The pure and uncomplicated love shared by my friends in this idyllic setting made me think of the courtly love of the Middle Ages, a time when knights would fight to defend their beloved, when the rituals of courtship and marriage were a sacred part of society. In this shoot, if one lets the imagination wander, it’s easy to see a young hero and maiden, stealing away from prying eyes to enjoy a day of courting in the soft green meadows, with only the birds around to hear the soft whispered promises uttered by loving lips.
I think we still have much to gain from the archetypes of mediaeval romance; the valiant trials of the knights of yore mirror, in some ways, the struggle of keeping love alive in our hectic modern world, where sometimes we barely have time to think, let alone pause to gently nurture the development of tender feelings and closeness. This is why a love like Julian and Anca’s still fills us with a sense of triumph, a feeling of seeing good people beating the odds together by not letting the challenges of life pull them apart.
So, as you look at these images, take a moment to imagine a time when love was every hero’s compass and, as the 12th Century Frenchman Andreas Capellanus wrote when describing the rules and elements of medieval courtly love, “Every act of a lover ended in the thought of his beloved.” If we as a society remember the value of putting love first in this way, the soul of courtly love will not be in our past, but rather in our present and our future.