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  • Writer's pictureElena Gera

My Journey from Travel Journalist to Documentary-Style Wedding Photographer

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

A travel photographer lying on her stomach to capture the beauty of the Wadi Ram Desert in Jordan
Wadi Ram Desert, Jordan

So... you are wondering where I come from as a documentary-style wedding photographer. Well, obviously from a mother's womb :-) And also from Moscow, Russia :-) I also come from many other things, like a love for adventure, curiosity to travel, genuine interest in people, and excitement about all things beautiful and exotic. I have been blessed (and so incredibly lucky!) to combine three of my passions - love for travel, photography, and writing - pretty early in life.

As a graduate of the Photojournalism Program of the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City, I spent ten years working as a photojournalist for GEO, a European travel magazine. I was a writing photographer (or a photographing writer, whichever you prefer). A lucky combination for any editor - imagine that instead of sending two reporters, you can send only one! My travel sometimes implied staying at a 5-star hotel and enjoying dinners at a Michelin-starred restaurant. However, more often, it meant sleeping in a tent and traveling on a donkey. (A real story that happened to me in Jordan!)

Three geishas walking in Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan

A female shaman in a red traditional dress is performing a retail in Siberia, Russia
Siberia, Russia

My job meant boarding dozens of flights a year, getting up before sunrise to capture nature's beauty, walking long miles with a backpack (this was when I was writing about the Appalachian Trail), and staying up late to catch up on my notes and recordings from interviews. It also meant little family time and grappling with all the insecurities of a solo female traveler armed with a shiny camera.

(I still don't know if it was courage or simply a lack of brains to fly alone into Cairo to document the Arab Spring in 2010. I narrowly escaped serious trouble because the Egyptian capital was like a war zone at that time…)

Yet, I loved my job so much!

My work for the travel publication has taken me to over forty countries. During my travels, I experienced unbelievable things, ranging from the marital customs of India to a whale-greeting ceremony in Australia. Armed with my camera and the knowledge my teachers gave me, I could always document new, beautiful, and unique stories of everyone I encountered.

As a photojournalist, I aimed to help others "see" the people I had met and "visit" the places I had traveled. I wanted my photographs to show others how diverse the world is. Through my eyes, I wanted everyone to experience how giant our planet is and what wondrous things can be found on it. Looking back at these pictures, I can hardly believe I have seen all of these! Japan, Namibia, Taiwan, Singapore, much of Europe, a good part of Asia, some of the American continent…

Throughout my photography career, I've met many incredible, talented, and inspiring people who helped shape the person and photographer I am today. I've photographed architects and archaeologists, fishermen and firefighters, scientists and circus workers, ministers, and models. Believe it or not, I even photographed the man who operated the first moon module from Earth! (Yes, his business card actually said, among other things, "Lunar Rover Driver.")

Oftentimes, my subjects would only speak their native language, but despite that communication barrier, I still captured great pictures.

My approach to documentary-style wedding photography is the same as photojournalism's; the only difference is the subject matter. Love is one of the most beautiful human experiences, and I enjoy documenting a couple's special day. After working with so many different people, I have realized that couples who speak the language of love are now my absolute favorite type of subject. To pursue my passion, in 2017, I created my own wedding photography service, and "Focus on the Moment" was born.

As a documentary-style wedding photographer, my lens continues to capture the essence of love and the unique stories of each couple's special day. Every wedding is a new chapter, an opportunity to document the beauty of human connection. From the anticipation before the ceremony to the heartfelt vows and the joyous celebrations that follow, my goal is to freeze those precious moments in time, creating a timeless narrative that couples can cherish forever.

In conclusion, my journey—from a wide-ranging career as a photojournalist exploring the corners of the world to the intimate realm of wedding photography—has been marked by a passion for storytelling. The key to my evolution lies in the commitment to document not just events but the emotions, the connections, and the stories that unfold in front of my lens.

As a documentary-style wedding photographer, my mission is to encapsulate the love, joy, and uniqueness of each couple's story, ensuring that their moments are forever etched in the beautiful tapestry of their lives.




I am Elena, a documentary-style wedding, engagement, and surprise proposal photographer in East Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina!

My style is relaxed, playful, and evocative. I value connection, joy, authenticity, and true colors.


I help couples who want candid shots and cherish raw emotions!

Please get in touch with me if you have any questions or to check availability. 

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