Santa Cruz’s Carlie Statsky brings her love of the natural world to the hyper-personal art of wedding photography
It was Christmas in Australia, during a freak hail storm, when a young Carlie Statsky discovered her passion for photography. As ice pelted the summertime asphalt, she ran outside with her brother to capture the eerie scene of steam rising off the ground. From that point on, the camera was a part of her.
Today, Statsky’s appreciation for the natural world serves as the backdrop to her main focus as a wedding photographer: new love.
After shooting the minute and personalized details of the big day—bridesmaid gowns, pearl embellishments, coils of white frosting, hydrangea centerpieces—Statsky is known to steal the couple away for a shoot at dusk.
“It’s so atmospheric and beautiful and soft—kind of ethereal,” Statsky says. “I like some of those images to feel a little bit dreamy, because it’s how our memory of the day is. It’s kind of a bonding experience for them to watch their first sunset as husband and wife, and there’s a glow about the couple, and a glow in the actual atmosphere from the light.”
Fifteen years since her first wedding shoot, Statsky lives in Santa Cruz’s Happy Valley and shoots weddings with her husband, Gabe Statsky, for Carlie Statsky Photography, with a nod to “modern, photojournalism-inspired, fine-art photography.” With a background in travel photography and photojournalism, Statsky wasn’t the type of girl who kept a scrapbook of ideas for her own big day, and never expected to make a career out of shooting weddings.
Just like no two weddings are alike, Statsky has come to realize that the love between two people comes in 32 flavors and then some—and she’s stopped trying to make one lens fit all.
“Some couples love in a shy way, some couples love in a really gregarious way,” Stratsky says. “It’s not my job to photograph every couple in the same way; it’s my job to show what their love is like, so that means adapting to each relationship.”
Photographing two people who are joining their lives together is a huge responsibility, says Statsky. But rather than obsessing over staging the typical wedding shots, she likes to let the day unfold.
“I think it is important to feel the weight of how important these memories are. I’m just so aware of this fleeting, amazing day and how important it is to capture the memories of it in that really broad but detailed way,” says Statsky.
Stasky admits she couldn’t do it without her other half, Gabe, who acts as her assistant photographer. Even though Gabe’s day job involves running a custom furniture business, on wedding day weekends, the two form a united front.
“We can almost telepathically communicate at this point. He’ll just look over and know what I need, and we always have a different lens to capture a different perspective,” says Statsky.
Statsky met her husband in Berkeley while visiting from Australia, where she lived on and off throughout middle and high school. Just like so many other moments in her life, the camera she wore around her neck at her brother’s graduation was a centripetal force—and in this case, sparked her very first conversation with her now-husband.
After more than a decade of marriage, the pair manages to meld work and play while still keeping the peace.
“Our joke is that Gabe gets in the car whenever we’re done and reminds me ‘OK, you’re not the boss anymore,” Statsky laughs. “There are very rarely moments of friction during the wedding day because your head is so in that space of delivering that service that there’s no real room for that. In some ways I feel like it’s brought us closer and it makes us appreciate certain aspects about each other that we don’t see in our daily lives.”
And although Statsky says there’s no such things as a “bad” wedding, they’ve had their fair share of challenges over the years; rain, time crunches, gowns that didn’t button, unflattering lighting, and drunken bridal parties, to name a few. But Statsky says that, as a perfectionist, there’s nothing she can’t smooth over in the editing process.
“That’s my job as a photographer, too. For most people that day ends up being the best day of their lives up to that point, so it’s a big responsibility and honor to be documenting that.”