History of Asian Videography

History of Asian Videography in the UK

By Sultana Akhtar, Female Videographer

Over the last three decades the changes being witnessed in Asian wedding videos have been astounding! Wedding DVDs are now highly polished, sophisticated, whilst delivering a very personal memory for the Bride and Groom and their families.

As an Asian Videographer looking back over the decades, making a wedding film was itself a concept ahead of its time. Often family members who had an interest in photography or film would have the latest equipment and were asked to take photographs or film the event.

I remember very clearly my older sister’s wedding in the mid-70s being filmed on a small super 8 camera – the film lasted for two and half minutes and is deeply cherished. This wedding took place in a small community hall in Slough and was filmed by my cousin who had a passion for cinema and technical equipment which accounted for the various Super 8 cameras, film projectors and editing equipment that consisted of a small screen and a blade and a holding apparatus to help splice the film in his bedroom!

In the late seventies and early 80’s when wedding videography was in its infancy and had begun to take off in Europe. These effects were also being felt in the Indian sub-continent. Our Asian Wedding Videographer, Shamim states that “when video took off, it did so with great fervour in the East, especially from Japan as they were creating dozens of different types technologies inspired by what IBM were doing in America. In India and Pakistan, Japanese technology was always appreciated and much prized, so it was natural for them to adopt the technology because it was easily available, like Sony VHS cameras aimed at the domestic market. I would say that the craze for Asian wedding videography sort of happened at the same time all around the world as those who were interested in documenting and filming weddings are always looking for better and better technology”

In the early 70’s and 80’s an Asian wedding was a simple affair where families provided their own catering, cooking in their garages and holding wedding functions in local school halls and community centres. As communities developed, becoming economically stable and powerful, Asians wanted to spend their wealth and soon banqueting halls sprung up and many families were encouraged by the new VHS technology too. Their homes saw a multiple of ownership of VHS players. At one point the ownership of VHS players amongst British Asian households in the 80’s was equivalent to the population of Japan!

VHS cameras and players became a rage and develop rapidly with improvements. Practically every year or so, cameras and camera equipment is improved with new models entering the market. In the 80’s Shamim had filmed my wedding on a state of the art Sony VHS camera. He also filmed my younger sister’s wedding many years later; who incidentally is our female photographer and is highly regarded in the field, with a distinct style that is instantly recognisable. Shamim and I now work with high end HD digital and DSLR cameras which allow us to shoot with very little light and equipment often in the most challenging conditions.

Recalling the early days, Shamim says that “families had to hire in cutlery and crockery, along with tables and chairs, table clothes etc. If you were really posh, then you would hire proper plates and glasses and knives and forks and not plastic! Wedding hire shops opened up such as Greenleaf and others dotted up and down the country, organization of weddings become less stressful and much more can now be achieved. In many places, banqueting halls have taken the headache of allowing for elaborate setups which means that families are able to enjoy the wedding ceremonies and gatherings completely”.

As Asian weddings became more and more elaborate adding to the ‘must have’ service being provided by the growing Asian wedding industry, Asian wedding videos have evolved into a refined art form, absorbing and emulating the Bollywood visual and musical style. With the rise of magazines such as Asiana and Asian Weddings, gone are the days where you made your own wedding dress, stitching sequences onto them or visiting a limited number of outlets providing wedding outfits. Sometimes you had to take trips back to India or Pakistan or Bangladesh etc. to obtain that unique outfit. Now, exclusive wedding attire is available in high streets in Southall, Walthamstow, East London and other parts of the country such as Soho Road in Birmingham, Leicester, Coventry or further North in Derby, or in Scotland.

The fashion style and all wedding attire now is more or less dictated by what young people are seeing in Bollywood films with epics such as Devdas, Umrao Jaan and Jhoda Akbar. What the stars wear in the films or the ‘look’ that is created influences many of the Brides and Grooms to be and their families. Not only the look is an inspiration, the music too has become central to expressing what the Bride and Groom want to hear over the images of their wedding day.

Now that we are able to shoot on High Definition, couples and families are defining more and more how they want their wedding day to be represented. Couples have the opportunity to fulfil their dream wedding; glamorous settings; striking bridal wear; arrivals and departures in limousines, horse and carriage, helicopters – you name it, it’s available to make the wedding day a unique event. Venue choices a far cry from the school hall – now we too can be at the Natural History Museum or the Savoy and get to record the event on high end digital equipment recorded for posterity.

Asian Videography has come a long way over the last thirty years and Shamin and I as Asian wedding videographers have been part of the changing landscape which has been full of adventure, learning, experimenting with simple pleasures of the joy of filming and recording weddings which will be seen and cherished for generations to come. In many ways, Asian wedding videography is by default creating an archive of how our culture and customs are evolving and at the same time keeping the individual dreams intact in search of the perfect wedding day.

 

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