Just a little background on me. I have been a Charlotte Wedding Photographer for 17 years, and I have photographed over 550 weddings all across the world. I have photographed weddings at over 80 different local Charlotte venues from small churches, to hotels to mansions. This was not my first time photographing a wedding at Harvey B Gantt Center but it was by far my worst experience as a wedding vendor.
Shortly after arriving to the venue and beginning my shots of the bride as she was getting her hair and make up done a security officer walked in to the bridal suite and demanded to check every bag in the room. When asked why, the officer said that she was looking for alcohol. I know of numerous venues that don’t allow outside alcohol but I have NEVER been physically searched nor have any of my clients.
Also while shooting the brides preparation one of the brides family members asked a museum staff member for some water. It took them close to an hour to get the bride water and that was after several more attempts of them asking.
The Harvey B Gantt Center is a four level museum and the wedding party was split between the 4th floor where the bride was getting ready and the 2nd floor where the groom was getting ready. As a wedding photographer my job is to tell the story of the wedding day which includes capturing moments as the bride and groom are both getting ready. In order for me to access either floor I had to get a staff member from the museum to scan me up to the floor which wouldn’t have been a problem at all if the staff were at least half friendly and helpful. Each time I had to ask someone to let me on a floor I was met with a look of disgust or as if I was bothering them. I once went down to the main desk and stood for 2 minutes waiting to be acknowledged while staff where sitting on the floor, on their phones, or talking to each other with their backs turned towards me. I finally coughed to get someones attention.
When I photograph weddings I arrive with a minimum of two suitcases full of equipment that consist of cameras, lenses, flashes, light stands, batteries, reflectors, triggers etc. The wedding ceremony was held on the 4th floor outside on the roof. One of my cases which contained all of my emergency equipment (extra lenses, batteries, camera) was on the 4th floor inside hiding behind a wall clearly out of wedding ceremony and away from any guest and not an obstruction to anything that was going on. I was told by one staff member to move my case, then moments later as I am actually moving my bag I’m told by another staff member to move my bag. So now I have to find a closet or table to hide my bag and pray that nothing malfunctions as I am photographing the wedding or else I wouldn’t have easy access to my equipment.
During the processional as the bride and her father are coming down the aisle Chanel Davis who is the Director of Special Events & Merchandising for the museum was standing outside almost in the aisle directly behind the bride and her father so majority of my photos have her in them. Also another staff member was inside the glass standing directly behind the bride and her father with a large iPad with a hot pink case taking photos. So the shots that don’t have Chanel in them now have a large pink iPad in them. As a wedding photographer in 2017 I’m always expecting to have to maneuver around guest trying to take pictures of the beautiful bride as she proceeds down the aisle. I have never been to a venue where I have had to try and position myself in place to not get venue staff members in photos because they are busy trying to get photos themselves.
The wedding reception took place on the 2nd floor and after the reception guest were escorted back up to the 4th floor roof area to dance and mingle. All of my equipment is now hidden and tucked away on the 2nd floor in a conference room. One hour in to the dancing on the roof I notice one of my flash batteries are running low so I needed to go down the elevator to retrieve some fresh batteries. I asked the venue director Chanel Davis if she could scan me back down to the 2nd floor. Again I’m met with the same annoyed demeanor that I had been receiving all day long from staff. Her words to me exactly where “The second floor is locked”. I explained to her that my equipment was down there and that I needed to get new batteries so that I could continue shooting. Chanel then went and asked another staff member to escort me down to the second floor where to my surprise the floor wasn’t “locked” but instead the decor company was breaking down the decorations from the reception. I asked the staff member who escorted me down if I needed to take my two suitcases back upstairs with me or if it was ok for me to leave them on the 2nd floor since there would be no place easily out of site on the fourth floor since the guest were utilizing the entire floor. The staff member couldn’t give me a clear answer so I put as much equipment in my pockets as possible and went back upstairs to continue shooting.
I returned to the 4th floor with as much equipment as I could carry safely and comfortably in my pockets. No more than 5 feet off the elevator Chanel forcefully grabbed my arm to prevent me from stepping on a spill on the floor no larger than the size of a silver dollar.
There were numerous other incidents that I observed during the 9 hours I was photographing the wedding but this blog was from my perspective as a wedding photographer.
My experience at The Harvey B Gantt center has been the worst in my 17 year history of being a Charlotte Wedding Photographer. I would advise others who are looking to book this venue think twice before signing a contract.