Strange Rituals: the Photographs of Bill McCullough

by Tracy Xavia Karner

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts...
(Shakespeare, As You Like It)
As social beings, we seldom stop to think about the parts we play, the lines we deliver, or the roles we inhabit. Why do we engage in strange rituals of drama and performance? It is just this graphic, bizarre kind of human subtly that interests Bill McCullough. While other photographers may use the body as canvas (think Cindy Sherman) or create composed tableaus (e.g., Gregory Crewdson or Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison), McCullough finds human drama at its height in the "big huge popcorn machine of emotions, family, and kinetic interplay" of that common, yet strange ritual: weddings. "Weddings," McCullough explains, "with their amplified emotions, provide a continual array of situations for a photographer to capture. I view them as giant kinetic events; in that compressed atmosphere I am constantly moving because time is finite and the number of interesting situations seemingly infinite." McCullough has an instinct for the quirky side of social life. His images show the "other" side of the wedding performance - terrified grooms, unsupervised children, bored guests, bridal fury - layered within the elaborately decorated "set" of a church or reception hall. Weddings are the social drama in which most people play a starring role in at least once, and some times more, during their lives. We all know the shared script and have rehearsed our parts in this strange ritual. In McCullough's images we can recognize ourselves in many of the roles and laugh at the bizarre drama of our social theatre.

- Tracy Xavia Karner