On the Precipice: Philbrick Photography Edge Sessions

Imagine standing on the precipice of a 30-foot cliff. Now, picture yourself adorned in full wedding regalia. Philbrick Photography partners with daring couples to capture breathtaking and thrilling images of couples doing just this — all without Photoshop. The series, called the Edge Sessions, began ten years ago. It all started during Jay Philbrick’s professional climbing guide days. Jay is now a photographer who works in partnership with Vicki, his wife of 30 years. He had been inspired by Cathedral Ledge in Echo Lake State Park in the White Mountains; “It was a place I had always wanted to photograph a couple,” said Jay, who has been a climber his whole life. “It just seemed like a great photo opportunity to me with the bride and groom in such an improbable place.”

The images seem to defy gravity—just one look sends a rush of adrenaline through the body. They convey a primal and adventurous nature of the human spirit, creating photos that do more than showcase a couple’s beauty: they capture a moment of raw energy. The images are simplistic and romantic, yet are intensely powerful and daring, capturing authentic moments.

The Edge Sessions may seem perilous, yet Jay dismisses this. Internationally certified mountain guide, Marc Chauvin, always accompanies Philbrick Photography on their cliff-side photoshoots. Everyone involved is secured with ropes at all times which they manage to conceal with clothing and strategic camera angles in the images. “Our couples are statistically more at risk driving to and from their cliff sessions than they are while on the edge,” explained Jay, who notes that they’ve never had a “scary moment” during these shoots because of their extensive safety precautions. Typically, excited nerves are the scariest part of the feat. “If anyone is noticeably nervous, it’s the groom. In all our sessions, it has always been the bride’s idea and the groom who is most nervous,” said Jay.

Couples in the Edge Sessions don’t have to be professional climbers. In fact, there are no prerequisites to participate. “All they have to do is to want to do it!” explained Jay. Philbrick Photography has photographed about 25 brave couples since first beginning the series.

The sessions start hours before sunrise to avoid tourists, which gives the team adequate time to set up—this includes anchoring everyone and getting couples onto the cliff. Sometimes, brides are already wearing their dresses when they are lowered and, other times, they have to put their dresses on once they have reached the ledge — it depends on the dress and the placement of the harness and ropes. “The most satisfying moments of the sessions are usually right around sunrise when we have the best light, said Jay. “When we get valley fog the excitement really peaks!”

Jay and his team’s images are daring, passionate and exhilarating, but they also capture couples’ trust, spontaneity and the deep commitment they have forged. Maybe you’re feeling up to this adventure for your wedding images. If that’s the case, make sure you have professionals at hand. Jay warns, “Don’t try this at home!”

Emma Kemp
Emma is an intern at Seacoast Weddings. She is studying writing at Smith College. In her free time, she enjoys playing frisbee on the beach, cafe hopping and reading a good book.