Father of the Brides

Today I am thankful. 

Have you ever met someone, for the first time, and known you’d met one of your people?  This is a story about one of my people.  I only spent a little bit of time around this man, but he impacted me in an eternal way. We met in 2012 to discuss his youngest daughter’s wedding plans. 

First a little background about my photography:

For the past two decades, I have had a camera in my hand. These days it is usually a small camera or my phone. I prefer a real camera. If the tool isn’t a joy to use, I won’t use it. I love the cameras on these phones, but they lack any tactile, heart-burning energy for me. It’s a phone that includes a lens. I get lots of photos with my phone that are special to me and my family, but a real camera gives me different kind of permission. I am invited into people’s lives and want to capture them the way God wants the world to see them. 

Documentary photography breathes life into me. I simultaneously pour myself out. Real life is crazy exciting and I love capturing it. If you are familiar with my work, I hope it helps you see, how I see people. I look for uninterrupted moments. I’ve always been drawn to gritty black-and-white photos of real life. I found these in Life Magazine as a kid. These photos made me ‘Feel’ Something. The subjects were not aware of the camera. That’s why they felt so different. When someone views my photographs, I want them to experience the moment as I did. I am not sure it is possible, but that’s my goal. 

I shoot from my heart, to give to others. It was never about money, though I am thankful for my family being taken care of. It was a neat, long season of my life. It enriched my appreciation for all of creation. It took me all over the world, including the continent of Africa twice. I’m sure this won’t be the only time I share about photography. It is a big part of my story. Making a living with a camera was humbling and awesome. I never felt like a pro. I am a hobbyist that loves people and human connection. I wanted to be able to give the families a way to see their love for one another.

Weddings were my focus because it’s like a Superbowl of moments and tiny stories happening all around you. I didn’t love weddings, I loved the people! I enjoyed the weddings 🙂 Sometimes a spectacular moment would happen I’d be in the right place at the right time. That’s magical for a photographer. Stay Curious – was my motto.

I’m blessed for all of the experiences I witnessed. I was able to photograph hundreds of weddings over a 16-year period. I have one scheduled on the books for late 2023.  This is a dear friend of mine’s, only daughter, so it is super special. Their family has suffered some loss as well.

I finished weddings in 2021 which were mostly pushed from 2020. I was ready for change and Katie and I had a new baby in 2021. I wanted to get the weekends back.  Thank you to all of my families. You made me better and helped me see people for who they are. One of my greatest received gifts. Weddings helped me see the whole being of people. It reminds me of the need for human connection and love. This world keeps turning and getting more unsettling each day. Crisis everywhere and nothing is more shameful than the cancel/censoring culture. People need a way to call out for help and when you don’t let them you harm them. God made us to take care of one another. We can do better. We are the human race. Love accordingly 🙂

Enough background… I apologize. I get excited talking about what photography provides to the world.

The Father of the Brides.
I’m attentive to the father/daughter relationship. I have two young daughters and want to learn.

Way back in the fall of 2012, I met with a wonderful family. We met at Panera and I got there first. I grabbed a table and waited for them. I had never met this family but knew it was them coming through the double doors. I felt it. I stood to greet them and we hit it off. Great conversation and many laughs later, we parted ways. I can’t remember if we closed the deal that day or not. I’m a terrible salesman, so I probably let them leave without booking me. Whether they did or not, I was happy. We did close the deal eventually, or I would not be able to share this story.  

I rarely got to meet families before the wedding day. Since I knew we all connected so well, I knew it was gonna be good.  This is key to being among families on such a special occasion. Even though I am an observer, rather than a director telling everyone what to do, I still want the families to be comfortable with me because I will be among them all day.

After the meeting. As we were shaking hands, the father gave me an off-the-cuff gift, which made us all laugh so hard! I laughed the hardest, but I am not sure if the family even remembers. When I saw him again, 8 years later at his other daughter’s wedding, I brought it up and he didn’t remember.  He said it sounds like something he would do. Yes, eight years later I was able to photograph his other daughter’s wedding! I was so happy to know I would be around this family again.

The gift he handed me, of all things, was a Mustard Pack. It was so random! I don’t know where he pulled it from, but he gave it to me and said “Here’s a mustard pack. A gift from the Seltmanns”. If you knew him, you would understand the comic relief in the moment. I said, “Thank you! I will keep this with me always.” 

True story, I put the mustard pack in my left coat pocket. Each time I wore it I would feel that Mustard Pack in there. For some reason, I liked it and didn’t throw it away. When I felt it, I would think of him and smile. I think that little pack gave me hope.

A few years went by and I forgot about the whole meeting. I can’t remember the year (many later), but I put that old jacket on once again and felt the mustard pack in the pocket. Instantly it transported to that meeting, the gift of the mustard pack, and the wedding. That hopeful feeling came back too.  I cannot remember ever tossing the packet, but the coat I wore is gone. However, the hope remains.

I took a break from being online this year. I needed to reboot and had nothing of value to share. Social media can be a slippery slope for the weak in spirit. During this rest, it has gotten easier to stay focused on the important things. Changing habits isn’t easy. It takes time and before you know it you get better at doing the opposite of what you usually do. The ole ‘Forgetting David’ theme. Love instead of Hate, Encourage instead of Criticize. It really does change the game. God knew what he was doing when He gave us his words.

I am still relatively quiet online. This site is where I will be mostly. I wanted to create a healthy place to share and connect with you.

Last week I hopped on Instagram and saw my friend’s daughter’s Thanksgiving post. I read the words:

Although family and myself are deeply grieving and missing my dad, I am beyond grateful for my incredibly supportive friends and family.

I had the wind knocked out of me. His name is Gregg Seltmann and I want to share this personal story.

This is the first time I am writing about this. Writing his name just stopped me in my tracks. I only spent about 20 hours around Gregg, but the impact he made on me as a father and a husband will last through eternity. The heart is a mystery, which will never stop intriguing me.

Gregg was funny. He and I had the same sense of humor. I was attracted to his energy instantly. He was confident and happy in a selfless way. Most fathers don’t come to the meeting with the photographer. The dads typically write the checks, though. Thank you Dads for feeding my flock. His wife and daughters only made him shine more. His love for them was written on all their faces. 

After the shock of reading this news, I eventually went to find his obituary and some words his daughter wrote. They confirmed my impression of him. He was based in Truth and Love. The word ‘based’ these days is over-used in an unhealthy way. Based in our culture means – “Shaming to appear Better.”  Being based in Truth and Love means: Losing yourself, to be used by God for His purposes. Culture is Fear, God is Love. Gregg showed God’s love effortlessly. His light shined so bright. Like my friend, Rob’s father that passed earlier this year. We lost two bright lights this year. Damn, so many now that I am recalling all those who have gone home this year. They are much better off than we are here, but I am not in a hurry to join them!  We got work to do down here!

Gregg didn’t show love through words only. He showed it through his actions. That’s how I saw him. He walked the talk, though I don’t think we ever talked spiritually. We didn’t need to, I knew he was here doing God’s work for him. He did it well. 

The look in his eyes when he saw his daughters, for the first time, in their beautiful gowns – was pure love of a father. What an honor I had to document moments like these. I photographed in the hopes that viewers would feel what I felt when I pressed the shutter. I don’t know if that is possible, but that is what I wanted. I prayed before every shoot, “God help me see these people the way You see them. Help me to capture them with your Eyes so the world can see them the way you want them to. Amen”. It worked every time. If a shoot wasn’t going well, I would keep praying and it would get better. As a photographer, looking to capture life, you need all the help you can get. I would never have made my images without Him being part of who I am.

The way Gregg danced with his daughters and held them with such admiration. His laugh was one of the best ever! I have to go through some photos to share and I am certain I have some. (Photos shared Below)

Gregg was a true family man. Everyone around him loved him. He was charismatic and hilarious.

Here is an excerpt from his obituary:

Gregg valued his time spent with family more than anything. His love for his wife, daughters and grandchildren is immeasurable. He was authentic with a deep Christian faith, loved dogs and could never pass one up. Gregg was immensely patriotic, supporting the Wounded Warrior Project and Tunnel to Towers Organization for many years.

You can view Gregg Seltmann’s obituary here:


20 hours with this guy, changed my life forever. In that little bit of time, I learned many things from him. First, be bold in who you are and be who God made you to be. I don’t know of any internal struggles he had, but Gregg was authentic. What you saw is what you got. I was blessed for having met him. When he talked he was engaged with you. He listened, he shared and he laughed. I wasn’t surprised when I read others’ words about him, they matched my impression of him. Gregg loved God, Family, and Country. He wore his heart on his sleeve like me. Mine is tattooed on my arm. The love his wife and daughters had for him was tangible. I saw myself in him, and I hope I can impact someone the same way one day.

I miss you brother. As I am torn writing these words, getting this story out of me was important. It was important and urgent for me to share. I want to help share your legacy of being genuine and kind. I’m thankful for showing me a healthy way to live and love. The thing I cherish most is that damn mustard packet you gave me. I carried it for years, I don’t remember tossing it but I lost it. The good news is the contents of the pack bled into me and added to the mustard seed of faith in my heart. You added a big golden glob of mush to it, which softens it to this day.

To the Seltmann family. I hope you find joy and peace in these words. There is no doubt Gregg is having the time of his life loving and laughing with all his new friends and old, in heaven. I am going to smoke a cigar for you Gregg!

God bless us everyone. 

The little moments in your life can add some of the biggest values to your life. It’s the little things that ARE important.  Be open to listening and learning, we are all practicing. Love hard!

Peace and Love,

Dave Burke

Gregg Seltmann
Gregg Seltmann

Gregg Seltmann

Gregg Seltmann

Gregg Seltmann
Gregg Seltmann
Gregg Seltmann
Gregg Seltmann
Gregg Seltmann

Gregg Seltmann
Gregg Seltmann

Gregg Seltmann
Gregg Seltmann
My favorite. He waved to me in one of my last two photos of him. Love you buddy. Thank you.

PS –
In my life, nothing happens by chance. God is real and his hand is in every aspect of our lives. The times I have ignored this truth, haven’t gone well. God doesn’t punish us. It may feel like it, but he doesn’t. He loves us. Stick around with us and I will use everything I can to help you find him. This message of Love and saving Grace, has been lost in our culture and religions. Our God is a loving God reaching out to us, waiting for our attention to him. He does not reject us, we reject Him. He is patient, kind, and, loving….. Everything that is Good.  The way to him is with a personal relationship, through Jesus Christ. This is where you will find PEACE.  Start your search with Jesus. His promises are Truth. “Seek and you will find. Ask and you shall receive.” This is my story and I am sticking to it. —Love you all