Tell us about yourself

I was born and raised in South Africa, and now based in Surrey, UK where I live with my other half, three young children and golden retriever.

I trained and worked as an architect for 12 years before turning my camera and creativity to focus on my growing family. My work is driven by a strong connection to the environment and the relationship between the subject and their context.

You can follow Amanda’s work on her website at or on Instagram @amandajanedalby.

How did you get started in documentary family photography? How has your work evolved over time? 

I started out like everyone in 2014/2015 with a burning desire to capture the kids.

At first all the imagery I was seeing at the time reflected this highly edited and posed notion of motherhood and childhood with clean kids and burry sunset backgrounds. Then I would shoot to eliminate objects and people that now I choose to leave in as they are essential detail of a life lived more truthfully.

Once I had mastered my camera back in 2015, I started to question why people were posing and editing the way they were.  I felt the images lacked truth, and for me was bordering on dishonesty.  I also disliked the highly edited images I was seeing and that sent me on a path to find honesty in the image I create.

What do you find the most challenging about documentary family photography?

Finding the most interesting moments for me is the biggest challenge.  It’s something I know I will be working on and refining on for years.  It’s learning to see and anticipate moments before they happen so you can be in the right spot to capture them.  You need a sixth sense almost.

What are you driven to capture?

My first love is portraits, which I used to paint (rather badly) in oil as a teenager, and it is still what drives me to pick up the camera 9 times out of 10.  I love finding those fleeting seconds to capture a small window into someones soul, and that for me is priceless.

Your background is in architecture, do you think your work is influenced by your innate understanding of space?

My architecture background has taught me to question everything I do. To ask “why” time and time again.   All good architecture places humanity, context and light at the centre of it’s design, and I think that is essentially what drives my Environmental Portraits.  You feel good buildings.  They don’t shout at you, but they make you feel grounded and connected to the world we live in.  And this is what I would like my Environmental Portraits to do.  I want people to feel them, not just see them.

What is your proudest moment as a photographer?

If you had asked me this a few years ago I probably would have said the first few competitions that I was shortlisted in.  I was thrilled to be chosen as National Geographic’s Best of Yourshot 2018.  That was a big highlight for me (and one day I would love to get into an actual hard copy of National Geographic Magazine.  Goals yes?  Ha ha!)  But as time goes on I think the things I am most proud of are all the images of my children that I have caught over the past decade.  That I will never regret and it’s the thing I am most proud of.  

Are there any personal projects you’re currently working on or recently completed? 

I’m really enjoying the process of making photo series these days.  I have many ideas floating around my head that I hope one day will find the right moment to materialise.  Last year I did a little lockdown series called Finding solitude; A Portrait of Motherhood in Lockdown.  I enjoyed making a series of portraits with (almost) no people in them.

And I rather enjoyed making this English Mid Summer Series capturing everything I love and feel about the brief English Summer.

Which photographers inspire you – and why? 

I have a weakness for street photographers.  I love the lines, humour, energy and sense of the unexpected to the images. My current favourites are @vineet_vohra and @ericvannynatten.

And I also adore honest documentation of motherhood.  I think it’s vastly underrated and so important.  Our quiet domestic moments are history in the making and just as important to record as the bigger political issues of the day that tend to be more celebrated by society at large. These three Australian photographers never fail to inspire me: @lisa.sorgini@rowenameadowsphoto
and @mikaelamartin_photog.

About Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight is an interview series showcasing documentary family photographers who have completed a mentoring programme with Made for Documentary. Our students talk about what makes them tick, showcase their favourite images and share advice for those wanting to dive into the world of documentary family photography.

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