Tell us about yourself
I grew up in North Yorkshire but I spent 11 years living in London and 2 years in Qatar before returning to the UK. I am so lucky to live in the beautiful city of York with my husband and two children. I never thought of myself as creative and have worked in social research, as a teacher and most recently specialising in supporting young people with special educational needs before realising that I could use a camera.
You only recently learnt to use a camera, what was it that inspired you to take up photography? What drew you to documentary family photography?
I have been fascinated by photography for years, when I was a student in London I used to wander around the Photographers’ Gallery soaking it all in. I loved how photography gave you a glimpse at other lives and the documentary images that gave a voice to the voiceless always drew me in. For my 30th birthday my husband bought me an entry level digital camera but it wasn’t until January 2020 when I started an online course to get off auto that I discovered my love and passion for photography. I learnt how to properly use my camera during the first Lockdown so the only subjects I could practice on were my immediate family, this made me realise how important those little everyday moments were and I also noticed over Lockdown how in a small space of time my children and their interests changed. It made me glad to have captured our time together and have those photos to look back on. I love how documentary family photography shows the reality of our lives, it brings us together and shows us our similarities and what we have in common, but more importantly for me it is a record of how we lived and I hope that I am creating albums and images my children will treasure and show their children in the future. We are documenting our history and our story.
You have been on a rapid learning curve, what would you say was your biggest “aha” moment in your photography journey so far? How has your work changed and developed?
I love to learn. Understanding why something works but also why something doesn’t work has helped me the most in my journey. At first that was learning how to master the manual settings and spot metering but more recently that has been understanding compositions. Upgrading from my entry level cropped sensor camera and 50mm lens and investing gear with a wider angle lens has helped me capture more of the detail and story in my images. But undoubtedly taking part in Turning Chaos Into Art has made the biggest difference to my work. Getting feedback on what could have made an image stronger or better, having a deeper understanding of different compositional elements and why they work has been the biggest change. Now when I am on a shoot I slow down, take in more of what is around me, double check the corners and edges of my frame and imagine what Emma and Antonina would be saying.
Please share a photograph that you’ve made that you’re particularly proud of – and tell us why?
My daughter was 1 when we went into the first Lockdown so she missed out on a lot of early experiences. So after the second Lockdown we planned a family day out which was her first time on a train and I knew I wanted to document it. I am proud of this for a few reasons, I overcame my inner voice of being worried what other people would think of me with my camera out on a busy train, it was my first really successful long shutter speed image (balancing the camera on a tub of crayons) and it won a This is Reportage Family award.
What do you find the most challenging about documentary family photography?
Explaining what family documentary photography is to others. And once they understand building the trust with families that their everyday moments at home just being together are beautiful and they don’t need posed or golden hour images. Just being you is enough!
You’re just setting up your family photography business, and you’re still a full time teacher, and a mum! You must be so organised (crazy … exhausted!)… tell us how you juggle your time to fit in working as a photographer, I’m sure we could all do with some tips!
Yes definitely crazy and exhausted a lot of the time! I try to compartmentalise my jobs as much as I can so I try not to do school work at home and I plan evenings, weekends and school holidays when I am doing my photography work. I have a very supportive family who understand that photography and starting my business is important and that allows me to be really focused when I am putting my photographer hat on.
What are your plans for the future? Where would you like to see your business going in the next 12 months?
I am really excited about starting my business. I would love to fuse my work in special educational needs and photography and shine a light on stories that are often untold or not spoken about enough in society. I also love to learn so I am planning on learning how to add films into the work that I do.
What would be your top tips for people that are interested / getting started in documentary family photography?
Find a group of supportive like minded people who will be there to support and encourage you. Being in photography can sometimes be isolating and feel like no one understands the difficulties you experience when you work on your own. The Turning Chaos into Art group has been fantastic (and I have been lucky to meet up with a couple of them in person) and also connecting with other photographers on Instagram and in Facebook groups such as Made for Documentary.
Then get a wide angle lens, narrow your aperture and practice, practice, practice. Don’t be scared to get feedback and have your work reviewed, that has been the best thing to help me develop and improve.
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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