Years of Portraiture
I took the very first studio portrait that I've ever done if you guys can see this year of my daughter stephanie who's who was two years old at the time and she standing she's here still cute um she's standing there in your little dungarees and sneakers and you know just being herself and you know from that island how do you get a two year old stand on once but she's got a pocket full of jelly beans you know bribery is big and it works every time and um it works for all of us doesn't it it's on dh that's ok, yeah exactly and so it was in the days obviously a film of course you know and hand coloring and all of that you know is the eighties so this would have been about nineteen, eighty six so I took this portrait and you know, it kind of plays with it and a local lab was doing competition for photographers um and then said, you know, you should enter and I'm like lie you know it's just that well on dh so I entered and won second place in the portrait section and it just blew me away I'...
m telling you it blew me away our site really and you know I thought really it's not that hard and I think that was a key I had to get past that that point off it's not that hard for me to imagine that but then for some people like I can't imagine um my son and was an architect I can't imagine the things that he imagines in terms of building but it's not hard for me to imagine things and that's what I love about what I do you know sometimes execution off it can be complicated but I always find that if someone can come to me and we can talk about these projects and I've done recently that you know um uh you know it seemed like there would be difficult it's never hard for me to think that I can come up with something um do not I mean it's it's like recently off photographed these little children you know you have meningococcal disease and lost limbs and everything and that's never it's never something how are saying it's never something that's daunting for may lose sleep over a lot of things um that we will do but I never lose sleep over creative problem because I always know that there's a way there's no that was a way to solve it and so was that the moment do you think that your confidence it's just that I know you talk about confidence confidence is very, very important you know, for anybody standing up and particularly create creatively because you know you put your heart on your sleeve you know if you're putting your work for it um yours kind of critics and our own worst critics usually yeah yeah but you're you're putting your work out there like ice going to print judging when I was if you're starting out was really, really important I think for young photographers to put their work in front of their peers you know and it can be really crushing you know, I mean, you think you've got yeah, you think you think oh my god I've got this is the best photograph of ever done and it goes up in front of the panel and a couple of in the leg other really sucks you know, that's just and that's a terrible print and I'm like it's a print of it but you can't say anything you know that it's good it's character building you know? And so you have to realize that you everything that you do isn't just fabulous tonight but when I was starting out and I had all these issues of confidence and my husband kill was fantastic because he used to say, you know, we traveled a lot then I know it's for his work and things like that and you know, you feel like the form the you know what? What is your profession? You know, what do you do and he'd say right professional photographer and I'm not really and he said, well, is that what you want? And I'm like, oh, I guess in our and professional photographer and so I started out in this in the garage and it's in the book here in our backyard in melbourne you know and we had to clean out this garage and it was full of trash from the previous person and there were cobwebs in spiders and it was hideous callie's like well and of course you know the moths and but one day he came home and he had made this brass clock and it had and get his photographer on it and he made me put it on the door off the gash and eyesight okay, you know, it kind of made me feel thiss israel and so you know, I did a couple of images then um you know, off just friends of you know, the children of friends and things like that and so I started to get myself established and then we went off kill have accepted a job in new zealand and so there I was and I had to start all over again, you know, it's so and I just had kelly so there I had a two year old in a baby and you know there's a lot to talk about how you handle motherhood and children and all that sort of thing and you know, if I can make it coming on that you know, I just think that, um I was always the chairman to be a photographer while I was a mother and I think that you always have to be yourself as a mother under some of you you've got a little three year old and just be yourself you know, because you are going to know your children all going well for longer as adult then you know them as children and you know I love spending time with my daughters now and, um they grew up with their mother being a photographer they just thought they think what air the mother does every other mother does you know it's normal you know, um and kids they're adept you know, they're just fine it's better for you to be yourself then try to be a mom and I have to get used to saying that weird mom way saying mommy yeah, just be yourself, you know, because they will love you for that later on you know, I just think that's why so important? And so I started in new zealand when it when my first serious for right into being a portrait photographer happened there and I, you know, had two little girls I thought I was worked up a part time, so I got myself a small studio was four hundred fifty square feet it was so small that in order to check any two backdrops, you know well had one for many, many months and in order to change the ground backdrop to the gray backdrop I had checked all of the hear out of this room and put it in the corridor and change the backdrop and because I did everything myself and bring a little light speck in and I had understanding neighbors you know I had no light meter because they never change my lighting and this is interesting I never changed my lighting for a year um my lining hasn't really changed that much now you know I mean I'm I'm a great believer this one light source and it's a sunny out there so why are we trying to um make it any different? You know, I mean it's just fantastic as idiots you know keep it simple and so it was a great read a trained eye as well because for twelve months you know and had one limbs um and I left my lights the same because it was filmed days I didn't I know how to work a lot media even if I had done but it's a great way off training the mind to think ok, well, I've got these families coming in specialized in children, young families and children and how am I going to totally relate to them? I didn't have to worry about anything else you know and that's the best way to do it and some of the the early portrait's now I look and I think you know you did well you did well for you know, for what you were trying to do I think that they're pretty classic in terms of what I do today, you know, because you can see in all of your work that it's about sort of the connection that you're makings so you're not if you're not worried about all the technical stuff going on, then you can see that you've been able to focus on that connection we'll ten years off portraiture and of course I moved from the tiny studio after awhile to another one that was much bigger and I was able to hire an assistant and I thought u s cool oh my god nick and I made it you can have a beautiful time sister you know he was going to do these things for you it's like well but ten years of doing portraiture taught me how to you know, to do my suit myself. You know, five days a week to sitting today or is in the morning because children are better in the morning on babies a bitter in the morning I never photograph babies in the afternoon I learned very early on I can tell you a story about the baby on the pump can you know when I walk out forward to that and that was in the afternoon and you know, you look very quick like babies a better in the morning andi you know, we have this thing in australia call the witching hour you know, it's kind of been through a clock on I don't know if you guys have it over here that was just kind of a ten into which is you know, it's really gets really hard, you know? And when you're breastfeeding if you've got a baby at home to think your personal was richer in the morning and so you know on the day we have newborns here you know, the baby's coming in the morning and then I have too long, you know it's it's just kids better then so about by lunchtime it's it's all over but ten years supported had taught me how to relate to children of different ages on dh believe me, this is a vast difference between, um you know, obviously newborns in a different category. But how do we like to a three month old baby, um a six month old, a nine month old, a twelve month old and eighteen month old as opposed to a two year old? You know, all of those situations that you have to deal with and there's a there was a book out a couple of years ago and I'm embarrassed that I don't know the author's name, but my husband go on and on are better than this it's so true you know you do your ten thousand hours and you know, you know about this if you'd done your ten thousand hours, you can draw anything out of any situation, you know, you know that hey, you know, I spent ten years with two year olds with foreign six year old siblings and you know, I've believe me I've been through portrait sittings where it's not rounding up kept, you know, it's it's incredible, you know, you'd be like, how do you get three kids under five in a photograph? And, um, you know, the mother is saying, you know, I love one of them all together I love one of them separately and you got sometimes it was just incredible, incredible, you know? And you make mistakes and everyone's going to make mistakes and, you know, I made some super big mistakes and and I remember doing a portrait sitting one time where in this case was the lab they might mistake, but, you know, it's about putting all the eggs in one basket, and I did this sitting with these serial or children and by the end of our outside oh, um, but but generally with the kids who are most difficult, if you're a portrait photographer, you get the best images afterwards behind that is got that energy you know they've got that scintilla city yeah, they're pretty intense and whether we like to each other and you know because that's you know you can have a really lovely portrait sitting or you can have a fantastic one you know it's like, oh my god that's just ah that's just fantastic you just couldn't create that you know when when the kid's doing those sorts of things but you know, I spent two hours with these three children I was getting towards the end of my teen years, you know? We're just sitting probably drove me toe on to better things when I stopped doing portrait of it you know? I've finished and I sent the film to the lab and then I got this call from the lab. You know, a lot of people don't know you just take two and half hours for the film to come back from the lead and it was those two and half hours where for ten years I used to be like, please please let there be something on that film and I still have random dreams now is he's weird opening the brown paper bag from the lab and there's nothing near and that never happened? It will never happen but still still or ninety three said anxiety dreams are really happy the wedding that I did all god and you know the bride and groom were signing the register and I didn't have any film odyssey because it wasn't there later but anyway I sent the film of these three kids to the lab and I got this phone call from theo embarrassed technician in the lab saying I'm so sorry but the film will articulated and people who used to work in labs would know that you know, there was just a temperature of the developer was wrong and so I had to call the mother and do the whole thing will ever again you know and it's character building you know, you go home and you have a big god swine and you think you know what tomorrow's another day you know it's so it's that's it was character building for me doing teen years a portrait report me how to deal with every situation you know, anything that can go wrong or anything that could go right and that now I know andi don't photograph two year olds anymore but if somebody bought me a two year old he was having a bad day it's okay, aiken, get something out of this you know? And you know, I tell my girls that and they're like yeah, whatever you know like you you can't buy that sort of experience yeah, you just cannot fire you know I've got images from my portrait two years you know in here on dh you know, there were fabulous portrait two years you know, little rebecca hears from nineteen, ninety one and this was a lot of these images from my portrait years ended up in my first greeting card so you know, there was a lot tio come out of um you know, all that ten years supported so here's a little rebecca you know, she's sitting there and I had this little pink stole um that used to get killed around the studio and I painted it in different colors and what sort of thing? And, you know, she's just didn't want to sit there I gather the flowers and she sided with the well and so I describe the jelly bean and I put it down your trousers so she's looking at you looking for the jelly bean and she found her navel and so she's looking at it, you know, and there's a lot of I mean, don't you have kids for what they do and things like that, you know? And I mean, doing this with baby and his brothers and, you know, I mean, it was just it seems that was a lot more organic back in those days, you know, you could just do things and be a little bit more adventurous and, you know, use your imagination and back in the film, guys win you know, it was probably there were some advantages to film. I'm a convert to digital now, but to to take an imagine everyone just like a super bowl outside, taking images with their I found you know, I have to confess my daughter's going to kill me. I have never taken a photograph on iphone. I do not have helped you not because it just cannot do that. It's, just way were joking about this year's today. How do you take a picture and my friend? Okay? And then everyone runs and has a look, you know and it's like. Well, when I used to photograph in the studio, there wasn't an option you just shot and then be like let's look it appreciate afterwards and right, see what happens, you know, they didn't have you couldn't pause to look you just you stayed in that moment with the child and you just kept on doing what you were doing. And so can I tell you about these? Please don't say four eyes before I get onto one image amount. I this was when I did my calendar's when my foot calendars first started. So in the book, it kind of prints were not first started with the calendars, but they used to be a page called four month page, which was when calendars kind of I don't know why, but they go on the market so early that it is young people go in august to buy a calendar, and they want to put it on the wall straight away, but it's for the following year, so they have a four month page, so I used to think, well, I'll do it for month page, so people can look at it for a long, long time, and my girls were, um, little at the time, and everyone has got a baby at home knows, you know, I mean, they'd rather play chris christmas with the repping men. Anything else in the boxes? Of course, sooner and so far, you know, the reason paper bags and things like this, you know, this was what he was, this goodness, and it was a long time ago, and so I started with a little baby in a paper bag, and then I thought of a former page will be great, so girly, six month holes in, you know, over a couple of days, and we just pop them in the paper bags, and it was it was a nice it was fun, and, you know, all the mothers loved it, and but but I kept all the film and I put it into the little black bag that used to go to the lab and arthur, I'll put it in a lot one so when it's all done so I did two days of photographing all these babies a countryman must be at sixty off them here nineteen, ninety four hero forty one sixty seven month old babies forty one forty one sent the film after the lab all at once and got that call again of any of the head that court twice and I talked about it with the children of interesting this farmers with forty one babies in paper bags and the film had articulated and I had to have a little cry I that you're human, so I went home and my girls were inside. It was full on little kids dinner time, bath time all that stuff. I sat down at the gate on the step and had a little cry and I thought, I kind of come on take a deep breath because tomorrow's another day is going to do this again, right? Um and so we had to call all mothers and did helping again and that shows intestinal fortitude, I think because, um, a lot of people would quit it that stage um and you know, so I went on to do an image that look, this is one of this is a a beautiful portrait image of sophie and lucy it's, one of my favorite images of all time, it was just one of those moments, you know, tio little six month old twins, and but I was sitting there, I think what you get out of images, that that a really, really strong you set element off, it nearly didn't happen. And when you look at these girls, I was sitting on the this year, and they're dead was standing roger, he was standing next to them, and we were talking, and I would they were looking at me at the camera, and he laughed at something that one of us sit, and they both looked up at the same time at him. And what I love about this image is the little cat between the check and the back of the heads and the roundness of the heads, and everything was just seven like that between justice elementary off, you know, uh, fantastic. Do you remember all of thes? Yeah, I do, I do. I have any variation of the like you, said the father in the last I remember the moment that I took these images, you're, you know, you get addicted to this, that it's just so wonderful that the moment there is just so wonderful it is never going to happen again that's what I love about still photography you know and they're dead roger said two years afterwards he I used to sit and just look at that image and just think oh, they are so beautiful those skills was so beautiful you know and when I was doing this book we met a lot of the the the children that photograph, you know, way back then this is this is one of the first images of joshua there were two images that are shocked when are started to do an image for myself once a month and this image of joshua was one of the first ones was either this or the cabbage kids but um you know, I was just like he had been in for a portrait sitting and he was three months old I think at the time um and I just thought world, you know, you have to please anyone in except yourself, right? And so I asked his mother if she would like to come back for made it just do something and she said, yeah, colored left, you know, and this was a nuisance where I photographed in the afternoon and which was, you know, it just it took a lot longer to achieve because it was hard to hear him just like this was photographed in new zealand and a lot there's been a lot of discussion over the years you know about why the hawk is here and so on it's just a nice I think was hilarious because the little baby who was looking down who trails looking at her navel her father was my local butcher and I was thinking, well, having you know, have this baby hanging in this fabric and I was at the border on the saturday and I said, hey you and he said you're cool take it that's it right there is no melissa none at all it was just really safe strong way to have a baby there and but the hanging of it how did you how did you come up with that vision? The plunket society in new zealand who I'm not sure what the equivalent is called here in three us but people in the great britain will know the plunket society its way you take it to the baby clinic where you went to have your baby weight look after you you know had them in every week and they wait and advice the new mothers and things like that and they just away baby set way they said just picking up you know, we called in a nappy on cost diaper and that's how they waited and had the scale up the top you know and so that's what I did with joshua and you know, just getting him to sleep and all of that sort of thing and you know, that's a story in itself you know, we're standing on a rebounder it was the nineties early nineties, you know, it's all beyond rebounded leg warmers and lesser standing on a on a rebounder and I had him in the sling and I was just you know, it was so hot in the studio and he was fine because he was naked and everything but every time I he felt his own body weight um hey just kind of wake up and so I have started over again and you know, and then when he went into a deep sleep and I shot this image and you know, I remember a few days later I took it home I took a print home and a lighter on the dining room table and are soaked in it and I thought do you like this in or not because you're you're only audience you're the only one you have to place you know, I wasn't shooting up for any thing I I I hadn't done any calendars at the time no greeting cards, nothing and I stopped and I thought, yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean there's some things I would do differently and it was my creative outlet, you know? And it got me thinking that through the days of portraiture when things got tough okay you going to do something that you want to do once a month on dh that's how I you know I started to do all of this you know that's how the killing just this got started it sounds like that's that's freedom freedom you didn't feel necessarily with doing the client work well isn't answerable to unlocked yeah it was total creative freedom it was just side you can do anything you can nobody is going to say well, you can't do that you know and if in a way that creative freedom was the catalyst for starting the calendars because somebody then said to me you know you should do a calendar I have been about two images or something in there and I thought what I could do more you know and and so then then it got me going you know, for a labor of love on dh this was in two thousand seven I've got some of these um this beckers they were growing and joshua came in so I photographed him in two thousand six and he was sixteen well at the time and it's so nice to you know, I stayed in touch with a lot of the families and the babies over the years, you know and he kind of came in and he was it was cool sixteen on tough guy and and I was kind of think I wonder how he relates to that image you know in his life it's called okay any a broken leg from playing rugby and you know I've had children that are photo cropped importer two years on my facebook page here this is a few months ago there were these beautiful twin boys who I used to photograph um I did a portrait witham and I think they fear their own under spoke you know and there was just beautiful ever seven six seven years old um and I photographed in quite a few times and I got a message through facebook that oh you know from their sister saying you know you want to see a picture of of us all now on the boys and everything I kid you not china there's to hear him in standing there with the bottles and goatees and I'm like stop it you guys you cannot be you cannot you on and I'm like come with me well very and something that looks a little bit like you used to be when you're young it's such beautiful babies like joshua yeah yeah um and so I said to him I said what do your friends think about you know your photograph and that u s o you being so famous you know and he's not a well known a lot of them know about it I was like oh well real soon um you know recent grant that this is an image that you know I think people just everywhere ninety four yeah, they talk about the cabinet kids, the cabbage kids and um you know, they have two sets of twins there on the day and and in a labor of love I included the other twins because I looked through a lot of roll film that had shots and you know, I got these babies come into the studio and I hoped appearance didn't think I didn't choose him for any other reason other than in this case that racing grant look we're looking at each other on dh the way we've got them to look at each other was I had a an assistant who had a balloon on a piece of string over about that was on top of them and we lowered the balloon down between them and they turned to look at the blueness whipped it up you know, because twins they can see each other in the old day, you know? And they're in a photographic students that they were looking around yeah and so they look like they're looking at each other but they're really looking at a balloon that you know to it was so much fun in those days because to find the cabbages you know, we went to the markets and but how did you even come up with the babies? Oh, it was just you know my kills a little and cabbage patch kids you know my daughter had a cabbage oh yes dole um it was just that sort of thing you are and and that there was one nine said at the time you have little children your net kind of magical world you know and you know why that's head down the garden started you know it's very child solar wonderful stories that we used to read a big time and um you know, I think that that's really where it all came from and a sense of fun and just the beautiful babies you know so yeah and then I had in a labor of love speaking of giving a poor church are very good reasons to give it up any pearls you've got you've got to love them when they're having these tantrums and are but that's not what nami once when she takes a portrait trying to put on the wall unfortunately but you know just process and they are what they are kids and they're just going to that moments at them and then over it and you know that that's what's great about portrait terrific when you look at a photograph or a portrait that the wonderful thing about children and the wonderful thing about babies um not newborns so much because they're you know they're all of the new ones are always a slate of six month old babies on you can always tell if the photographer has a connection with the baby because I know if you're really and to be able to connect with young children I think it's a special gift that a lot of people don't have you know so if you're wanting to be a photographer and you're wanting to you just think oh well you know be a child photographer based you love what you're doing otherwise it would just be miserable for you you know I love little children I love everything that they stand for and s a is there were so many joyful times you know what that those ten years but remember the last portrait sitting that ideas and that people left and I leaned against the door and I slumped down onto the floor and I went oh god, I'm looking into my future so how did you know it was your last portrait sitting and then where did you transition to next? Well you know while I was still doing portraiture I got to a point in the last two years of it where I really needed a creative outlet off my iron to balance the fact that you know, people it got to a point where I was charging quite a lot for portrait sittings because you know, I was pretty well non authorities during great job and so on and so that I did sign that the counterpoint like you can charge a million dollars which are I wish I could. There was anything like that, but, you know, it is just an analogy. You can charge a million dollars for a portrait, and because you're so that bill, is that what you do? Someone brings you a two year old is having a bad day, norman, the money's going to buy what that mother wants, right? You know, so came a point where I'm like, I started to see a little bit frustrated because I really wanted to do some work for myself. And so what I started to do was, I thought, ok, and once a month, you're going to create an image just for yourself. Well, you don't need to place anybody. Um, just be creative and see what happens.