I recently caught up with a good friend of mine who returned from working overseas for a year. We had studied for our PhDs at the same university and we shared an office and worked together at another university. It was great to see him after a long time and we caught up on all of the stuff that he’d been up to in the time away. We spent quite a lot of time talking about his work and there was a point during the conversation when I had a realisation – while I was interested in everything my friend was talking about, I felt nothing pulling me back to it. When I first became a photographer, the plan was that I would do it for a while until I wanted to go back to science. But I realised at that instant of our conversation, I am so content doing what I do, it’s not even a consideration. If anything, I’m even further away from going back to science now than I was when I finished up in March 2012. But who knows, never say never eh?
My happiness stems from so many things but basically, my life is intensely satisfying. The opportunities and adventures that I have in my life are ones that I never could have expected for myself and I want to take advantage of those opportunities each and every day. But I don’t think that I am special in any way – I feel like these are things that we can all have. Kristen and I have built up our business based around being good to people and doing stuff the right way and we’re so humbly grateful for the outcomes that get from them. I’m writing this from our beautiful villa surrounded by quiet paddy fields in Ubud, Bali and we’re heading to Malaysia later today to photograph a wedding there on Friday. All of this comes from bartering with couples and we get these amazing experiences that we wouldn’t ordinarily be afforded. Doing things differently is really working out for us and we’re privileged that we’re able to live this way.
This year has been quite a surprising one to be honest. It started out in a haze of weddings, I worked out that I shot 34 from Nov 2012 – April 2013 and then headed off to Europe to do a little holidaying, catching up with family and friends as well as shooting weddings in Sweden and The Netherlands. While I was in England, I was invited to speak at the Folio Final Fling which was utterly and completely nerve-wracking but ultimately a great experience where I met a whole bunch of lovely and like minded photographers. I was also interviewed by Professional Photographer Magazine for their October Special Edition (I met PP’s editor Adam at the Final Fling) and subsequently asked to write a monthly column on ethical photography, sustainability and social responsibility as a photographer of which the very first column has just appeared in the January edition of PP. I also had my very first magazine cover with the beautiful Hayley and Jon featured on the front of Helly May #2 and a number of other magazine appearances (including a surprising one for Houses magazine featuring some images of a beautiful off-the-grid shack that one of my friends designed). Kristen and I also ran our very first workshop, “the be nice + take nice photographs workshop”, and we think it was a huge success (and the feedback said it was pretty ace too!). Not only did we get to meet some AMAZING photographers (who were also great people), since the workshop some of them have been excitedly working towards forming a collective around encouraging and supporting the ideas that we talked about. This collective will be open in the future to other photographers who want to be part of a community of nice and like-minded photographers who are dedicated to creating sustainable and ethical photography businesses. But more on that in 2014!
As well as Kristen working with me full time since July, in the last few weeks I’ve been able to expand a little more and bring my dear friend Cass on board. She joins the team along with Social Media Guru Quark and Image Retouching Expert Meow (trust me, you’ll want to click this one)!
If you had told me that all of these things would have happened in 2013 in December 2012, I probably would have laughed in your face. But they did, and I still pinch myself everyday.
Thank you for your support over the past 12 months and that goes for all of the people that like, comment and give me feedback on my images. I also really appreciate all the bloggers and website owners who want to feature my work, thank you for giving me a platform to show the world my images. And to all of the couples who asked me to photograph for you, I am grateful for your belief, you help make me into who I am. And finally to Kristen, the dearest person and most amazing thing that has ever happened to me, none of this would have happened without her heart, brain and ideas – I am who I am because of her. Also, without her love and encouragement, I never would have had the courage to take the path I am taking now, I’d probably still be stuck in a lab somewhere writing Medical Physics software!
Have a wonderful break over the Christmas/New Year period and I’m looking forward to seeing you in 2014, there’s quite a few weddings waiting in the queue to be featured on the blog. In the meantime, here are some of my favourite images from the past year (and there’s still 2 weddings to go before we’re done!).
Camilla and Rob met when they were still kids – not literally, but it wasn’t far off. Camilla had gone to the UK straight after finishing high school for a gap year and in the first week, she met Rob, an Englishman. The time they had together, even at their tender ages, showed to them that their lives were destined to be entwined and they fell in love. When Camilla returned to Australia at the end of the year, they had a tough decision to make. They either had to part ways or one of them would have to return to the other’s country just to be with them. That was nearly 10 years ago and Rob’s decision to move here seems well and truly the right one.
Love has no barriers and when you know you’ve met the right person, you know. Some of us take a little longer to realise what the right person looks like but it’s pretty wonderful that Camilla and Rob saved themselves all of this time and figured it out all those years ago.
I photographed this wedding in Bangalow (about 10 minutes out of Byron Bay) with my wonderful and dear friend Cass who you might have seen recently started working with me!
Delightful Lakshal has asked me a couple of times to do a guest post on the website which I’ve refused. To be honest, most of the things I would like to write about aren’t really that pleasant, they are related to inequality and suffering. They are about challenging all of us (myself included) to be aware of, and take responsibility for, our actions (and, more often, our inaction). Who wants to hear about all that? They aren’t cheery uplifting topics that will make people want to come back and read more. If anything, they might make people hide under their table and cry. Yet here I am, making a guest post. Lucky is clearly losing his beautiful mind.
Recently I went to India and it helped heal my heart. It’s been a rough couple of years and my heart needed to be opened again and warmed by other humans. It was humans after all that had caused my heart to pain in the first place. India and its people helped me in a way I cannot yet explain.* Varanasi in particular had an unexpected impact that I don’t think I will ever be able to articulate.
While I was in India I took photos. Mainly of people. I am conflicted about being white and taking photos of brown people. It seems intrusive and, at times, racist. It has a colonialist ring to it that sits uncomfortably within me. What is with white peoples obsession of documenting brown people? I have no idea. I do know that if a stranger walked past my kitchen and took photos of me in my underwear doing the dishes I would be pretty cranky. I see a lot of photography where white people take and sell images of brown (sometimes black, sometimes Asian) people. It makes me feel a little ill. I wonder who gets the benefits of these sales? The person photographed? The community visited? Or is it the photographer and the other white people given the opportunity to have a glimpse of a life foreign to them? Sometimes I wonder if we white people are aware of the irony of us documenting people living in conditions of poverty that we, as colonialists and invaders, have often historically created. Irony is probably too gentle a word to describe the wrongness, but I am trying to be polite. Needless to say, these thoughts were running through my mind while on my white person tour of India to heal my heart.
I’m not a great photographer. I enjoy taking photos, but more than that I enjoy meeting people and hearing about their experience of the world. My camera provided me an opportunity to meet people in India I would never have met without it. Asking someone if I could take their photo opened up a potential connection and paved the way for story sharing and laughter (even if the person said no to having their photo taken). This wasn’t something I expected. I had assumed my camera would be one big beacon of ‘white tourist’ scaring away any genuine interactions I might have with Indian people. But in all reality I am white – a camera is not going to draw attention to that, my skin colour is. How I, as a white person am aware of my skin colour and the privilege it holds, and therefore how I interact with people, is what seemed more important. I learnt things about others that I would never have learnt without my camera as the gateway. I was also reminded of things about myself that I had pushed to one side. Yes, my experiences in India reminded me of my privilege as a white middle class cisgendered woman, but they also reminded me of the responsibility which sits alongside that privilege. Things I needed to be reminded of.
One of my more transactional but memorable experiences that would not have happened without my camera involved myself and my dear friend, Penny. We had just exited the Taj Mahal trying to get away from the crowds as quickly as possible. Minutes before I had a little panic attack** in the Taj Mahal tomb due to the crowd (and Penny’s unfortunate timing, just as we got inside, of explaining how unsafe it was to have that many people in such a small space). We were walking past the huge queue of people waiting to get in and Penny stopped to ask a beautifully dressed elderly lady if she could take her photo. Within minutes we each had a line of people wanting their photos taken. It was suddenly high pressure with Penny and I frantically trying to take as many photos of everyone who wanted one as quickly as possible. We were given hugs and handshakes and there were squeals of delight when people saw their faces on the back of our camera screens. Obviously not a common experience when you show someone a photo of themselves which you have taken (well, not for me anyway!). It all ended abruptly when a security guard and his large gun told us to move along (no, the gun did not actually speak). The couple with the man in the white hat below is one of the photographs taken that day. If you happen to know them please get in touch so I can send them the photo (if they want it!).
Needless to say I asked for peoples permission (where possible) before (and sometimes after) I took their photo. I was as respectful as I could be, being within a culture that is not my own.
India, thank you for existing. You rocked my world.
* It is possible that my heart healing was solely as a result of the large quantity of gulab jamun I consumed.
** May actually have been a sugar induced heart palpation from excessive consumption of gulab jamun.