Ann is a NZIPP Accredited Professional Photographer based in the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island.
Photo credit to Kate Christie from Kate Christie Photographer
Tell us a little about yourself, your childhood, where you live and how you started in the craft of photography?
I am a transplant to NZ, originally being from Texas. I grew up on a cotton farm in west Texas.
NZ entered my radar when I was about ten years old. In the US, there’s an organization called Harry & David, which is mail-order food and other gourmet delights. They used to have a ‘fruit of the month club’, which my mother subscribed to. One month, it was kiwi fruit. There was a wee blurb saying that kiwi fruit only grew in NZ. I fell for the story, LOVED kiwi fruit…and told my mother that I was going to NZ someday and NOT leaving until I couldn’t eat another kiwi fruit. Ha. Still Love kiwi fruit. Still here.
Some years later, I worked as a project manager for a company that installed software in hospitals. I lived and worked in different cities for most of 21 years. An opportunity came up for a project in NZ. I put my hand up and never looked back. I’ve now been here for 23 years, happily married to a Kiwi and very grateful for my life here.
My love of photography started by learning to scuba dive in 1980. I wanted to remember the fish. Originally, the intention was just snaps, but the over-achiever in me took over and it developed into this huge passion. Between dive trips, I started practicing on ‘land-based’ subjects. Laying on the ocean floor with my camera became my happy place.
All up, I spent 800+ hours underwater, but the “land-based” stuck…..and I eventually started a business in 2010….no fish though, mostly children. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much my project manager skills have been useful in a business.
What type of photography do you do and where do you get the inspiration for your work?
My business is primarily children’s photography, but I do also enjoy doing business portraits.
Within children’s photography, I have several options. The most common is “Fantasy”. I literally have a “Magical Forest” built in my Studio. I can pull it up/down, but it stays in place most of the time. There’s dresses, wings and flowers for the hair, pixie or pirate costumes. One of my favourite moments is when they see themselves in the mirror.
I love doing maternity and newborn. I love creating images that are unique.
I love photographing kids doing ‘what their favourite things to do for fun’ is. In fact, I did two fund-raising books full of kids doing what they love to do for fun.
I also love doing composites, or what I’m calling “100% Bespoke”. I’m hoping to do more of these.
I’m starting to do more Business type photography. I especially like going on location and photographing, but my Studio is well set up for it.
Do you consider it a challenging job? How do you get all your little fairies to stay and “pose” for you?
For Fantasy, I don’t do ‘poses’ so much as I do “playfulness’s”. I have my camera hidden, so often, the kids don’t even know they are being photographed. I wear a pocket wizard around my neck that remotely fires the camera. I ask the parents to not tell the kids they are having photos done, but that they are going to play. I have stories that I tell the kids and guide them through a handful of “playfulness’s”. This is how we get beautiful natural expressions. They think they are just playing. It brings me a great deal of satisfaction. One of my favourite things is when a kid does something spontaneous that is so fantastic, it becomes a new/standard part of my playfulness regime.
A while back, I was thinking about the best way to get a child out of a meltdown is to just not go there in the first place. It occurred to me, with the Magical Forest, I rarely get that. There’s interesting things for them to look at, interact with and experience. I want it to be just that, a fun, imaginative experience.
If I have newborn sessions, I just pull the Magical Forest into a cabinet.
I live at the mouth of the Waimakariri River, so I consider the beach, river, forest, etc my ‘outdoor studio’. This is where I do most of my maternity, but some in Studio.
For ‘kids doing what they love’, I’ll go wherever makes sense to do the session. Sometimes, it’s just the basketball court across the street.
With all my children’s sessions, I look at it as a way to nurture their self confidence/esteem. Who doesn’t feel better about themselves when someone says ‘oh you’re doing sooo good’, etc. Sometimes I tell little girls to say “I am beautiful”. It’s just so lovely when they say it, and you can see their expression and body language transform into it.
How important is photoshop in your final images?
People think my Fantasy is mostly photoshopped, but because I have the Magical Forest, approximately 95% is in camera. Of course, there’s the final touches of adding magic, fairies, etc. My aim is for each Fantasy photo to look like a page out of an old fairytale book, so I run an action (that I made, not purchased) on each.
Do you have a mentor? A favourite photographer?
Oh this list is long. Kirsty Mitchell, Alexia Sinclair, Brooke Shaden, Ben Shirk, Karen Alsop, are all photographers I admire. Then, there’s lots in our own camp like Katherine Williams, Richard Wood…gosh…this list could go on for quite some time!
What 3 words describe your photography style?
Joy, Whimsical, Imagination
How much preparation do you put into your Magical Forest photoshoots?
It takes me about 45 minutes to build the Magical Forest. It stays put most of the time, so typically only recharging batteries is my prep. Well, that and polishing the pond, vacuuming the grass, making sure there’s plenty of fairy food and bubbles.
The compliment that touched you the most?
A family with a 14year old tetraplegic from cerebral palsy had never been able to have professional photographs done. I went to their house, photographed, then created several composites for her. They were so touched with the photographs, that they had a pounamu made for both me and my husband. The boy’s father is a spiritual leader. He blessed them, asked for them to be named based on who we are – mine is “Manawa o te ora” or “Heart of Life” and Tim’s is “Kaitiaki Whakatere” or “Navigational Guardian”. When younger, the father used to go to the west coast and walk the rivers as a bit of respite. He would collect green stone. These were his two last pieces.
Hands down, this is the compliment that has most deeply touched me.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Not be so hard on myself, remember what a privilege it is to be a photographer, making people happy with photographs.
Why did you join NZIPP?
I joined NZIPP because I feel that if you are going to call yourself a professional, then you should be a member of the professional organization. If you’re a builder, you join Master Builders. If you’re a pharmacist, you join that organization, etc. I know we’re a bit different as photographers, but I still think it’s important. It has been so much more than that for me though. I’ve made life-long friends. Even though ‘technically’ we’re often competitors, instead, there’s comradery and support. I love being able to call up someone and ask questions.