Kirsten is a NZIPP Accredited Professional Photographer based in both the Auckland and Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island.
Can you please tell us about yourself?
Originally from Christchurch, I’ve lived in Auckland most of my life and although due to rezoning I now officially call the Waikato home, I still consider myself an Aucklander!
Having spent 25 years in customer service, including half my career in management roles, my true passion has always been animals and photography and I’ve wanted to pursue it as a career since I was a teenager, often being told by others I should pursue it as well.
Late 2016, in my thirties, I was diagnosed with stage 3 aggressive breast cancer that had spread, I had to hit the big old red pause button on life and undergo 14 months of intensive, aggressive treatment, including chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy and Herceptin infusions every three weeks for 60 weeks! There is nothing more confronting than being faced with your own mortality and not knowing what the outcome may be. It really makes you look at your life, achievements and the legacy you will leave behind. It was during this time I knew I needed to seriously start pursuing my ultimate dream of being a Pet Photographer. Once treatment ended I began focussing on getting as much photography practise as possible due to not having picked up my camera all through treatment, seriously building my portfolio and working on the business side.
At the beginning of 2019, I lost my mother unexpectedly, again hitting home that you never know what curveballs life will throw at you or when. And that life is far too short. Working in a job at the time that was detrimental to my health, due to the negative environment, I decided it was now or never to pursue my dream and with the full support of my husband, I quit my job, walked away and have never looked back!
Whilst I am now approaching 3.5 years cancer free, it’s always in the back of your mind as cancer changes your perspective on life a lot. It has been a whirlwind year and a bit, in amongst Covid lockdowns this year, I have won three Bronze and 1 Silver award at Iris, gained my Accreditation with NZIPP and when I now say I’m a full time professional, award winning Pet Photographer, it takes on a whole new meaning!
That’s right, I make a living rolling on the ground photographing dogs! A reality that is still incredibly surreal to me and makes me laugh out loud when I hear myself say it, could there be any better way to make a living?!
I’m married and have been with my husband for nearly 22 years. We live on a small lifestyle block, with six senior dogs and one senior cat. We are incredibly fortunate to have access to over 100 acres of beautiful land along the Waikato river, that affords me the opportunity to run my Pet Photography sessions from home. Offering my clients and their dogs a Pet Photography experience like no other, an opportunity that I am extremely grateful for and the endless opportunities it presents to me.
What type of photography do you do most?
I specialise in Pet Photography, mainly photographing dogs and cats, however I have photographed other animals such as lizards, rats and farm animals. And I photograph humans if they wish to be in the photos with their pets. LOL
Do you consider it a challenging job? How do you get the animals to stay and “pose’ for you?
Yes, I do consider it a challenging job, but also a heck of a lot of fun!
Whilst most dogs do know some basic commands, you never know until you meet a dog and they’re in the environment you’re photographing them in, just how they’re going to react or behave. They can be the most well trained and obedient dog at home and that can all go out the window at a session due to the excitement.
Every animal is different and how you interact with them to get them to stay still for a brief moment whilst you capture their picture varies, for some dogs it’s training and commands, for others it’s their favourite treats, toys, or simply having their owner nearby. For those that have no basic training or are just too excited a lead can be helpful. Also ensuring that they get enough breaks, and time to just run around and be a dog having fun, between takes is important too.
Oh! And one of the most challenging parts of the job can also be the interactions with the owners, communication and instructions to them are critical and can really help make or break a session from being fun and easy to hard and challenging.
How did you develop an interest in photography?
I’ve just always had a camera in my hand since I was a young child and was ecstatic when I got my first job and was able to purchase my own film camera, yes, before digital cameras were on the market. I always just enjoyed capturing images of my own animals, just spending time hanging out with them. Following them around capturing them just being themselves and seeing their true personalities when they thought I was no longer watching, when they’d lost interest in what I was doing and wandered off to do their own thing.
Do you have any pets of your own? And what is your favourite animal?
Yes, I have six senior dogs and one senior cat, they are my babies and my world. I have lost four senior dogs and one senior cat this year, which has been so incredibly hard, but is unfortunately part of the package in having senior animals.
Between dogs and cats I can’t choose a favourite, I love dogs because of their dependency, loyalty and need to be with their human, but equally I love cats for their independence and intelligence. I love both for the unconditional love they give you.
What’s been your most popular picture and why do you think that is?
If I’d answered this a few days ago my answer would have been different. However my most popular picture at the moment is one taken just this last weekend at the Waikato Cherry Tree Festival, of two Bernese Mountain Dog brothers sitting side by side in the Cherry Tree Avenue, with the wind flapping the younger brothers ear in the wind. I think it’s received such a positive response because it’s captured not only the lovely personality of the boys looking happy and joyful, but also the beautiful pink of the cherry tree blossoms and all that, that invokes about us now being in Spring and what a beautiful time of year it is.
What 3 words describe your photography style?
Bold. Colourful. Fun.
Any words of wisdom for the up and comers?
Practise, practise, practise.
Don’t give up. You will get there, but it takes time. My journey has taken over twenty years to get to where I am now. So just keep going. Keep pushing yourself and challenging yourself.
Do you have an idea, a sentence or a project you would like to share?
I have so many projects on my to do list! I’m always noting ideas down as they come to me.
Currently I’m working on some Limited Edition sessions for the end of this year which I’m really excited about. One is for sessions in lavender fields and the other is for Christmas sessions here at home on the farm. The latter I can’t share too much about but keep an eye on my social accounts in the next couple of weeks as I will be revealing through my stories what I have in store. It’s absolutely beyond exciting and I can’t wait to share what I’ve planned with everyone. The few that know are beyond excited for what I have in store. So watch this space…
Why did you join NZIPP and begin the process of becoming Accredited?
Being largely self-taught over the years and not having any formal qualification in relation to my photography, I felt that by becoming Accredited it would give me the formal acknowledgement and validation that my photography skills were to industry standard.
I also wanted to belong to NZ’s only professional body for professional photographers, as it’s an established organisation with a good reputation. And to be able to network and establish relationships with like minded people and be recognised by my peers. I also feel that Pet Photography is highly underrated and feel that NZIPP is starting to recognise it’s importance in the photography world.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for having me NZIPP and I look forward to finally meeting some of you in person at some stage, in amongst our various lockdowns!