Family

It is always a challenge to create a meaningful portrait when you don’t know the people on the other side of the lens, and they don’t know you. I only spent an hour early one Saturday morning with this gorgeous bunch, but when I sat down to process their images, I really enjoyed observing their relationships. Their natural poses, their playfulness and their friendships all shine through the finished photographs and show what makes them unique as a family.

The kids hired me as a wedding anniversary gift to their parents. They asked to have the shoot at the beach near the family home, and to make sure the landmarks were in some of the photos, especially Old Woman Island which sits just offshore. When I arrived only a couple hours after the sun rose out of the sea, they were dressed and ready in bare feet and we walked across to the beach. We packed a lot into an hour long session. It is hard work for me to get flattering shots of everyone looking relaxed and natural. A bit ironic.


Back home on my computer, as I sifted through the photographs it occurred to me how many times they must have walked this beach; together, in pairs, alone with the puppy. It seems to me that this beach is like an extra family member. It is the place where this family goes to talk deeply, run away, reconcile and play. In this way it is the perfect location for a portrait, as these simple photographs represent many hours together walking on the sand and looking out across the waves.

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You might not believe it but not everyone was keen for this photo session. Which is fair enough. They jokingly apologised for being ‘dysfunctional’, but in my opinion, being together for a photo shoot early on a Saturday morning is the very definition of a well functioning family. The fact that some didn’t like having their photo taken, but did it anyway, speaks volumes about their commitment and love for each other.

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They wanted to bring their puppy in for some shots at the end. For me, when people start to really relax is when my job really starts. My favourite shot of the morning is the one at the top of this post, a moment of real family fun.

The beach is such a beautiful place for a photographic shoot. The pale blues, the shiny shoreline and the endless blank canvas of soft yellow sand. It lends itself easily to any style of photograph. And at this time of day, I don’t have to worry about the background, wherever I point the camera it looks gorgeous.

I only wish I had photos like these of my family.

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More Photos…

Kaiwá Homestead

Travelling to remote parts of the world is just one of the things I love about my work as a photojournalist for an international NGO. I crave new sights, new images. But what I treasure most is the people I meet when I get there. Let me introduce you to Dorival and his wife Estela. They welcomed my impromptu visit to their home outside Dourados in western Brazil. Indigenous to this part of the world, they are Kaiwá, the second largest indigenous nation in Brazil. Dorival works as a pastor, travelling all over, his days concerned with the welfare of his people. In spite of the difficulties of this life Dorival’s face is bright and joyous. I was moved by his passionate interview in Portuguese and found it hard to tear myself away from their beautiful rustic ranch. Here is just a handful of images to serve as a portrait of Dorival, Estela and their humble home.

More Photos…

A Love Story

Ten years ago today I saw this beautiful face for the first time. I’ll never forget that moment. I was swaying on a tree swing, people nearby chatting, he was brought over to be introduced. “Elyse! This is my friend Brad.” “Hi Brad.” I said as my body swung forward and my long hair flew back. “Hi…” He responded breathlessly with wide wondrous eyes. I turned my face up into the night sky and smiled to myself. This will be something.

My flatmate and I were awkwardly attending a 21st birthday party ninety minutes away from where we lived and knew only the birthday boy. I’d met Birthday Boy a few weeks earlier at another 21st party and though we quickly became friends I couldn’t convince him that we didn’t have a future together. Little did I know that he introduced me as, “The girl I like so please stay away from her.” One moment too late.

Love like the Ocean

My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite. – Shakespeare

Many people describe their wedding day as a blur. A blur of smiling faces, teary eyes, momentous promises, glamour, celebration, family and passion. A good photographer can return to you those memories that have tangled together by the end of the day.

Yet squashed in there somewhere you also want a photo shoot that is dramatic, passionate, romantic, relaxed, creative, fun and memorable in its own way. But you don’t want to get your dress dirty or your hair messy. And, let’s face it, you probably aren’t your most relaxed and natural while fretting over your dress, your family, and not being late for your reception.

What if you could set aside a special day just for taking these kinds of photos, and it didn’t matter how you looked at the end of it all. Many couples are doing just that and calling it a ‘Trash the Dress’ photo shoot. While the internet abounds with images of brides covered in mud or paint (!?) my humble opinion is that such an opportunity should be used to pursue the most dramatic and romantic images possible, where all concern for the dress is gleefully abandoned.

It is with this in mind that I made plans for a ‘Trash the Dress’ shoot with the lovely, and newly married Lisa and Clay. Their wedding photos are stunning and wedded almost a year ago they’ve got frames all over the house and a gorgeous baby blue leather-bound album under the coffee table. But Lisa wasn’t happy with her custom-made dress, decided it was taking up too much space in the wardrobe, and wanted to make the most of it before throwing it out.

Lisa knew what I did: if you didn’t care about the dress, well, imagine the possibilities.

Four of us drove to a beach north of Sydney on a stormy February day with a bridal gown in a garbage bag. …Continue Reading →

Selena & Steph’s Commitment Ceremony

Selena met Steph seven years ago and fell in love. They’ve been looking after each other ever since and even though their vows aren’t recognised by the state they made them anyway on a stormy day last November. They wanted to make their dedication to each other official.

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I love these individual portrait shots because before taking each of them I asked the bride to look over at her other half chatting with friends nearby. Don’t they look beautiful!

As a photographer I approached this event differently to other weddings. Rather than the usual male-female complementary poses I aimed to show them for what they are: two equal halves, twins, love birds. Running from one dressing room to another to capture the story of each bride preparing for her wedding was a challenge. But visually I enjoyed the lack of an awkward groom in a dark suit. This ceremony was all girl – light, pretty, feminine, soft, beautiful.

This post is a visual story of their day of love, commitment and family. More photos →

Father of the Bride

One year ago today my little sister married her sweetheart. She was surprisingly calm that morning, patiently handling the three generations of women that had gathered to help prepare her for the wedding. Our grandmother was there putting together bouquets of white flowers. Our mother was in and out, running errands for coffee, bobby pins and nail polish remover. I was helping Grandma with the flowers and joined the three other bridesmaids in swanning around in between hair and make-up sessions. My husband cooked us all a brunch of pesto scrambled eggs. The photographer had been and gone and with still an hour to spare my sister decided she wanted her dress altered. The matriarch went to ‘put my face on’ as she calls it, our mother did the same and our Dad turned up to entertain us all while last minute changes were being made to the dress. I adore this image of my baby sister delighting in the playful humour of our father.

A wedding is a special occasion for any family. It is one of the few times when everyone comes together and, in spite of past spats, gives their full support to the one whose life will be changed forever that day. It is a rare occasion when warring factions declare peace, bossy older sisters are on their best behaviour and everyone pulls together. As a photographer there is no higher honour than to be involved in this intimate family affair from the nervous start of the day to its triumphant end. And it is always my goal to capture special family moments like this one. Anyone can make a gorgeous portrait of the wedding couple, or a fun photo of the bridal party, or a formal group shot. But, I believe, the whole point of hiring a wedding photographer is to immortalise the emotion of the day. Otherwise, we’d just get dressed up on another convenient day to spend a few hours with a photographer. Which is a great idea, but that’s not the point of it all, is it. You want a photographer to be there when your mother holds a tissue up to her eye, when your father kisses you on the forehead before he steps aside and your bridesmaids grin from ear to ear when your union is announced. These are the precious moments that a skilled photographer watches and waits for.

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queensland beach winter

Right now the ocean is angry. Whipped by fierce winds and dirtied by the muddy rivers spewing into it. It’s summer: rainy season. We’ve had vicious tropical storms, floods, king tides and angry waves that have swallowed all the sand exposing ancient lava rocks. Too dangerous to swim most days I stay in looking over images from seasons past. Those visiting the glorious Sunshine Coast during the peak holiday season might find it hard to believe how this same ocean behaves in winter. See for yourself.

Wandering through my archive recently my eyes dove into these vibrant memories of my beach last August: crystal clear, clean and impossibly calm. The ocean was like an enormous lake with just one small wave gently greeting the shore. Children delighted in the soft winter sun and everyone marvelled at the deep aqua reflection of the wave at the moment it folded in on itself. These images make me long for winter.

 

daisy memories

These tiny daisies tell a story. In the morning of the wedding day the bride’s mother, aunty and grandmother worked together to prepare them for their special purpose. Wrinkled hands wearing many rings pruned and primped and set them out just so. Everyone was joking and laughing. The tables were covered in green stems and tiny white flowers. The bridesmaid took the opportunity to put some of these delicate daisies in her hair. The daisies are a reminder that the women of these families came together to celebrate a special day. They prepared the flowers, blessed their daughters, laughed, cried and drank wine – and it all started with arranging daisies.

Salvador’s Home

Meet Salvador. He is from the Kaiwa people indigenous to western Brazil. The Kaiwa are the second largest indigenous group in Brazil and yet one of the most marginalised. Unlike other indigenous groups (they call themselves ‘Indians’) the Kaiwa don’t live in a round village with a central house, but everyone has their own house and yard – just like Salvador. Salvador’s house is especially nice and his neighbours consider him to be rich. He works full time as a night watchman at the local school – that’s how he can afford a nice brick house.

Like Salvador, the Kaiwa are a peaceful people and will avoid conflict at all costs, even if it means that they kill themselves instead. All too often, this is the case. Because they don’t take a stand for themselves, other indigenous groups just walk all over them, don’t invite them to important political meetings and mis-represent them to the government. They are truly a people without a voice.

Brazil is the only nation in the world that treats their indigenous groups as ‘wards of the state’. This can have advantages but means that they do not have rights as citizens but are like children who must be told what is good for them. The government wants indigenous groups to learn Portuguese but otherwise to maintain a traditional way of life. They don’t want them to change their religion or other practices.

Not too long ago an anthropologist came to Salvador’s community to study their practice of suicides. After the anthropologist left more than half of the 50 people she interviewed committed suicide. Some people believe that this anthropologist, in bringing up information about past practices, was almost suggesting suicide as an appropriate social norm.

Continue Reading….

Selena the Bride

A beautiful friend of mine got married on the weekend. Here she is, we aren’t fourteen any more. I was the new kid at a big urban school. Somehow she found me, decided she liked me and never let me go. I’d never had someone do that before. Her friendship got me through a few rough years. She is surely my oldest and most loyal friend. How could I possibly refuse the opportunity to photograph her wedding?

She got ready in my bathroom at the big luxury home they hired out for the weekend. I love that she designated the second master suite to me. I took a bath in that gorgeous tub the following morning as the rain gently fell through the view of eucalyptus trees. More photos soon.