Last Thursday night I was invited to photograph Noosa District State High School’s Year 12 Formal dinner. Let me just say, apart from the gorgeous dresses and dapper suits, there wasn’t anything formal about this incredible party. Almost 200 young graduates danced the night away without speeches or other formalities, and even the teachers got in on the fun!
What a night! DJ Ella from Noosa DJ’s kept the dance floor full and overflowing. So many times I’d see girls leaving the dance floor, barefoot and sweaty only to be dragged back by the intro of the next song. They’d look at each other, turn right around and go back for more. I love that feeling. I wish I could have dumped my camera, kicked off my shoes and boogied out too. At the start of the night I got a bunch of portraits with the DJ’s pretty light display in the background, after that it was dancing room only!
I loved being a walking, talking, pose-correcting, smile-demanding photo-booth robot. They were lining up for pics all night. I’ve posted a handful of my favourite photos below. All 321 images from the night are on my Facebook page. High-res downloads (for prints up to A4 size) will be available at elysepatten.com/NDSHSformal until the end of February 2016. (Due warning: it is a bit slow to load those big files.)
All the best everyone. Real life is much better than high school, you are gonna love it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I love to photograph people. I really do. This gorgeous pair were married early last year and came to the coast to help me celebrate my 30th in the middle of winter. We had the most wonderful weekend of sunshine, mountain climbing, backyard fires and swimming in the clear calm ocean. Their happy and relaxed expressions are proof of that.
I can’t help myself when I see people looking beautiful during a perfect beach sunset. I have to stop and snap a photo! Instincts? Check.