Dipping into arty interiors

I've talked before about the new directions I'm moving in photographically. Some of the commercial work I'm doing involves me shooting interiors, to tell the story about a place. I really enjoy that kind of work, so I've decided to try my hand at a bit of interiors and architectural work. Somewhat fortuitously, I have had some of those sorts of jobs coming in lately. Soon I'll be showing you images from shoots with an interior designer I'm teaming up with, and a couple of architects who are keen to use me.

These are a few shots, not for either of those purposes, but for a contribution to a design blog writer who had asked Anna to share some images of her creative and beautiful home. Her eclectic style, the little vignettes in each space, tell me quite a lot about her personality, and about how her family work together. Nothing too serious here - just a quick ditty into the home of a friend.

Getting foodie again...

Our youngest fellow, Vin, has finally started school. It's been a bit of a busy time in the last months, although I can testify to the fact that I can't really recall the last occasion that I've felt things are slow. I now find myself with pockets of time that I can sometimes use to take pictures for my own enjoyment.

I've also been learning. One of the things about being a photographer is that you are often very alone in your work.  I've been disconnected from the photographic community for a really long time now, as there really wasn't much I could contribute when I was knee deep in kids. I remember a couple of years ago, going to a succession of exhibition openings for people I knew from my time as a photographic tutor, and as a fully fledged card-carrying member of the professional photog scene. Going to those things as a stay at home mum was really surprisingly intense and weird, and I felt like not only did I not have a whole lot to say about the work (being somewhat out of practise), but the people I knew from that old life really didn't know what to say to me. I was out of context. Having children gradually became what defined me, and I felt like a has-been, and a might-never-be-again. It was depressing.

As the kids have moved off to kindy, and now to school, I've had more opportunity to use my art brain again. I've been to galleries, read things about creativity, and started to really contemplate what will make me into a better photographer. I know I need to keep edging towards stronger portfolio work - technically cleaner, with a more absolute control over the light. I've been learning too - following food photography workshops by people like Andrew Scrivani and Penny de los Santos. I'm starting to work on using light sources other than window light. I'm also considering the purpose of the images I'm making. Are these for hanging on a wall? illustrating a cookbook? selling a product? I am planning and shooting now with purpose. Hopefully that'll start to become apparent in the pictures over the coming months.

Here are a small handful of images from the last little while. Again, these are 5-10 minute shoots, so I'm not dragging out the studio lights quite yet, although that's going to start happening soon. But, I think my vision is getting clearer.

A visit with Anna

I have blogged before about my friend Anna Stichbury, artist and creative extraordinaire. She had me along recently to take some pictures of her home (which I will show in another blog post soon), but on the same occasion I spent a little bit of time with her in the studio, which sits adjacent to her house, and is a space of light and texture and colour, and a place that I feel very much at peace.

Anna has been generating new kinds of work recently - incorporating inks, graphite, metallics, and collage alongside her more typical painted and screen-printed techniques. Her art works are so recognised around New Zealand, and so much sought after to adorn the walls of like minded souls - you could be forgiven for thinking she's a one-trick pony. On the contrary, Anna is always experimenting, and developing her motifs. Some works are carefree, with splashes of brave colour in inks and paint, and often overlaid with more carefully rendered emblems - her butterflies, nudes, faces, birds, and the iconic rabbits she has worked with for years. The new work brings an interplay of texture and design, often simultaneously graphic and expressive. I enjoy seeing how Anna plays with her media, always moving forward, never with too much solemnity.

These images are just a handful of moments captured as a side-piece, rather than as the main event. I could shoot Anna all day, as she is so alive, with mercurial moods and moments of nonsense. 

If you want to see more of Anna's work, or even purchase some for yourself, go to her website - www.annastichbury.co.nz or you can follow her fun instagram feed via @annastichbury ... always with more tidbits to entice you.

A fresh and orderly image for Stash

Much of the work I do at the moment is really quite ordinary - not the glamour of a fashion shoot or the intrigue of an exotic location. Some jobs in particular I expect to find more of a labour than others. I could have thought this about my work with Stash - Wellington's best custom wardrobe and storage design company. When I saw the message from Simon, the owner of Stash, asking me about coming to generate a library of new images for their marketing, I wasn't anticipating a super satisfying job - this is the kind of work that helps our family to survive. 

But, you know what? I had the best few days working at Stash. Simon and Elizabeth Morrison, and their team of designers and joiners and installers are a really wonderful bunch of people. Not only do they create a high quality range of storage systems for their clients, but their business is one with heart. I saw how the team work together - and how they actively foster a great working relationship between the different parts of the team. I had the very great pleasure of joining in with their morning tea trivial pursuit challenge a couple of times, with home made cake and good conversation. I saw the guys from the workshop completely nailing questions about politics and history, and showing me how out of my depth I was when it comes to general knowledge. The staff were so welcoming and fun, and I could see how hard they work to keep the standard of their product so high.

Chelsea, one of the designers, was assigned to accompany me and style the wardrobe and storage units we were shooting. She is one of the people you'll meet if you go to Stash for a custom wardrobe - and she's good. Really good. Talented with industrial design, but also as a visual stylist, and so professional and fun. We visited a range of client homes to shoot real installations of different systems. Some of the spaces were super tight, or the light wasn't great, or the stuff in the environment needed tweaking to make for good clean photography. Chelsea helped me to overcome all of those challenges. I could see though, how every Stash wardrobe was cleverly designed to get the best out of a space, and beautifully finished to suit the client's home. I very much want one of their wardrobes in my own house.

If you have any storage needs in your own house, I couldn't recommend Stash more highly. Go to www.stash.net.nz to see their range.

My very own Kylie

Thursdays are generally my favourite work day of the week. Partly because it's near the weekend, but mostly because it's the day I spend with my friend Kylie. She and I are both working on our own projects, and about a year and a half ago, we decided to devote one day a week to them... together. We jokingly call it our 'Study Day'. I'm mostly not doing any study - usually working on shoot editing and things of that nature, and she's working on her own creative and career developing projects. We've even added another couple of friends to our group, all working diligently at my home each Thursday, or near enough.

Kylie is so talented, and resourceful. She and I have spent a lot of time in each others' company because of our Thursdays together, and we pretty much share anything and everything with each other over cups of tea and whatever sweet things we can fossick up in the pantry.

She let me take this sad picture of her. Because, sometimes we are sad together, and I think she is one of the most authentic people in my life, and sadness is one of those things she shares with me. It's not all like that all the time, but in the moments that we are sad, we're probably most closely connected.

The new blood of Homegrown Creative

Some clients are really just inspirational, and working with them doesn't feel like, well, work at all. I have taken photographs for Homegrown Creative before - the last time, we created a sort of stop-motion banner for their new website. Check it out HERE. That was enormous fun. The team of very talented designers were up for a fun challenge, and in their petite studio we knocked it out without any trouble.

Recently, Jamie and the team have been really busy, and they've taken on a new talent. I took a quick few pics of Guy for the site, and can honestly say he's the easiest person I've had to photograph for ages. As always, this team are a dream to work with.

Clean and simple corporate portraits...

From time to time I'm asked to shoot very simple little jobs - often for use on business cards and website profiles. I like this kind of work periodically because it's low-stress, methodical, and I also get to meet some really nice people. It can't all be glamorous adventure.

I had the pleasure of shooting Hamish recently, as he joins his brother William Marshall in their AMP business. Hamish is new to the industry, and comparatively new to the bit of Wellington that we inhabit. His family have quickly become part of our circle, and it's nice to have him in the community. He and another colleague met me to have headshots taken. It was fast and friendly, and the editing is over in a flash (that's always my least favourite part of any shoot...).

One Million Stars

I have many wonderful and creative friends. Natalie is one of those people. Last week she asked me to come and take a few photographs for a project she has underway at her work - the Maori Women's Refuge - Te Whare Rokiroki. Natalie is the Arts Co-ordinator there, currently working on creating and accessing funding for arts programmes for women who have experienced domestic violence and abuse. The images she needed in this instance were for the purpose of promoting a worldwide endeavour to raise awareness about violence - The One Million Stars to End Violence project.

Natalie is spearheading the campaign to create 10,000 stars for the Wellington community as the contribution to the project. She's engaged nearly every major gallery in the Wellington area to commit to some involvement - holding star making workshops and other events, and in some cases exhibiting the stars. In the end, the stars will be shipped off to be part of a greater exhibition at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

They're so simple, and so beautiful. If you want to be part of this project, to weave some stars or show your support in another way, check out www.onemillionstars.net for more information, and have a look at www.wellingtonwomensrefuge.co.nz to find out where star making events might be happening near you.

A little nature project for Northland Kindergarten

Our family are deeply attached to Northland Kindergarten.  Nino went there as his first foray into a world apart from me, and Vin is now one of the big kids there, with only 6 months left before he begins school.  I'm on the parents committee, and as such, we are fairly involved in the extra curricular stuff that happens with fundraising, maintenance, and community events.

The teaching team are amazing.  So dedicated, and hard working, and I always feel confident that they really know my kid. One of the teachers has had a project on the go for a while, to plan a new entryway for the kindy premises. We're looking to improve safety, visibility, and the general first impression of the space. One of the strengths of our kindergarten is the lush natural bush and bird life. On a sunny morning, tui, kereru, fantails and many other varieties of birds abound. An idea was born to create new signage, with some images that celebrate the natural flora and fauna of kindy. I said I would happily have a go at the photography for the signs. I've never been a bird photographer, but a little bit of perseverance produced an acceptable shot of a tui. I had a lovely morning recently collecting images for debate from around the play area, while the kids questioned me about what I was doing.



The crazy world of my friend Anna

A couple of days ago, I spent a little bit of morning with my lovely friend Anna Stichbury. She's this completely funky elegant artist and entrepreneur, and whenever we are together, I feel like a little bit of her glitter rubs off on me.

So, she's always exhibiting - her work is prolific and fun and so perfect adorning the walls of well dressed homes... but there isn't anything snooty about what she does, and she is always playing with new materials, methods, and motifs. She needed some pictures for some up-coming marketing materials, so I stepped up to shoot for her.

We also had the very great pleasure of making these pictures in the gorgeous house of a very wonderful and stylish family who are local and generous with their space. These are a smattering of the pictures from our morning together, and some are obviously not Anna's intended marketing imagery. Although, knowing Anna, she'd use a picture of her mad bed jumping in a heartbeat.

You can see some pictures I took last year of Anna in action in my image series here

If you want to view / purchase any of Anna's art, go to http://www.annastichbury.co.nz

The Food Project : Part 2

About a week ago I decided to take a little break from shooting the daily food pictures. I don't want to get into a rut with it, and felt like I needed to spend a bit of time on the real jobs I have and also to invest a bit more of my energy in our family life. So, a small hiatus. I will get back to it soon, and I'll start mixing it up shooting other things too - I have a zillion ideas to play with. Here's a recap from instagram of some of the images made in February for this project.

One interesting thing first - sort of indicative of how this project will evolve - is that I've started 'theming' the image making. Most recently I shot a series of 7 images of things with banana as a key ingredient (or indeed as the only item in the shot). This was a response to a comment from a friend who wanted me to photograph something healthy and boring like a banana or a piece of bread, so that she didn't have to rush out and get cake as soon as she saw my daily shots. But, it got me thinking, even sparked some inspiration, that I could play with a single ingredient over a succession of days, or indeed, with a prop, or a process. So, Banana Week was begun. You'll see the final 7 images in this group are from that week. I have already thought I should really do lemon (or maybe citrus) week, tomato week, chocolate week etc etc. I also think I'll play with shooting the stages of creating a food - such as making tomato sauce, or bread, or casserole or similar, so that I'm not just jacking up the final product in an artificial layup. Anyway, plenty to think about. And that's without my burning desire to go down the food as art route. There's a whole other world to explore when I think about food and memory. Not so much intended for commercial use, but perhaps a worthy side project to begin.

I do want to say thank you to all of the fine folk who have made such lovely comments to me about the food images. Without feedback, I wouldn't have any idea of whether I was on the right path. I still have high days and low ones, photographically, but your enthusiasm for my images warms me and urges me to work harder. So, thank you.

The Food Project

I'm a very sporadic blogger.  Finding time to sit and write and add images is sometimes beyond my capabilities, as I'm often tied to the kids, or the housework, or actually finishing real photographic work... well, blogging takes last place.  Actually, not last place... doing the bookwork is last, but we won't talk about that here.

For a long time, I've wanted to move more seriously into the world of food and editorial photography.  I've always wanted to shoot a cookbook, for one of the gorgeous food magazines, and for clever businesses producing food products.  That stuff doesn't just land in my lap like other kinds of work, so I decided that this year was the time to do something about it.

I need a new portfolio, of images that really show what kind of photographer I can be, and what I'm passionate about.  Food is one of those things.  I also needed to practise my craft - actually remind myself of the myriad things I need to consider to make quality work.  So, the images here are my experimentation, not some carefully crafted and tight collection of finished pieces.  These are my daily attempts.  

I'm working from home, with the things I have here (including a few new acquisitions that have come to me via various kind people).  I'm shooting the things we eat, that (mostly) I cook.  I'm not a pro cook, and I really don't want to be a food blogger - I just want to shoot it.  But, in lieu of hiring a chef, which we are not rich enough to do, I needed to make / source the food myself.  I'm also short short short on time.  So, each of these images is made with between 5 and 15 minutes of shooting, with a modicum of setup and post processing.  I had to be fast - my family wouldn't like me very much if I devoted much more time every day to a project that doesn't bring in any cash!

I am very inspired by classical art - particularly the old masters, the flemish painters, artists like Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, Vermeer... the light quality, the often quietness of the images. Some photographers today are creating work that is in a similar vein, and they too provide inspiration.  Bernard Verkaiik shoots in a clean, simple way that gets my imagination going.  But I need to be new - not just copying those who came before.  So, I'm experimenting... and sometimes these folk might be seen as an influence on what I am doing.  Sometimes it's more commercial... the Donna Hay magazine imagery makes me want to cook... so I'll try a bit of that too.

Instagram is a space I find highly satisfying, because I can act as curator of my own gallery.  I have a personal account, where I post pictures of my kids, and a business account, where the serious photography lives.  The ability to make an image happen, and then put it somewhere that the world could see it, is a very enticing thing for me.  So, it's my tool of choice for publishing the images I make for my business at the moment.  Follow me on Instagram by searching @amberjaynebain and you'll see the best things I'm doing at the moment.

A new era for the Tui Brewery

In a recent post about Nick and Rosie of The Experience Collective, I showed you some pictures of the clever pair, as they prepared marketing imagery for launching their new business.  They're fully under way now, managing the customer experience for Tui and Monteiths, co-ordinating events and running tours.

I had the very great pleasure of spending a couple of days up at the newly minted Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka, shooting the last bits of the brewery install, and some promotional imagery for the marketing of Tui HQ.

Firstly, (and I didn't think I was going to share this, but I guess I am...) I have only been driving for about 3 years, and only achieved my full licence this year.  Driving all of that way by myself felt like an achievement of sorts.  I conquered the Rimutaka incline without incident, and coped just fine with the long stretches of open road and fast country drivers.

The shoot was super varied - Tui HQ and the brewery premises, tour photos, food, customers relaxing at the cafe and bar, a little bit of merchandise.  I loved the chaos and frenzy of it.  I think I am most in my element photographically when I'm troubleshooting and working fast with imperfect circumstances.  The pictures below are a smattering of the many shots I made over the two day stretch.  The new brewery is a smaller enterprise than Tui previously was - but it's a beautiful new space, with its' shiny tanks and abundant natural light.

If you're passing through on State Highway 2, I can really recommend the Tui Brewery for a visit.  The food is delicious, the people are completely real and warm and awesome, and I think plenty of exciting things are happening with the beer with head brewer Tupu at the helm.

A little winter rose in the spring light

Jonathan and I celebrated 10 years of marriage recently.  Traditionally, people give each other things made with tin, or if you're more of a modern sort, you might go with diamonds.  Jonathan decided that for the Bain family, 10 years meant lens.  Way better than tin, and quite a lot better than diamonds in my opinion.

A little celebration of the lens is here.  Sunlight through our bathroom window, with the very last of the hellebores (my favourite flower of all), and the 85mm beauty I have been longing for.  I am so lucky.

The Experience Collective

Life has been very busy in our household of late.  The rigours of family life are constant, and although I have been steadily working in a photographic sense, there hasn't been opportunity to share it here.  A lull in the crazy has happened today though, so I can tell you a little about a recent shoot for two very clever and passionate folk.

Rosie Broughton and Nick Rogers are visionary and entrepreneurial.  Their new business 'The Experience Collective' brings together their expertise in PR, marketing, event management and communications, providing a service to plan and facilitate client experiences at DB Breweries and associated brands.  I had the very great pleasure of photographing them individually and together, for use in marketing their enterprise.

This was a rapid fire shoot.  Both Rosie and Nick were easy models.  This kind of corporate portraiture is probably my favourite - on a location we can use in a variety of ways, with enough time to get comfortable with each other, plenty of laughter and a collection of images in the end that fill the brief.  Driving away from the shoot afterwards, I was buoyant, because somehow being 'in the zone' photographically is a better buzz than nearly any other thing that happens in my life.  I am privileged to do something that I love, and on days like this one, I was really aware of that and grateful for it.

and so... here a handful of the pictures made that day of the beautiful Rosie and dashing Nick.

A fresh new blog to go with the fresh new site...

I am pretty happy to be writing this first post. For a long time, I have been waiting to relaunch my photography business, with deliberateness and purpose. I tend to think of my photographic life as BK (before kids) and WK (with kids). The BK era saw me working across so many genres with a fledgling sense of style, as opposed to a developed one. I shot commercially, I shot weddings, portraits, food, I shot from the air and the water and from building sites and cathedrals, I shot and shot and sometimes did it well. I always wanted to shoot pretty things... perhaps why weddings in particular drew me. I think having children has made me less romantic and fluffy, and more appreciative of real, normal life, and of moments and light that would otherwise have been overlooked by my working eye in the past.

So, this new WK era... what do I think I'll shoot? There are a number of personal projects that draw me, which I'll share here as they happen. I'm in business again in a very sporadic way - only a couple of days a week even really available for work. I've already started shooting for clients who need commercial images, and I love it, so I'll grow it. I'll try to take pictures that are inherently interesting, rather than because of some post production magic that I might work on them. And, I'll keep documenting our life - that of my family in particular, and I'll share that with you too.