Q: First of all, we want to congratulate you on The Lifestyle Category at B&W Child 2018 Photo Competition! How does it feel to be a winner?
A: Thank you very much. When I saw my picture as the winner of the Lifestyle category I was quite stunned. It took a while for the fact to sink in and it wasn’t until the end of the day that I could really relate to it at all. By this point, I was obviously very happy.
Q: We cannot wait to hear more about the winning photograph! The moment you have captured is priceless and literally won the heart of the judges! The photograph is screaming LIFESTYLE!
A: I was living in Abu Dhabi for the past 10 years. In Abu Dhabi, there are lots of street cats. One morning a kitten showed up at the door of our house. We started off by looking after her in the garden as she had come with another cat, but eventually, the other cat disappeared and the kitten fell down a steep wall. My son lowered a bucket on a string and eventually pulled her up to safety. Ever since, my son has taken her under his wing. One afternoon they were playing on my bed and whereas the afternoon light in the bedroom was often quite flat, on this particular occasion there was a splash of light on the duvet. My camera was nearby and I took a few pictures. I was drawn to this one as my son has a wildcat look about him, a gleam in his eye, and the kitten inside the duvet is winking from the pressure of my son’s hug. I like the effect of his cut off T-shirt and the way he’d just styled his hair in a very classic way. His boyishness contrasts with the flowers on the bed. I was happy that the duvet happened to have a big floral print.
Q: Can you introduce us to Caroline? What is your background? Where do you live? How old are you? Do you do photography as a full-time job?
A: I am of British, Swiss, French and Irish descent. I grew up in the west country of England, in a small town called Bradford-on-Avon, but after university moved to London, New York, and also Abu Dhabi in the UAE. I had been living in Abu Dhabi for the past 10 years and have recently this summer moved to Dublin in Ireland. My husband grew up in Dublin and it’s exciting to experience Irish culture. I have two children, a son and daughter, 7 and 17, who I mainly photograph, 2 cats and a dog. I worked in advertising in London for a few years before I had my family. It wasn’t until I found photography that I discovered my passion though. It’s been very much a hobby and a way to relax and enjoy the process of creating. I started when my son was 18 months and I was in my mid-thirties. I might take on some clients in the near future but up until now, it’s been a personal journey.
Q: Can you tell us how did you develop your style and how long you are into the photography?
A: I have been photographing for about six and a half years. When I first took photography up as a hobby I was very much drawn to atmospheric black & white photos and followed many black & white photographers on social media, although I have always loved colour as well. Over time I saw that the pictures were starting to look more and more similar, and had similar themes, and the editing became much more consistent. This was very much a gradual process. When black & white clicked for me it became a frequent form of expression. I try to find ways to make the storytelling element in my pictures a little quirky. I’ve always loved fairytales and myths so if my pictures look out of the ordinary in some way, I’m happy. I spend a lot of time dreaming up new ideas, and I hope to push these ideas further in terms of mood and composition as time goes on. I’m also fascinated with movement and gesture.
Q: Why Lifestyle Child Photography?
A: At present, I mostly picture my son and daughter in and outside our home, and so the pictures mostly fit into the Lifestyle category, although there is some overlap into other genres. I find that Lifestyle has elements of documentary, fine art, and portrait as well. A lot of the time my pictures are portraits in ordinary life settings, although I often try to introduce everyday objects in an unexpected way. It is a challenge to add a storytelling aspect to an ordinary scene and my son often writes a different ending!
Q: What is your opinion/overview on current scene of child photography around the world?
A: I think it’s really exciting as social media (despite its well-documented flaws) has also opened up a community of photographers from all over the world. Film photography has a special gorgeous quality but digital has revolutionized photography, making it very accessible. In the last few years I’ve been exposed to a lot of pictures from Russian and eastern European photographers especially, and I’ve found these pictures to be powerful but also quite timeless. All photography has a cultural context. All the categories of Child Photo Competition capture children in many different contexts and environments, and it is always an eye-opener into the world of children. I’ve noticed recently more and more entries from Asia and so this competition has become even more global.
Q: Where and how do you learn photography?
A: I learned photography in Abu Dhabi and did a short course on how to use a DSLR camera there. I also did several online workshops with some favorite photographers and this was very useful in learning the creative and technical aspects of photography more fully. As well as pushing me creatively, the workshops helped me to figure out which settings work best and how. Now I return to the same settings, over and over, and these settings help to create a style over time as well. I’m still keen to explore new workshops as there is always something new to learn.
Q: What do you think of “opponents” in The First Half of B&W Child 2018 Photo Competition?
A: I always think the standard of photographs submitted to Child Photo Competition is very high. I find that they are always powerful, emotive, and authentic. There is a tactile quality about them as well, as though I’m right there in the scene and can somehow feel the action going on around me, the light and noise. Or the peace. I’m never removed. I don’t think about opponents when I enter a competition, I think about whether I’m submitting my best photographs or not, making the best pictures I can.
Q: How would you define your photography in a few words?
A: Cinematic, joyful, quirky
Q: Who are your favorite photographers or photographers that inspire you?
A: Irmina Walczak. Particularly the “Portraits for Yayá” that can be seen on Lensculture.com. I have looked at these pictures several times trying to figure out their magical still quality. There is just something mesmerizing about them, hauntingly beautiful and pure. Also, Peter Lindbergh is incredible. I bought a big book of his, years ago, before I’d ever thought of picking up a camera, and it’s a wonderful book of huge black & white pictures. He’s a world-famous fashion photographer but he really brings out the human aspect, the spirit of the person through movement and gesture and of course emotion. He’s brilliant at capturing masculine and feminine energy in a fearless passionate way. He also has a beautiful website. Otherwise, I’m inspired every day by many other photographers, the list is very long.
Q: Where do you seek for an inspiration?
A: It’s hard for me to take a picture that I don’t feel first. I’ve just moved to Ireland and I’ve been looking for inspiration around Dublin at the moment. So far I love the train stations, the piano at Pearce station for people to play while they’re waiting for the train, the texture and glass in the carriages, the light passing through tunnels and beside the sea. Inspiration can come from small things too. I’ve always wanted to take a picture through a rain-spattered window, and in Ireland, I will surely get the chance! I often dream up a picture I want to take and then practice until I get the capture. Sometimes the initial idea evolves into something completely different to what I had imagined, but that’s okay: children have a mind of their own. I try to embrace the unexpected as often it will lead to somewhere more authentic. Aside from noticing the environment, I love books, movies, music, paintings, fairytales, and myths. I’m a romantic at heart. So anything that I’ve internalized is always a source of creativity even if it’s not always conscious.
Q: What is in your camera bag? What camera body and lenses do you use?
A: A Nikon D610 and a Sigma 1.4 Art lens. That’s all I’m really using at the moment. So far.
Q: What about lightning?
A: I’m a natural light photographer. For a long time, I was using only golden hour light, partly because this light in Abu Dhabi would be splendid outside in the garden and on the balcony of my house. I also love the last light of the day as it can add mystery. My house in Abu Dhabi had quite low flat light during the day which I found a challenge, but some houses are treasure troves of light throughout the day. I can’t wait to figure out the lighting in my new house here in Ireland!
Q: Do you edit photographs in Lightroom or Photoshop? Do you have some favorite actions/presets that you are using for edits?
A: I use Camera Raw to make all my preliminary edits, and then I have a plugin in Photoshop by Totally Rad! called RADLAB. I’ve only ever used RADLAB because it’s incredibly easy to use and the actions are great. They are film inspired actions but I use them on low percentages so the effects are subtle but noticeable. It took me time to learn that (for me) less is more. I very rarely go more than 30% on any action in the palette, and often as low as 5-15%. I’ll mix two and occasionally three black & white actions together, and then add a few effects such as the glow. In Photoshop I’ll mask off some of the sharpening actions. Again I might use two or three different sharpening actions to really bring out details in some parts of the picture. I use the Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop to create more depth with highlights and shadows. When I first decided to do more black & white I found many YouTube videos very helpful.
Q: What is your proudest moment as a photographer/artist?
A: This is my proudest moment. I hoped that some of my pictures might be featured, but I didn’t expect to win the category.
Q: Do you have any advice to offer us fellow photographers and artists about photography?
A: I’ll share something I found inspirational recently. I read an interview with a photographer given the opportunity to take Sally Mann’s portrait. She was very nervous about taking her portrait and Sally Mann at one paint came over to look at her picture on a screen: “Stop trying to get it right” she said, “just take the picture” (Leslye Davis, The New York Times, 2015). In the end, Sally Mann’s favorite picture was technically imperfect showing her hand in a very odd way. Her advice to “just take the picture” resonated with me because sometimes the mind does have to step aside and let the senses take over. I think there is truth in this quote: “the world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper” (W.B Yeats). However, sharpened instincts take a lot, a lot, of practice. Some people may have a natural flair from the start, but either way, it’s about putting in the time. There will always be setbacks and frustrations, and feelings of having reached a plateau of sorts, but sometimes the setbacks can be used as fuel for inspiration. I think it’s important to be positive and hopeful. I’ve also found it good to put the camera down for a while, sometimes a couple of weeks, in order to leave a gap for inspiration to come rushing back.
Q: Can you share some of your favorite photographs from The First Half of B&W Child 2018 Photo Competition?
A: This has been the hardest question by far because I can’t decide. They are all so good. I love all the pictures by Marcel Kolacek in Documentary & Street, also “Do Homework” by Sanshan Chen, “Class 3” by Long Huang, “Little Teacher” by Guoxiang Sun, “Campervan Dats” by Fiona Saxton (Documentary & Street). “ALEX” by Alexandra Gubina, “Summer Time” by Magdalena Adamczak, “Le cheval et l’enfant” by Elodie Chabrier (Lifestyle). “Tribe Flowers” by Guoxiang Sun, “Eye Spy” by Helen Whittle, “Iliya. Maxim. Artem. Yuriy. 2016. Stia” by Marina Kazakova, “In the Raging Wind” by Kellogg Summer (Fine Art). “Zephyr” by Lee Jeffries, UK, “Half Empty Half Full” by Uliana Kharinova, Russia, “Be Still” by Jayme Ford, “Window Frame” by Nichole Quinn (Portraits).
Q: Do you have any advice or message for photographers who are participating in photography competitions?
A: Enter a competition whose work you resonate with. If you’ve never entered a competition before maybe start sharing your pictures on a favorite online blog first. Many feature weekly favorites. Otherwise, my advice is only this: share the pictures you love the most. If a picture stirs something in you, it is more likely to stir something in another person as well. Don’t worry about producing something that you think a particular judge will love because winning pictures are sometimes very hard to predict. In essence, pictures are emotional things rather than intellectual things. The emotive power of a picture is likely to trump technique. Sometimes imperfection can be wonderful too, and honest. Go deep to produce the pictures that reflect who you are at the core of you, as they will be the most authentic.
Thank you very much, Caroline!
You can follow Caroline on Facebook.