Buying a camera when you have a child is a beautiful step in learning how to document with love. That was the story behind Orange-based mum, veterinary surgeon, and photographer, Helen Whittle. “I bought my first DSLR camera while on maternity leave, after having my first child in 2008,” she says. “After realising I was pretty hopeless, I did an evening course for a few weeks, basically learning what all the buttons did.” It wasn’t until her daughter, her second child, was born in 2009, that she embarked on a six-month online diploma in photography.
Fuelled by a passion and desire to take great shots of her kids, Whittle decided to take her photography further. “I desperately wanted to take great shots of my kids, and a year after my third child was born I started a 365 project, which ended up lasting two and a half years,” she says. For Whittle, mastering light was her first step to becoming a better photographer. “Looking at photos every day and thinking and concentrating on what I wanted to capture, and, most importantly, how to use light, was key to my improvement,” Whittle says.
Perhaps the most striking of Whittle’s work is her black-and-white documentation of everyday life. “I love to capture my kids in their everyday, and I especially enjoy taking raw, emotive black-and-white portraits,” she says. When you take away colour from a photo, you no longer see the image through the eyes of design or colour palettes. What is left in a black-and-white image is purely the environment, the people, and the emotion behind the photo.
To date, Whittle has already amassed some impressive awards. She was runner-up for Australian Photographer of the Year (2015), overall winner Australian Photographer of the Year (2016), and a Top 10 finalist in the Australian Photography Awards (2017) Portrait category. In 2017, she had a first exhibition in Orange, NSW, but Whittle says, if she allows herself to dream big, what she’d really like to do in the near future is exhibit in a major international city.