A professional photographer for over 20 years, Annette Hawkins admits that her passion is photographing people and their relationships with one another.
> When did you first get into photography?
I must have still been in a nappy! Incredibly, it was 1980 professionally.
My personal collection is witness to my early work as a ‘soon to be tween’ (unheard of then), which includes a study of my sister ‘Donna in dress-up flamenco style skirt (spread accordingly) with flower in wheelbarrow’. Other earlier masterpieces include ‘brother in gumboots’ and my darling Grandmother in numerous positions, all at my request.
The seed was planted and my love of photography grew. My Aunt had travelled to Great Britain and exotic places like Spain and Egypt. I loved her images, idolised her and treasured the memories that she had created, and of course, dreamed of doing the same one day. Dreams do come true.
In 1980 I started my career with Geoff Tull at The Manning Studio as a photographic retoucher. No Photoshop then, and with a keen eye, steady hand, very fine brushes, photographic dyes, pencils, skill and lacquers, blemishes were removed and images enhanced.
I was soon assisting Geoff and honing my skills as a photographer. The business thrived; we married and designed a purpose built studio on 5 acres at Kolodong, complete with creek, bridge and gazebo. It was not unusual for us to both be photographing a wedding on the property at the same time.
We discovered we were great business partners – not so great on the personal level. After our divorce we continued to work together until the late ‘90s. Geoff remarried and went out on his own, and I continued at Kolodong. After a devastating robbery, I designed and built a studio in Taree on the corner of Wynter and Flett Street.
Technology allowed a move to the coast at Wallabi Point, where I am able to create great images for my clients, giving them variety with the glorious natural environment all around me. Facilities also include an air-conditioned studio and beautiful natural light. The technology travels with me on home or property photo shoots, with camera and laptop. It is all about convenience in today’s busy world.
> Best thing about living on the Mid North Coast?
Just being here! Look around us! I grew up on the banks of the amazing Manning River on a dairy farm at Kolodong. Some of the best things for me are the sights and smells, our natural environment. Have you ever flown over this area? It is truly incredible, with an intricate embroidery of rivers, valleys, hills, mountains and coastline.
Those of us who live on the Mid North Coast in the gorgeous Manning Valley and Great Lakes area live in paradise. There isn’t too much hustle and bustle and we can travel 20 minutes by car and be in a totally different environment – a little longer into the mountains, and you feel like a character from Lord of the Rings.
> Most memorable day on the job?
That’s a toughie! Every day is a pleasure. What first comes to mind is photographing a two week old little man, up-close for a black and white collage … his face, hands, ear, tummy, feet. Getting up-close ready to frame my next shot and … he weed right up my lens.
The surprised reaction from me scared him, and we had to wait until he had settled and I had dried the lens before we could resume. It was hilarious! His parents and I were in stitches. That little story will come up now and again on those occasions like his 18th birthday
> Does technology play a large part in your work?
Humungous! From getting it right in camera to uploading images to the computer, to colour enhancement and retouching. I have confessed to being around since 1980 professionally. I would photograph clients, bag the film and send it to a professional lab. The images came back, clients made their selection and negatives were returned to the lab for enlargements. Most of the effects were done in camera.
Digital is wonderful; we have so much more control, and in having that control spend hours in front of the computer – an essential tool. Effects are usually done after the shoot, and bruises, cold sores and blemishes are now much more easily removed. Other enhancements are made, not overdoing Photoshop techniques, giving clients a more natural look.
> For a typical shoot, how much time goes into each stage?
A typical shoot? There isn’t one, really. All clients are different as to what they want. A family shoot may involve grandparents, pets, girlfriends, boyfriends.
A baby may need a feed or a nap. A photo shoot may take 30 mins to 3 hours for a woman’s shoot with clothing changes. Then there is the preparation, getting images ready for clients to see. If a client has requested black and white images, I will have these ready for them to view.
The possibilities are endless. Sepia images (the brown and white images we see in our grandparents’ albums) are also popular.
There are some great funky effects with something to suit every age and lifestyle. Design and image enhancement is done, and time again depends on the amount of images and designs.
Weddings and digital collages or montages are time consuming, and the custom work is rewarding and exciting. My clients have something unique and personal, whether for their wall décor, wedding story book, or album.
Using a wedding as an example and depending on the amount of images shot on the day, from photography to completed album, the time involved can be 3 to 4 days, which includes preparation for clients and the newlyweds making their image selection.
I double check images, making sure they are ‘just right’ – my policy is to give clients only what I would be happy with myself (which will mean an occasional hold up as something goes off to the lab a second time).
There is the printing of proof booklet for image selection and the preparation of DVDs. I still cry at weddings – such a momentous step in our lives. I love to see the faces of couples as they look at their wedding story book and relive those moments … private moments witnessed by family, friends, my intuition and trigger finger.
> What are your specialities?
People. I love photographing people and their relationships to one another. I’ve mentioned weddings with all their fun and emotion. The bond between mother and child, father and child, is so precious, and babies are delightful at any age – especially new-borns, recording those tiny features forever.
Babies grow so quickly, their personalities emerging along the way. Children in general, toddlers, those terrible twos (which aren’t so terrible), just terribly cute! Preschoolers, tweens, teens, families and generations of families, couples, lovers, women – portfolios, contemporary, classic, intimate portraits … forget Carson Kressley and ‘how to look good naked’. It is a privilege to be able to share and record ‘moments’ in people’s lives.
Pregnancy is another amazing time in a woman’s life, and yes, I do photograph men, whether it be for a business portrait, a portfolio or something natural and environmental.
> Thank you Annette.