Photography – My Story…

Photography for me has always been a massive part of my life. If I think back to when I was younger, taking photos of my friends has always been important. I have album after album of photos - snapshots in time - a documentary of my younger years and my life growing up. Among the piles of girls holidays, music concerts and school trips, there are always some favourites. One of these favourites, strangely, is a photo of my desk at work! A random thing to have photographed, let alone love, but it takes me right back to those crazy days as a trader in the city, working on a floor full of men. I remember the long work days and even longer nights out and it’s a perfect snapshot of my past, my history, a moment in one part of my life and something I proudly and fondly look back on. (If you saw my work space now, I still work in a mess, just like I did back then - which is interesting because I'm not really a messy person.) Without this photo I wouldn't necessarily remember the fact that every time one of the boys went to Canada they'd bring me back a canned Canadian animal (please see the picture!) or that one of them (thank you Rob!) thought it would be funny to steal these animals from my desk and start sending me postcards and photographs from around the world! Who knew that my canned Canadian moose liked to sunbathe in Mauritius? Rob - you rock for doing this all those years ago!!

Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey

As I went through my 20’s, these photos turned into travel documentaries. There were trips to follow the British Lions around Australia, trips to Hawaii, South Africa, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Las Vegas (to name but a few). I am so fortunate that this list goes on and on and again, these photos help me remember the amazing experiences I've had. I have always taken photos that may seem slightly odd, ie, my hotel room with my stuff everywhere, but they’re so funny to look back on and remember the kind of clothes I wore, the book I was reading or the shampoos and hair products of the day, stuff that changes so much over time. All these seemingly tiny details - ones you just would never remember - added to the typical touristy shots of me stood in front of the Sydney opera house or by the amazing waterfalls in South Africa, help to tell the story of my past.

Fast forward to my 30’s and the birth of my boys was where things moved onto a different level. My first boy was born and my trusty Lumix camera went into overdrive! These photos are nothing "special" artistically but are a document of his every movement and achievement, be it sitting, crawling, eating - we all have all of this documented. Being born in 2004, we were still in a bit of a crossover of getting our digital pictures printed. I have book after book full of pictures of his early days. 

However, when his brother came along very soon after, life was crazy trying to juggle two babies under 18 months old, so the photographs slightly decreased in their frequency and they document our days of living in a rented house whilst our forever home was renovated from a falling down wreck into the place it is now. I have so many photos of the boys in their Phil and Ted double pram, in the middle of a building site, with chaos around them and a bread stick in their mouth - priceless memories of the ordinary that are just so lovely to have. 

The birth of my 3rd son coincided with a new chapter for me in photography. Initially the chaos of having 3 boys - ages 4, 3 and a newborn - took over but soon, as the older boys settled into school and pre-school, I had more time between baby groups - swimming, Jo Jingles and Sparkles - to watch and document the wonder of this small person growing up, still with my trusty Lumix compact in my hands (more than likely a newer one as I used to wear these out!).

About this time, at wedding and parties, I had handled a few DSLRs that my friends owned and I loved the feel of them. I loved the sound of the shutter and looking through a view finder instead of a screen and couldn't wait to get my hands on one for myself. Being a lover of Facebook, which was just exploding into our lives about then, I stumbled across a competition that John Lewis were running, for a DSLR in partnership with Canon. This seemed like the perfect opportunity and whilst I never, ever, expected to even make the short list, I entered a photo. I guess my photo was a bit “different” back then. It was of my three boys sat around the Christmas tree, taken from behind as they looked up at the tree we had just finished decorating. This photo was totally imperfect in every way; there was stuff everywhere, wires all around, things laying on the floor, but none of it mattered because what I was taking was a photo that captured my boys’ wonder and excitement at the newly decorated tree, laden with years of mismatched, homemade Christmas decorations. I’m so proud to say that I actually went on to win the camera, but, when John Lewis shared the photo on their Facebook feed, there were some who absolutely slated it. They said it was contrived, that it was a tip and that they thought the tree was awful. However, among those hundreds of comments were also people who “got” it - people who appreciated my home made tree decorations and the fact that this was a perfect moment caught in time and it didn’t matter if there was a jumper screwed up in a pile on the floor. It made me realise just how cruel social media can be. Luckily for me, I'm an adult who doesn’t get majorly hurt by comments from total strangers who don’t know me or my family or the history of each and every Christmas decoration made by my children - but it did make me think about the world my children would be growing up in, but that’s a topic for another time.

Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey

With a shiny new Canon 600D in my hands, my journey really picked up. I began taking thousands of photos of my boys (back then I didn’t have to pay them in V bucks!). I would regularly throw them all on my big bed and take photos of them just messing about, all in fully automatic settings. I immediately bought a 50mm prime lens, on advice from another photographer, and this is probably where my love affair with prime lenses started. I decided I needed to go on a course to work out how to use this rascal properly! A beginners DSLR course was duly booked, (Nigel Wilson), and in April of that year I spent a wonderful weekend in the back room of a fabric warehouse, with 8 like-minded people, getting myself out of auto settings and into semi auto settings. This course was just perfect for me and armed with this new information, I embarked on the biggest learning curve of my life. That summer, when my boys were still small and days were spent with friends in places like Hall Place, I took thousands of pictures, learning how to control the camera, whilst only taking responsibility for part of its full settings.

I learned so much; composition, which for me, has always been a natural thing, light, speeds, aperture, the list just goes on. My friends all loved it, as the day would end with me processing the photos in my Lightroom software and piling them onto Facebook, in album after album of photos. One friend once asked me what I was actually photographing, when my camera was pointed at a group of our kids just chatting. I see photographs everywhere, I always have, and this photo of the children  just chatting, was exactly that - an opportunity to capture a moment in time - something so fleeting that it’s gone in a second, but for caught forever in the frame of my camera.

More training in London followed; Intermediate DSLR, Advanced DSLR, Lightroom, Photoshop, Dark Room, the list goes on. At some point, and I can’t exactly remember when, my camera moved into fully manual mode, where you take total control of your settings. This allowed me to break the rules - I break the rules at every single shoot! If you ever want a technically perfect photo, I’m afraid I’m not your girl! But if you like my bright, over exposed light-feeling, authentic photos, then that’s me - that’s my style. Black and white imagery is a big thing for me and another reason clients will book me. Some ask for the entire shoot to be in black and white and I believe you get a feeling from a monochrome picture that you can’t get with all the distraction of colour - a pure, uninterrupted moment. Another big milestone in my photography journey was finding something called Back Button Focus. Any of you on the same journey as me, look this up on youTube. It took me a day or two to get used to it but I have never looked back since. It separates your shutter button from your focus button and when you’re taking photos of fidgety, wiggly kids, it makes a massive difference to getting all your shots in focus.

About this time, I started to mix with a group of American photographers, all documentary style photographers like I wanted to be. I took so much inspiration from their work and this helped me with my vision of creating special moments of “the everyday” and of documenting everything and how beautiful that could be. It was at this point I stumbled across a blog called " You are my wild". I still get butterflies thinking about that blog. It used to go live on a Monday in America, overnight here, so Tuesday mornings would have me excitedly logging on while the older ones were getting their breakfast and getting ready for school. My little one would sit in his highchair next to me, looking at the screen with me and eating his breakfast (no doubt while throwing it at me!!) and I would just sit there and stare at the week’s images - so simple but so powerful. I could have cried when they stopped updating that blog but it’s still there, so go on, take a look. Be warned though, there are 52 weeks worth of images and if you’re like me, you’ll get drawn into their beauty and lose an entire morning! I still go back to this blog all these years later and will never tire of looking at it. A collaboration, run in Dallas, with a group of Boy Mums followed and although this project is sadly currently dormant, I had a great time sharing images with this group of like-minded mums, spread all over the world but brought together by a love of photography and a passion to share the everyday.

As the boys grew up and all went to school, I had the time to follow my journey - to see if I could make a go of a business and 3B&ME was born. I had some mentoring with an amazing lifestyle photographer whose work I had followed for some years, who gave me the confidence and help to set up on my own. Thank you Andrea! You are amazing and have helped me so much. So now, all these years later, I have a business in its third year - a wonderful, exciting way to spend my days. I will never stop learning.  Each shoot is a learning curve that never, ever ends. It’s an exciting journey that I hope to be on for years and years. The honour of being able to walk into people’s lives and capture their everyday, their journey, a snapshot in their children's lives, their growing up, their ordinary, is one I hope to be doing for a very long time.

Nina x Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey Bexley family photographer Nina Callow My photography journey  

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nina@3boysandmephotography.co.uk

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Nina is a documentary photographer and mum of 3 boys based in Bexley Village.