I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and honored that Niki Boon, one of my favorite photographers, is on my blog today sharing her photography journey and some of her amazingly breathtaking black and white images. She took the world by storm a couple of years ago when her images of her children simply being children in rural New Zealand went viral. Her images capture a universal view of childhood that so many can relate to. I know for me, looking at them not only makes them think of my own childhood with fondness, but also strive to create a similarly relaxed and free childhood for my own children. I’m completely drawn into Niki’s world, maybe because she chooses all her images to be showcased in black and white and my focus is on what is happening in the image, versus the distractions of color. In addition to the black and white magic of her images, she also uses layering in so many of her images, which add outstanding depth to the story. Thank you to Niki for finding time in her busy schedule of raising her wild and free children and showcasing her beautiful art to tell me and my blog readers a bit about her journey.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Niki?
I grew up on a farm in the north island of New Zealand, one of five children in our family. I trained as a physiotherapist at university , and spent a glorious 4-years traveling and working overseas, eventually drawn back to my roots and the country I was born into. I was happy to be home , knowing that this is exactly the place I want to bring up my four wild and free children.
With my husband, we live on a 10 acre property with goats, sheep, chickens, ducks and a dog, small vineyard and surrounded by hills, bush , rivers, and wild coast line – all ours to explore.
We made the decision to educate our children at home , and it has been quite the journey so far.
How did you become interested in photography?
My interest in photography started when I traveled and worked overseas after graduating from university
My first lesson in black and white photography was back when I first picked up an SLR camera in my late 20’s. Whilst I was living in England I enrolled in a weekend dark room course, where I spent a glorious two, cold wintery days locked in a tiny room with four others learning how to process and print black and white film.
I fell totally under the spell of the wonder of creating my own prints from scratch. I remember, so well, the endless winter weekend I spent in the darkroom immersed in the magic of it all…. the absolute best way to spend a cold and bleak northern English winter.
I never really focused on it again too much until we decided to educate our children alternatively at home. I knew I wanted to document our days , but I felt that my photography skills were limited , so I put a lot of late nights into researching how to improve my craft. I have taken the long journey of learning how to process an image digitally and the endless search for finding a process that I can love as much as I did my film prints from years ago
What’s in your camera bag?
Up until 2 months ago I shot with a canon 5d mkiii with a 35mm lens. But my canon has been absolutely hammered and taken a lot of places I am sure were not good for it ..and bits are falling of it , and malfunctioning all over the place.. so I recently invested in an Fuji XT2 ( with a 28mm (eqiv) lens which I hope to get .. which I am still building some sort of relationship with.
How do you manage to capture such authentic images with your children?
I think my kids are just used to having a camera around them .. they just carry on , they are usually so absorbed in their games , the just get on with it… It is really them that create the pictures , they are the authentic and creative ones, me.. I am just the one that happens to have the camera.
Did your sudden popularity in the photographyworld take you by surprise?
Yeah .. for sure … It was at the suggestion of a friend that I entered a few competitions one year , I didn’t expect to gain places in them, so that was an interesting and exciting time. I was asked to do an interview with an American website on the back of one of the competitions outcomes and from there, the pictures somehow went viral, with a lot of the websites having never had communication or approval from me at all. It was a crazy time for me. I just went with it to be honest and waited till it all passed and now, well there are still a few interview requests, but they few and far between , and I haven’t entered any competitions for quite a while now. I think that time was just fleeting for me.
How has the extra attention changed life for you? Good and bad? More good than bad? Or maybe not bad at all?
It was a crazy time for sure .. but as I said above, it eventually settled down and after a few weeks I was back to the place I was before . Although having said that , it has opened doors to experiences, opportunities and challenges that I may not have had without the exposure . I have been asked to speak at a couple of conferences, a challenge that I took up (despite being petrified about public speaking) , I have also recently been asked to exhibit a few pictures at a photography festival , which is also very exciting.
I hope to keep taking pictures and documenting a childhood, and will continue to do it for as long as the kids are OK with it. If something else comes of it – books , or exhibition etc.I would love to entertain that.
But basically, at home, I am still Mum- still make the dinners and lunches, fold the washing , work daily logistics of kids extra-curricular activities, wrangle animals, and moderate sibling squabbles and when I have time , take a few photos. Nothing changed there.
What inspires you?
I think my inspiration is predominantly the kids. I am fascinated with who they are, the things they get up to, and how they see and exist in the world.
I am inspired by so many photographers. I am ever so slowly building up a small photobook collection with artists I have been inspired by. I think I am drawn to documentary photographers more than any other genre. I am inspired by their art , but also their passion and drive for their stories and their subjects. Eugene Richards is a photographer who’s work I look at over and over.Being outdoors is a big motivator for me too.
What advice do you have for other photographers?
It’s not very original … but there is a piece of advice I read a couple of years ago from a photographer I am inspired by, who said … if things get tricky with your picture taking ” get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot. Shoot through the block, even if what you are shooting is uninspiring. Just keep shooting.”
Find more of Niki’s work at: