Honoured and Humbled, Every Time – Spotlight on CPC 2015 Speaker Kristen Cook
Kristen Cook is an internationally-recognized talent in newborn photography – her ability to connect with the tiny people she photographs shines through in every photograph. We’re so looking forward to her presentation at CPC 2015, and it’s our pleasure to introduce you to her with this interview.
Thanks so much for taking the time to let us get to know you a bit better! We’re really looking forward to connecting with you at CPC 2015 – but for now, we’d love to hear more about you and your career. First of all, tell us about life in Melbourne and what makes it a great city!
Melbourne is like the best friend you never knew you had. It’s big enough for adventure, but small enough to feel like home. It’s a food, art and coffee mecca and a haven for the mind and soul all year round. I’m proud to call it home.
If you had to live anywhere other than Australia, where would it be?
I keep changing my answer to this many times, but I’ve settled on Amsterdam – beautiful, vibrant city filled with culture and one I have always said I could see myself living in. (Sorry Melbs, I still love you!)
What are two little-known facts about you?
I used to be a lawyer in my former professional life – probably as far removed from an artistic and creative career as you can get.
My second is my party trick – I have no solid bone in my nose. I can flatten it completely. CPC2015 attendees… you’re in for a treat!
What are your three favourite non-photography-related things?
My children, peking duck and singing at the top of my lungs.
If you weren’t a photographer, you would be…
Performing in musicals. I basically do that every day… just without an audience.
Tell us about your discovery of photography, and when you knew it was going to become your career.
I never sought out to be a photographer – photography found me. As I mentioned above, I was a lawyer in my previous career, and almost 10 years of my life had been dedicated to the study, training or profession of the law. After heartbreaking struggles to have a baby, when I did finally fall pregnant with my baby girl I simply couldn’t bring myself to go back to the same environment I was in previously. I became besotted with her. I craved to document every moment. I knew very little about photography then, but the drive and determination to learn and get better and better to be able to do these sweet moments justice grew stronger day by day. I had moved from an environment that was so intellectually driven to this gentle time that pushed my ability to simply sit still. So I studied. I read. I practised. I felt a renewed fire and my business grew from that passion. I now wear my ‘mum with camera’ badge with pride.
How did you learn that newborn photography was your passion? Are you surprised that this has become your career path, or was this the direction that you saw your photography taking from the start?
When I first started in photography, I was very much focused on children’s portrait photography. I would shoot on location – parks, beaches, homes. Newborns however, always had my heart. I knew that in order for me to continue to thrive in the business and to nurture my passion, I needed to do what I loved. For me, there was no question that this was photographing babies. I have been exclusively photographing babies in my portrait work since 2009, and it has been one of the best choices that I have made for my business. It has allowed me to embrace the true joy in my heart and reconnect with what started me on this path. Every session is a constant reminder of what infinite possibilities and hope arise from the little person in front of me. I feel honoured. I feel humbled. Every time.
I know you focus on communicating personality and character in your images. Many of us rely on words, tastes and personal style to discover those things about an individual – what clues do you look for when unearthing the personality of a baby that’s only a few days old?
There are so many delicious details to be found beneath the surface of what may seem to many as ‘just another baby’. I think too often photographers become immune to the process – they become blind to what is in front of them, to what they’re really seeing. I spend a good amount of time prior to the start of a session simply looking over that baby and taking in all of its individual and amazing characteristics and features. I listen intently to the stories that parents will tell me about their little ones during the session. They will tell you everything that you need to be inspired by that baby without even realising it. They may have only known that baby for a week, but it’s a week longer than anyone else in the entire world has spent with that child.
Similarly, how do you begin to connect with newborns when they are non-verbal and often asleep?
Time and trust. The process is so much more about knowing babies than anything else. Connecting with them requires trust and establishing a pace with them that they feel comforted and safe.
What are some of the challenges of photographing newborns and babies?
Ensuring that parents are as well cared for and well looked after as the amazing little people they have brought into the world. It is a whirlwind experience in the first few days of being a new parent – and it’s often the first time they’ve been through it. I am such a firm believer in energy – if the energy being reflected from the parents is worried or stressful, undoubtedly always the babies will pick up on this in some form. My aim is that parents experience nothing but a connected, safe and relaxing space during that time we spend together so the experience they have and remember is just as beautiful as the images they keep.
Where do you look for inspiration when you’re feeling creatively dry?
My aim is to draw inspiration from that intensely beautiful tiny human who is in front of me. There is always something to be inspired by and beauty to be found.
What is your one absolute must-have piece of gear?
Your career has led you around the world both photographing and teaching – where’s the coolest place you’ve been because of photography?
My very first workshop was held in Paris… so for purely sentimental reasons, I have to go with that.
Can you give us a teaser of your CPC 2015 presentation? What can attendees expect to take away from your session?
I would love to attendees to come with an open mind and open heart for some serious soul discussions about what I do, and for people to walk away with the confidence and freedom to know that discovery, exploration and mistake making are all part of the process and that embracing imperfection is healing.
You can check out more of Kristen’s work at her website here.
Article by Stacey Knopp.