FAMILY

FARQUHAR FAMILY | BRISBANE, GOLD COAST FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER

Michelle and Angus' property was something I always dreamed of - falling into the 'some day' category. Green space everywhere and lush gardens. Lots of room for the kids to run around. And a huge old tree to shade us from the sun during our hot summer days here in the north. Set upon a hill, their neighbours a paddock away to each side, the tranquility is deafening. The best kind.

Michelle reached out to me when she wanted to update their family photos. They hadn't been professionally photographed together as a family since their three children were small, their youngest was just a toddler. Their eldest now in his final year of high school with the younger two following just a couple of years apart. Time passes so quickly.

As Michelle walked me through the hallways where those framed prints from over a decade ago still hang, I felt a pang of such deep truth in what I do. Mixed with sadness. This is it - our lives. Moving and changing everyday, in the smallest and biggest ways. So many years had passed - her children staring back at me from the walls; chubby cheeks and the perfect extra arm rolls, all their tiny little baby teeth on show in big, carefree smiles. And now - they are all tall and lean, perfectly self conscious teenagers, their blonde hair turned dark, and Michelle is barely hanging on to the title of not-quite-the-shortest-in-the-family. 

Michelle had told me she wanted to have photos done so many times as the kids were growing. It was always on her to-do list. And suddenly, ten years had passed. And that's life. That's what happens. Of course they have photos of those years in between, but as with most families, the majority would be with just the kids, or just dad and the kids, or maybe a few times a year, mum makes it into the frame. But rarely all together. And we're are all guilty of that.

Every time I'm asked to photograph a family - together - I feel like their story gets a new chapter. Written and frozen - forever. Michelle will remember everything about this time in their lives when she looks back on these photos. All the love and heartbreak. How she fit perfectly under her youngest son's shoulder. How her daughter was *almost* taller than her. How her eldest boy had made it all the way through his schooling journey that seemed such a long, long road, ironically not that long ago. And how, after all these years, she still looks at Angus the same way.

 

HARRIS FAMILY | GOLD COAST FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER

I've been blessed to photograph the beautiful Harris family multiple times. Rachel and I first met when we were placed in the same mothers' group over a decade ago.

Rachel and Mark are some of the kindest, warmest people I know. The times when I've entered their home in a frazzle with cranky toddlers in tow and motherhood angst weighing heavily, I always left lighter - calmer - recharged. Rachel is the kind of mum I always wanted to be - patient, warm, gentle. She encourages the quirks that make her children unique. She shows patience and love always. Home is a place of refuge and comfort, enveloping you and your senses the minute you arrive at the door. The walls and floors alive with personality and whimsical art. Evidence of love everywhere. She has this crazy knack for thrifting and roadside finds that she can bring back to life with a lick of paint. Even mid renovation, while she complains of the mash up of old and new, longing for the day for it all to be finished, it is bursting with the juxtaposition of fruity colour and a serene calmness. And there is always - always - hot coffee and freshly baked bread (courtesy of Mark).

Fox and Poppy are bright, chatty, curious and kind. And then there's Gil - the star of the show.

 

JESS + ROHAN | HOME BIRTH

I got the call just before 4am. This quiet, gentle voice whispering down the line. Tahnee, it's Jess. I'm in labour..

Jess lived about 75 minutes away from me, on a good day, with no traffic. When she reached out to have the birth of her fourth child photographed, I squealed with delight - a home birth. I'd only photographed hospital births before - which I am all for (my three were born in hospital) - but to witness the difference of a home birth, I was curious.

As Jess offered up more details about her pregnancy and previous births, her location.. my squeals of delight began to dissipate knowing the odds were stacked against us. Fourth baby, previous births all going smoothly, no complications, quick labours, over an hour between us.. yep.

Jess was fully aware that it was more probable that I would be documenting the first hour or two after baby arrived, rather than the birth itself. And she was on board for whatever was to happen.

I hoped and prayed the whole time I drove through the darkness. Asking the universe to help us out - I knew how much Jess wanted her final birth to be documented. I passed green light after green light, hit the highway and felt as if time stood still for brief moments to allow me to get closer to Jess. Exactly one hour later, I arrived, without speeding. It was as if I'd been in some kind of weird time travel. I pulled up not knowing whether baby was already here or still on its way.

Jess told me the door would be unlocked and to come on in. I entered a completely silent house, following a faint light down the passage. As I came into the living room I could hear rhythmic breathing. That was it. Instantly, I felt huge relief and excitement that the universe had listened (and baby too). We exchanged quiet hellos and I asked her midwives and mum how she was going. Less than five minutes later, Rohan Oliver arrived - her fourth son. Dad, and their three older boys were sound asleep.

These were possibly the most challenging conditions I have ever worked in. 5.30am. One light source not directed toward Jess. Trying to capture the images Jess wanted without making every shot a grainy mess was staring me in the face the whole time. Once Rohan arrived, he really didn't like my little light shining in his face every time I tried to get him in focus. I switched to manual focus - in almost darkness, and hoped for the best. The results were not perfect - far from it, but the imperfection here is so much lovelier to me. I had to remind myself the honesty in documenting a birth is far more important than technical perfection.

The unplanned variables of birth photography are what make me love it so much - it is so challenging. To be-give-show the right amount of invisible, support, closeness, distance, angle.. all while showing the utmost respect for the woman in front of you. I met Jess at her most vulnerable - barely clothed, in the final stages of labour. A stranger walks into your living room and you exchange hellos for the first time.

To be invited into these incredibly sacred spaces and moments in time, is like nothing else. To be handed such trust is something I cannot find the right words for. It is a bigger feeling than words. Jess will have these photos forever. And when she's old and grey, they'll be passed to her sons. And then onto her grandchildren. And her great grandchildren.. such is the beauty and magic of a single photograph.

 

REBIRTH

We recently relocated, from Melbourne to the Gold Coast. When you tell people you're making such a big move, there is usually genuine excitement shared. At least in my experience anyway. Friends and extended family have known about my longing to live near the sea, and be closer to my family for quite some time, so many a response was of genuine joy that we were finally making the big move. A decision that was made early last year - you know, post Christmas with the new year stretched out in front of us like a huge piece of blank paper just waiting to be coloured on. God, I love those first few weeks. Renewed energy, a clean slate, but still a slowness about everything during the holidays. When anything is possible and this will be THE year that we finally do all the things we've been meaning to.. and then you blink and it's APRIL.

Late one night I asked my husband - what do we want? What are our goals? Are you HAPPY? What are we working towards? What are we waiting for? Before our kids came along, the goals were so clear. Find a good job, fall in love, get married, save enough money to buy a house, have babies. And then.. what? We did all those things - wonderful things - and then the monotony of daily life and raising three small children blurs your vision a little and the goals become something much further away. But then I stopped and thought - what ARE the goals? I'm not even sure what they are anymore? We were just existing. A lovely life indeed - but just going through the motions. A beautiful, big home - the kids in a wonderful school and kindy - both my husband and I (mostly) happy at work - ample friends and family - money in the bank - freedom to do most of the things we wanted to do. But I still felt like there was a better life for us somewhere else.

I left my proper office job when we had our daughter, going on nine years ago. We've lived a simple life for me to be able to stay home with the kids as we've added to our brood, and I am forever grateful for that. During those early years, they say the days are long but the years are short. And it could not be more true. We had three in just under three and a half years and it was right for us. Busy, sure. People thought we were a bit nuts but I've never been too concerned by what other people think. Now our eldest is edging closer to double digits and our youngest preparing for school next year, our little world has shifted. Life is no easier or harder than when they were babies - the challenges just present themselves in a different way. And if I'm honest, I think I was a better mother to them as babies. Big personalities and confident spirits are to be encouraged and admired - but they give challenge a whole new meaning when parenting. I don't think I was a very patient person last year and the overwhelm of motherhood swallowed me a few times just to prove its point. I was listening (and sometimes just holding on for dear life), but I was definitely listening.

Everything just felt a bit stuck. Like we'd been treading water for too long and our arms and legs would soon fail us. Something had to change. So we changed it.

Selling the house, signing exit forms from school, packing up the house, farewelling friends. Even though I knew we were making the right choice to move, I felt pangs of fear dotted through the whole year of preparation. Then I'd give myself a pep talk to pull my head in and I was fine again. As long as we're together, we'll be fine.

I thought once we'd moved, everything would feel instantly fresh and new, comfortable and familiar given we had been holidaying on the Gold Coast regularly since my parents moved up nearly thirteen years ago. But it just didn't. I couldn't work it out. All I could think about was all the wonderful things we'd left behind in Melbourne. I couldn't for the life of me, remember any of the reasons we had chosen to move away. And I was sure there had been a lengthy list. Even as I write this, I can feel the anxiety of questioning why had we done this? The kids' up and down struggle at school those first few weeks was something we'd never experienced. And - very gratefully - something that disappeared quickly but not without much self doubt and useless pondering as the mother, carer, keeper of sanity and happy children. The tears would fall freely during my evening shower and I felt better for it afterwards. Just once I felt so overwhelmed, explaining what was going on in my head to my poor husband, sobbing into his chest, hearing my own voice and wondering why I didn't sound like me.

Change is hard. I always thought I was good at change. Until we moved. And then the universe said, Yes Tahnee - you are very good at SMALL change. But totally shit at BIG change. Just like everyone else. Because change is HARD. And we are creatures of habit. And those two things really don't mix.

I am happy to say, things now feel like a new normal. The second half of term brought with it happy, settled children - and in turn - a much more settled mother and wife. Our days are warmer and lighter, and days by the sea as wonderful and frequent as I had hoped. This move has taught me a myriad of things I cannot find the right words for.. but that old friend, Time, seems to step in right when we need - reminding me that he will heal most things if you leave him in charge long enough.