Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Shortlisted for Professional Photographer of the Year 2014 awards


I’m often asked what I do when I’m not taking pictures of the families I’m lucky enough to photograph – and the answer is, taking more photographs for fun! I love photography and it’s a massive part of life, both professionally and also in my spare time.

I’ve always been a great fan of landscape photography – it’s been a passion since my Dad took me to Iceland on a landscape photography trip when I was nineteen-years-old with the inspirational photographers David Ward and Joe Cornish – photographers who I am now proud to call my friends. My husband Tom and I, along with my parents, my brother Giles and many of our landscape photography friends, have been on numerous trips, armed with tripods and filters to take pictures for fun. It’s the most wonderful way to relax.

This year I have discovered a different genre of photography. I’ve always had an interest in street photography – my Dad’s library of photographic books introduced me to masters such as Cartier-Bresson and Elliot Erwitt at a young age. This year I have begun to delve more deeply, watching hours of documentaries on street photography and building up my library of books at a frightening rate. It’s a genre that has so much to teach the family portrait photographer – capturing that fraction of a second when everything aligns and makes a picture, working with often challenging light in a busy environment. I’ve found myself pouring for hours over books and learning new ways to approach things, and new ideas that I can bring to my family portrait photography.

I’ve also been heading out and about with a camera. When my father died in January, he left a beautiful Leica M9 – a stunning camera that is as far from my usual Canon 1DX as chalk to cheese. It’s small, light and manual focus – I find it hard to use, but the results can be beautiful and I have been heading out on my occasional days off to roam the streets of London, seeing where my feet take me, following the light and the action to take pictures – taking pictures for fun, for the sheer joy of looking.

I was thrilled this week to learn that one of these pictures, taken with my father’s beloved Leica, has been placed second in the prestigious Professional Photographer of the Year 2014 awards in the Street Photography category. It’s a great honour to have an image placed so highly and I am thrilled with this result. I know my Dad would be pleased and proud to know that I am using his favourite camera to continue to produce images and to have so much fun along the way.

This is the image, taken outside the members room at the Tate Modern in London after a day of photography and before visiting the stunning Matisse exhibition. I hope you like it.

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