NZ Local News

Paraparaumu woman’s photo takes first at Documentary Family Photographers Awards

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Lianna Nielson. Photo / Grace Odlum

One day, on a trip to Brisbane with her family, Lianna Nielson snapped a quick photo of her three children.

She said the photo showcased the chaos of raising a young family – but she had no idea it would be the winner of multiple awards, including first place in an international photography competition.

Nielson, who owns the photography business Black Sand Studio, has submitted the photo to various competitions since she took it about two years ago, but when she submitted a portfolio of photos to the Documentary Family Photographers Awards the photo of her children placed first in the world, in the single image category.

She was also runner-up for Documentarian of the Year and had another two images as runner-up in the single image category.

“I’ve entered a few over the years, and they’ve slowly gotten better.”

She said she was thrilled to have received the award but was more excited that her whole portfolio was a finalist.

“I guess … sometimes it’s like ‘I made this awesome photo’, but was it a one-off, was it a fluke, but if you get an award for a series of photos it’s like ‘my work, in general, is at that standard’.”

Nielson, who was placed 17th in the world in the This is Reportage (Family) awards, at the end of last year, has been interested in photography since she was about 11 when her father had a digital camera that she played with.

Lianna Nielson's winning photo.
Lianna Nielson’s winning photo.

Eventually, she met her husband, Les, and he was also interested in photography as a hobby, so he taught her a bit about it.

She bought an SLR camera and took a couple of online classes on Creative Live, and found she loved photography, so she practised photographing her own family.

“I still practise on my family.

“I take my camera everywhere because I am actually trying to capture everything.”

At the time she was working as a speech and language therapist, but after taking maternity leave for the birth of her first child, she decided to start up her photography business, focusing on family/lifestyle photography.

She ended up quitting her speech therapy job to focus on the business, which was a huge decision for her.

But after watching another class on Creative Live about documentary family photography she knew that was what she was passionate about.

Another one of Lianna Nielson's photos.
Another one of Lianna Nielson’s photos.

Documentary family photography is a type of lifestyle photography that focuses on “normal” family life and isn’t posed like typical photoshoots tend to be.

“[Typical lifestyle photography] looks natural, but it’s not candid.”

Documentary family photography works where the photographer comes into the family’s home and acts as “part of the furniture”, photographing their everyday life.

“It’s basically bringing photojournalism into family photography.

She said documentary photography is about all the moments, including the happy ones, the sad ones, and the stressful ones because they are “just as valid”.

“I love that it just captures what’s real. It’s so much more meaningful.”

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