Behind the Lens | Lesley Colvin

We catch up with one of our favourite photographers, Lesley Colvin to discuss family life, photography, teaching children photography and treating each day with a ‘once in a lifetime’ attitude.

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You are a photographer and mum of three, could you tell us a bit about your life?

Our daughter Ella is 8, our son Jones is 6, our daughter Kate is 3. My days are busy and full and the very best kind of crazy.  I feel very blessed indeed that I’m able to stay at home with my little ones and I only work when it’s a photography project I really want to be involved with.  It’s a dream job!

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As any mother of young children knows, it can be utterly exhausting taking care of little ones all day long. I can honestly say that some of my favourite moments are the early mornings when my children tiptoe to my bedside with bright eyes and happy smiles, eager to wake me and start our morning. Most mornings are far too early for my liking, but I try to remember that this phase won’t last, and that soon it will be me tiptoeing to teenagers bedsides in the morning. Then I’ll be the last person they want to see rather than the first. I’m really trying to enjoy this moment in time as a mother, as I know it will surely pass far too quickly. 

Ella and Jones are in school full time, Kate is in preschool a few mornings each week, and we have as many adventures as we’re allowed after finishing homework and attending to our daily jobs around the house.  We love to explore the city and we take the opportunity to travel as a family as often as we can. My husband has a very busy work schedule and we see him in the mornings and on weekends, and often that’s about it!  Because of this, I’ve had to learn independence in caring for my little ones as well as being brave about adventuring on my own. We truly cherish our family vacations when we have daddy all to ourselves, and travel as a family is a huge priority for us because of this. 

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We love your concept of each day being ‘once in a lifetime’, could you tell us more about your approach to photography?          

As a graduate student I studied historic building conservation and learned to approach my work with respect to today as well as decades down the road. My approach to photography stems from this training; in addition to capturing beautiful formal portraits of my own family and clients, I strive to capture details that will tell a complete story. Simply put, my approach to photography is to capture what I want to remember. 

Time is something we never get back, which is I why I try to focus on continually capturing memories of my family.  You never know when life will change, and change it always does!  I love to have adventures with my little ones, and we take as many opportunities to seize the day and make it special. It doesn’t take much to impress children, and even the smallest effort goes the longest way.

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In my personal work, I focus more on the little moments rather than the monumental. I would wager that most people pull out the camera for birthdays, Christmas, the first day of school, and family holidays. Oppositely, the body of my personal work contains all the moments in between: photographs of children playing quietly, homework strewn out on the table after school, baking together as a family, children reading to each other, walking to and from school, running errands, and casual walks in the park.  I document the day-to-day activities that make up our lives, for this is what I want to remember.  I also like to capture my children in their many moods, not just when they’re happy. I find that this approach helps me remember more fully what each phase of life is like.

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Looking back in thirty years, I want my clients and my own children to see images that spark vivid memories of that moment in time. I love to capture details and the in-between moments that truly tell the complete story and show them more than how cute and happy they were:  I want them to know how we lived and how we loved. I capture what I want to remember.

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 Do you teach photography to your children? If so, do you have any tips on how to do so?

Yes! My children want to jump right in and shoot, just like they want help with the cooking and cleaning as they see me doing it. I think it’s important for my children know what my job is and to learn about the equipment I use. I try to teach them about proper exposure and capturing images the way you see them with your eye. This is so easy to do with iPhones these days because you just tap the bit of the frame that you want to capture and the iPhone does the work of brightening or darkening the image for you. 

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I try to teach them to capture photographs of things that mean something to them. I love it when they ask to borrow my iPhone and then return it with a smile and twenty shots of their most recent wooden block masterpiece or lego creation.

I try to teach them that they should capture people and moments as they are, and that they don’t always need to ask their subjects to turn and smile. And just as I do for myself, I try to teach them to capture what they want to remember.

We’ve started buying disposable cameras for the children when we travel so that they can take their own photographs. They’re virtually indestructible and easy to use (as long as you’re shooting in bright sunlight!), and it’s so fun to see what the children choose to capture.

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