It brings me so much pleasure to introduce you to one of my favorite photographers to date, Niki Boon; someone’s whose work I’ve long followed via Facebook and perhaps one of the only reasons I stay on or even log in these days. She’s a relatively new member to our Childhood Unplugged group as well and fits the bill as well as anyone could; living a life off the grid, covered in mud, and outside of the norm. For me, she captures childhood like no other, her images being further complimented by her and her family’s lifestyle itself. Phenomenal self-taught photographer, living life extraordinaire… with no further adieu, I welcome Niki Boon.
Where do you live and how would you describe your home?
We live in the south island of the New Zealand, in a region called Marlborough. We live in a big old wooden house on a 10 acre lifestyle property. Our house has a bit of history as it was part of the a local catholic school’s boarding house before it was moved to this site by a previous owner. Our property has a variety of animals and a small vineyard on it.
What do you and your husband do for work?
Prior to our decisions to homeschool our children I was worker part –time as a physiotherapist. My husband currently works in finance.
Can you touch on each of your children as a subject; how are they different to capture? What do each of them bring to the table? Does one enjoy being in front of the camera more than another? Please provide your favourite portrait of each of them along with this question.
Each of four children are quite different from each other in everyway, which makes for some ‘interesting’ interaction during our days. I don’t know that any of them enjoy the camera more than the others, I think they all accept the camera as part of their , and that if they go anywhere with me , it will be present, certainly none of them play up for it… they generally don’t acknowledge it all , unless I draw attention to it, so there doesn’t seem to be any theatrical performances from any of them at all, at least not for the camera. Occassionally , if I ask for them to repeat something , or just to hold it for a second… then it is usually the younger two and occasionally my eldest that are a little more open to helping me out with that.
You’re not on instagram, but if you were, you’d have loads of images deleted from your account due to “nudity” as your children are often topless. Can you discuss your (presumed) frustrations with the sexualization of young girls? And perhaps touch on your children’s own feelings – even if there are none – toward being topless or even naked in front of one another.
Part of our decision to homeschool our children was so they could develop a strong sense of self without the societal pressure that exist in our world right now, they will be and already are subjected to all the judgement and beliefs that are out there already. I believe very strongly in a degree of freedom that we all possess, and that includes with our body’s. It saddens me that there are others out there that struggle with that. My children think nothing of how they present themselves in day to day life at home, and I celebrate (and document) that. As they grow , I see them becoming more aware of both themselves and how they are viewed by others, it is the world we live in , but hope that I have given them the experience of freedom enough for a base from which to both stand strong grow in this world of judgement we exist in today.
I think those of us that are driven to document can error on the side of obsession at times. Does anyone in your family get bothered by the documentation of their lives? If so, how do you navigate around this?
My children are so used to having the camera around now, that they react very little to it. I generally captured play as it unfolds, but occasionally I might ask them to do something again, or hold it for just a second, and they will sometimes get a bit frustrated with this, which is a reminder to me that I back out just a bit, and to put the camera down too.
I know more about what I am after in a photo now, and when I have got what I am after , which also means that I spend less time with the camera in front of my face , and more interaction with my kids than I used to. Although I will admit , I am just as obsessive as other documentary photographers at times.
The good majority of your images are shot outdoors, what percent of your day would you say you guys spend outside? What does a typical day look like? How do your activities change with the seasons?
We do spend a lot of time outside, yes. But I think it is also because I am also more inspired to shoot outside than inside.
Our activities change a little with the colder weather , often to involve more time inside, but we will still adventure to nearby beaches,rivers and bush frequently , just that the adventures we have there differ.
What kind of chores do each of your children have around the house?
The children are all responsible, at least in part to look after the animals, all that entails. They also assist at times on the vineyard. There are also the regular housekeeping jobs, washing, dishes , cleaning etc… They are all expected to help out to complete all that needs to be done morning and night. They don’t have a specific job list , but rather encouraged to use their initiative (with a few whack of verbal prompting !!!)
I once watched the documentary “Surfwise” about a father that raised his family in various RVs on various beaches; modern day “unschooling”, I suppose. How would you defend the way you raise your children to those who say that kids that are raised this way are at a disadvantage should they chose to be a part of the larger society they’re apart of?
I haven’t seen that movie, but I have heard about it.
I used to take a defensive stand with our choices when talking to others who had strong opinions on what we were doing , but these days I tend to just listen to them , and sometimes I will explain a little more about what we are doing and how philosophies behind our choices, but others times I am happy just to acknowledge that everyone has their opinions, and that it is OK to just nod and smile and thank them for sharing them with me.
I feel our kids are suitably out there in society to know how it all works, at least to the best of their ability at their ages.They interact with a wide range of the community on a daily basis and have a pretty down to earth and real set of parents to make sure the kids are seriously grounded.
Can you touch on your children’s relationship with technology. Do they have one? Do you feel like they’re missing out when compared to gadgets other kids have? Is it ever a struggle to pull them away from screens or hand-held devices?
We don’t have a TV. Although they are on special occasions (birthdays or sickness) able to watch the odd movie on our computer. We own an ipad, but it is not free for all. Our kids have never and still don’t ask for TV or use of electronic devises. I guess they have never had them, so don’t know they are missing out. Am I worried they are missing out? No … they is coming a time when they will be accessing the computer for research and in small ways is is happening now, and as they get older I am sure that will increase significantly as their needs change. But when they are young I feel it is so important for them to learn about the world they live in , by experiencing first hand , with their feet on the ground, hands on the creatures and plants, noses in the air, and tongues in the rain… with all their senses.
What do you shoot with? What’s your favorite lens?
I shoot with a canon 5d mk iii , and currently almost always use a 35 mmm 1.4 lens. I love this lens, it took a while for me to get used to how to use it well, but I think I am getting better. It allows so much of the story in front of me to be told, and lets me play around with composition in the process, which is awesome when I have so so much still to learn about all things composition and light.