“KIDS can be unpredictable and you don’t always know what you are going to get, but it is lots of fun!” says award-winning photographer Katie Kolenberg.
Late last year Katie was named the 2015 AIPP Australian Family Photographer of the Year at the Australian Professional Photography Awards, which is the highest national award in Australia in the genre of family photography.
“I have entered the awards every year for the past six years, I always worked hard and aimed high, but was so surprised when they called out my name!” she says.
Her winning entries included a beautiful portrait of a nine-month old baby girl, who Katie photographed in her studio in Crace.
“When she turned up, her mum apologised to me that her pigtails were uneven, but I told her it was perfect the way it is! It created a compellingly asymmetrical quality to the photograph,” she says.
Eight years ago, Katie was on a year’s maternity leave from her job as a graphic designer in the public service and it was this break from her previously busy lifestyle that gave her the opportunity to rediscover her passion for photography.
“Having a baby and being at home started it all for me,” she says.
“I started taking photos of Toby and realised how beautiful it is to capture children and families, their special moments, and their wonderful expressions.”
So began Katie’s new career as a portrait photographer, starting her own business, Heartstory.
“It was a massive decision, especially considering I had no formal training in photography or small business, so of course I was scared it wouldn’t work out,” she admits.
“My big personality wasn’t always right for an office job, but it’s perfectly suited to having fun with families and kids and bringing out the best in them.
“I grew up wanting to be my own boss and make my own rules. And I’ve always loved photography; I just didn’t think it had enough purpose until I started photographing my own family.”
Katie built the business into a full-time job but it was not without challenges.
“All small business owners know how hard it is to switch off and maintain work/life balance, which is even harder when your work is your absolute passion!
“It’s taken me six years to figure out the right balance, and even now there are times when work takes over and I struggle,” she says.
In 2012, Katie went through a marriage break-up, which meant that she was faced with the decision to step the business up another level or let it go.
“I love what I do so much. I felt I owed it to myself and my little boy to keep on swimming. Challenges make us stronger and more resilient,” she says.
Her partner, photographer Jeremy Byrnes, was also a finalist in the national awards, which made it a doubly happy occasion for Katie.
Katie and Jeremy have been shooting together for the past two years, which Katie says has been a wonderful combination of their skills and personalities.
“We have started to merge our styles! We have begun to emulate each other and, as life and business partners, complement each other.”