Family snapper walks tall among his peers

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One of Jeremy Byrnes’ prize-winning images.

AFTER recently becoming the first family portrait photographer to win overall at the AIPP ACT awards, Jeremy Byrnes is hoping it’ll shine a light on the innovative and creative potential in his genre.

While Jeremy has won his category before in NSW and the ACT, this was the first time he, or any other family portrait photographer, took out the AIPP ACT Professional Photographer of the Year.

And he says he owes a lot of it to his wife, business partner, and the woman he moved to Canberra to be with, Katie Kolenberg, who is also known for claiming state and national awards for her family portrait photography.

“When I met Katie it was the right time,” he says.

“I didn’t have any friends or family in Sydney and felt like I was floating around in this big empty shell.

“It was like a bomb of lightning that woke me up and reinvigorated my love for photography.”

They met on the dance floor at an industry event late one night and discovered they had all these mutual friends.

Prize-winning photographers Jeremy Byrnes and Katie Kolenberg with children August and Toby. Photo by Jodi Bingley

At the time, Jeremy was running a family portrait business in Sydney while Katie, a single mother who was inspired after taking photos of her son, Toby, was running one in Canberra called Heartstory.

“It took us a few years to come together and be working in the same city together,” Katie says.

“In 2014 we officially merged our businesses and it’s been ‘go, go, go’ since.”

The decision to merge businesses was an easy one for them and as Jeremy says, (long story short) they fell in love.

But, they say their “ideas and creativity matched up” too.

Now Katie, 42, and Jeremy, 45, live together in Crace with Toby, 11, and  4-month-old August, and work together in their studio in Belconnen.

Their colleagues often joke and say: “Who’s going to win next time?”

But, Katie says they’re not in competition.

One of Jeremy Byrnes’ prize-winning images.

“How can we be?” she says.

“We have the same goals, we’re best mates, we’re husband and wife.

“People say they couldn’t imagine working with their partner but I couldn’t imagine not working with him.

“If you work on your own as a creative, you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off but we have constant support for each other.

“When it comes to all of the awards we have, there’s no way either of us would have done as well without each other.

“We’re too good a team.”

And, as for Jeremy’s recent big win, he seems pretty chuffed to have the validation and so does Katie.

“It’s the first time that a family photographer has ever won in the ACT overall,” she says.

“Family photography has always been looked down on, so for Jeremy to win that, it’s not only validating for his skills but also for the genre.

“It’s a massive win for all family photographers.”

Jeremy will head to nationals in August, and feels it’s within their reach to see them winning the overall national award one day.

“My aim is to push the boundaries of what people preconceive of our genre of work.”

Katie says the difference with their work is they get to know the family, so they can capture the real personality and emotions.

“We don’t want to just take a photo. We want to create art,” she says.


Jeremy’s winning photos are at

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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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