This blog is part of a series of exclusive interviews with the winners of The Fence 2016. The Fence is an large-scale outdoor photography installation exhibited in multiple major cities across the USA. Each year, photographers of all levels are invited to submit work that fits under one or more thematic categories. The Fence was conceived by United Photo Industries and Photo District News in 2011.
Born in North Island of New Zealand, Niki Boon originally trained as a Physiotherapist and spent 6 years working both in New Zealand and the UK. “It was when I stopped working after my second child that I rekindled a passion for photography”, she says. Her current project was born from the desire to document her family’s days as they pursue an alternative education and lifestyle in a rural environment.
Talk to us about your series 'A Sincere place of freedom' - Where and why did this project come about?
5 years ago we decided to homeschool our children. Our journey with this decision lead us to a more ‘child-led’ or alternative education approach with all four of our children. This decision was met with more than a few questions from friends and family. I started to photograph as a way to document what the children chose to do with their days, I guess in a way to justify to others, as well as ourselves, that what we were doing was OK, and the children were learning. I photographed most days, but after a while, I found that the photographs weren’t really reflecting what I was trying to say or what I felt about the situation. It was almost as if they were missing the story completely, and it was then that I realised that it was their story, and I felt a real responsibility to tell it the best I could for the kids. There were a lot of late nights researching all I could on the craft, and a lot more photographing our everyday. Over time the story has ebbed and flowed as our life has changed and as the kids get older. It’s still changing all the time.
Why photography? What does the medium mean to you?
For me, it is a way to tell my children’s story... their childhood. I want them to have their childhood story, and I like that is told through my eyes. I enjoy that there is a little piece of me in each image. My mother died when I was young, and with her went a lot of my childhood stories. I don’t have the photos to jog my memory, so I want my kids to have a record. I struggle with writing, so for me photography is a way to express my thoughts, my views, and how I feel about who is in front of me. I have also grown to love the aesthetics and art of photography.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
I am not one to sit and analyse my life to be honest…. I guess for me, photography is my notebook; a kind of diary for someone who doesn’t write. Recording things that I find interesting to me. How I see and choose to interpret what is in front of me. As I grow with this craft, the more I recognise it’s also more than that; it’s what I feel that comes through in the pictures.
Where in the world are you, what’s next for you?
Well I live at the top of the East coast on the South Island of New Zealand, with my husband, our kids, and a range of animals. Our days are busy with the everyday business of everything that children dream up and the farm demands. This is where I am happy, for now. My kids are growing up so fast, I hope to keep photographing them in some way as long as they are happy for me to do so. Beyond that? I will keep my eye and mind open to all that may present itself. I hope to invest in further long term projects, I feel that photography is a gift and I hope I get the opportunity to share this gift more and more.