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Towards the end of last winter, photographer Rachael Brown hired a small camper, and set off on an adventure around the North Island of New Zealand.

Her goal: to photograph families in their homes for her series This is Home, inspired by the photos that Rachael's Dad took when she was growing up. Rachael has spent many hours flicking through those photographs. They evoke in her a strong sense of nostalgia, and she hopes her own images will have the same effect on the families she photographs.

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Four years ago Rachael had a complete shift in how she captured family connection. As a mum she felt bombarded by a stream of images that focused on perfection, and that felt unattainable and unrealistic.

"Days as a mum can be long and sometimes a little tough," she says. "But there are also these wonderful, small moments that need to be celebrated."

To Rachael the home is a true reflection of a family unit. It’s also where children feel most comfortable, an environment that's familiar to them. The morning snuggles, tired eyes, little feet, dishes unwashed, art left out, tears, laughter, family breakfasts. They're all magical moments of the everyday, and the things that Rachael now highlights in her family sessions.

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Honesty is important to her. “I never make a pre-visit to a home and re-arrange things, or tell people to buy fresh flowers etc. I strongly encourage my families to leave everything as it truly is. To re-style their home or do some sort of mad spring clean won't honestly reflect who they are.

“I do always ask if they have a favourite time of day together. That often ends up being a weekend, which is usually when we can slow things down, and when people are at home together. Sometimes a family will say to me, 'We love the way our lounge fills with sunlight around 10am'. I'll work with them, and arrive just before that time. Each family is so different, which I think is what makes the This is Home shoots so special."

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Rachael says everyone is a little nervous at first, but after a little chat and a cup of tea the children become more relaxed. She always starts by photographing the kids. They lead and she follows.

Quietness, patience and time are important in this style of photography. It’s about quietly walking in and being respectful of the family's space, taking a step back and being hidden. To portray the family’s essence, and exactly how they are, is what Rachael hopes to get out of every shoot. Breath and relax, she says, and let the day play out naturally. The beauty of these in-home sessions is in those moments where people are being true to themselves.

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This is Home has taught Rachael how to overcome the challenges that arise when shooting in new environments, such as in people's homes where not every room has the perfect light. That's one of her greatest challenges, and working around it can be difficult, but it's something she now embraces in her photography. Slow down and think carefully is her biggest piece of advice. Also, learn to operate your camera, so you know how to adapt depending on what the light is doing.

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Rachael knows how fast her families will grow and change. It's her greatest hope that they will treasure their photographs, and preserve them in an album that can be shared with friends and family for years and years to come. 

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To see more of Rachael's work, be sure to click here.

Alexandria x

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