Kennetah Gillis’ love for rural life, weddings and family shines through the lens of her camera. A country girl at heart, Kennetah grew up riding and campdrafting and has a passion for horses and cattle; her photos of these gorgeous animals show a sensitivity and understanding of them and their relationship with people.
This sensitivity and understanding extends to the relationships people have with one another too, as Kennetah can capture the most beautiful moments that celebrate marriage and parenthood …
Hi Kennetah. What’s your background, and what part of New England do you call home?
Hi Jo! I grew up on a farm and have always just loved being outside, working on the farm with the livestock. At the moment I am currently in between university degrees, recently graduating from a Bachelor of Agriculture last year. I’m aspiring to be an agricultural teacher when I’m finished.
I hope to always have my photography; it’s a competitive business, so having a career and doing what I love is the plan.
My brother and I were always out riding horses after school, up early to feed and rug the horses, spending time working on the farm when we could.
In 2011, I moved back to Armidale to go to UNE, from a little place called Bunnan, half way between Scone and Merriwa in the Upper Hunter.
My parents gave me my first camera as a Christmas present when I was in high school, and the love for photography just blossomed from there.
I’m currently living in a cottage on a little farm just outside of Armidale; I just adore it so much out here.
What do you most love about New England?
What’s not to love? The colours, the weather, the people. I really do enjoy the colourful seasons and the beautiful people I have come to meet over the past few years. The New England is quite renowned for its autumn colours; they just brighten your day on the way to work.
Why do you take photographs – what is it about photography that inspires you?
I take photos simply because it makes me happy. Being able to go back and look at a special moment and cherish it all over again – there’s just nothing better. Knowing that my photos make people happy and hearing that; it’s a great feeling. I love being able to capture the special moments in all of my clientele’s wonderful lives, so they can go back and look at the photos and reminisce of moments gone by.
What are some of your favourite things to photograph (and why)?
I love photographing rural landscapes and animals; cattle and horses are a favourite. Weddings and maternity are pretty close behind that – so, pretty much everything!
Living on a farm basically my whole life gave me a love for animals. My brother and I grew up campdrafting, and that’s where my love for photography started. Over the years, I slowly moved from practicing sport photography at local campdraft and rodeos and the rugby at Robb College.
Originally, I never really looked at getting into weddings, but I had a few friends who asked, and I ended up with my first two weddings in December 2017. I was pretty lucky to get two pretty down to earth couples to start my wedding clientele, and I have started getting bookings for 2020.
When you pick up your camera and head out the door, what are some of the things you like to include in your camera bag?
Spare batteries and spare memory cards – you can never have enough! I have a couple of favourite lenses that I don’t leave the house without; my 50 mm and 70 – 300 mm are the top two. My flash is the last thing in my bag. Depending on where I am off to, I like to take a tripod. You just never know when you need one, so mine generally lives in my boot.
You’ve taken photos at a few weddings lately. Every photographer know these are special occasions, but they can be fraught with challenges too! What do you feel are the most important things to do to prepare for a wedding shoot?
Yes, they definitely can be fraught. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely adore weddings, but with the wonderful competition (local and Australia wide), sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming to make sure you get THE shot.
The most important is, by far, having everything packed and ready to go the night before, batteries charged, memory cards ready to go and packed and a good night’s sleep.
Getting to know your couples before the day is just as important; knowing what they want and knowing them can give you inspiration for the day ahead. Communication is definitely key with your clientele; if you don’t know who you’re working with, you cannot meet your full potential.
What’s something you’ve found out about photography you wished you’d known years ago?
There are many things I wish I knew! Being self-taught has been an eye opener, that’s for sure. I guess there are always going to be things you look back on and wish you knew.
My biggest thing is the business side of things. I never studied any business subjects or units at school or university, so having more knowledge of that when I started would have been a little easier. I have wonderful friends and family who have supported me along the way, so I am very lucky.
The last thing I wish I knew years ago, was to have more confidence in myself and my work. You are your harshest critic; being confident in the work you produce can change your whole perspective.
What are your future dreams/goals?
My future goals for my photography are just to keep producing photographs that make people smile and to build my client base and keep capturing moments they can hold on to for years to come.
Dreams … I have so many of them. I would love to one day be well known for my photography. Some of the photographers I look up to, you say their name and someone has heard of them or seen their work – I would love for that to happen to me.
Photographing a destination wedding is also high on my bucket list! On that list for years has been wanting to photograph a Highland cow, and recently I got to fulfill that dream. I dream that I can continue to produce photos for as long as I possibly can.
Where can we see more of your photographic work or contact you?
At the moment I am in the midst of getting my website up and going. It is a work in progress, as I am learning a whole lot of new stuff as I go.
For the moment you can call me on 0429 207 879, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my Facebook or Instagram profiles, both Kennetah Gillis Photography.
Interview: Jo Robinson.