My Q&A blog on Childhood Imagination

knight woodland photography session devon

“Childhood last a lifetime.”

I heard someone say this on a radio show a couple of months ago. It’s so true. The things you love, your outlook on life, your character – so many choices one makes in life are based on your childhood. Although I must admit, I’d rather be writing a blog about my latest photo shoot in a gorgeous location in Devon, or about photography tips for photographing your own children, I found this journey back into my childhood and how it has influenced my artistic choices over the years fascinating. So, for once, dare I say, this story begins with me!

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time now, trying to pinpoint exactly which influences from my childhood have helped to shape the photographer that I am today. And as it happens, I’ve also been following an online workshop which asks questions about my childhood imagination. So, here goes:

1.     How do you see childhood imagination?

I see it as a world of great freedom, without boundaries, free to discover and to be oneself. It’s a world devoid of rules but very much based on kindness and respect. I’m still no good at following rules!

2.     What was your childhood imaginative play like?

I do struggle a little bit to remember my imaginative play. I do remember playing with my teddy bears and sewing clothes for them. But most of all I remember being outside. At heart I was an intrepid explorer, I was Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn off on my next adventure. My neighbourhood felt like the whole world when I was little. I grew up in the depths of the French countryside where I liked to explore as far as my legs (or my bike) would take me. I loved to bird watch, deer stalk, fish, swim in the rivers and ‘borrow’ fruit from nearby orchards. Once night fell, I would curl up in a cosy armchair to immerse myself in the amazing far-away discoveries made by Sir David Attenborough and Jacques Cousteau. I dreamt of travelling the world and seeing all these wonderful places and creatures.

little knight, forest, dartmoor, boy portrait

3.     Has your childhood affected our photography?

Without a doubt! I love to take photographs outdoors, on location – especially on Dartmoor, it’s such a beautiful place. I find there is something so liberating about a child being outdoors, where I feel I can capture genuine and relaxed portrait. On a cold, wet and windy winter’s day, I do wish I had a studio space, but generally I am very happy to embrace the elements.

Animals often creep into my photography too. I love the relationship children have with animals. I grew up surrounded by animals and they were a huge part of my childhood. I used to believe they were my best friends and that we could understand each other.

There wasn’t a huge amount of entertainment where I grew up in the countryside, so I spent a lot of time making things, painting and taking far too many photographs on a film camera (sorry mummy!). I still have a very creative mind and I’m very much at my happiest when collaborating on a photoshoot with other creatives. It really is a lot of fun!

4.     As a child, what did you dream of becoming?

A wildlife filmmaker.

5.     Visually paint your childhood like an artist would do with a paintbrush.

It’s very rural. Midday stillness on a hot, sunny day. Fields of sunflowers and drying hay. Ripening tomatoes. Cats sleeping in the shade of trees. (And all the associated sounds and smells, which unfortunately one cannot paint.)

paddington bear child portrait station devon photographer

6.     Who are your artistic influences?

For my A Level art coursework, my two case studies were Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas. I loved the form and textures in Degas’ work. I think a certain stillness, a moment through the times, is present in my child portraiture which I am sure has been partly influenced by these studies, but also by the stillness of all those hot summer days in France.

I hope you have enjoyed finding out a bit more about me and my photography influences. The images that I have included are photos of my boys’ imaginative play. Hopefully they will appreciate them later and remind them of all the things they liked to do when they are looking back on their childhood.

Photographing children in their own little imaginative worlds is one of the biggest privileges of being a photographer. It’s just so exciting and so much fun to be a part of! I’m always looking for inspiration for my personal work, so if your child is mad about something or you feel they have a magical little world happening, please write to me as I would love to put a series of ‘All about me’ sessions together: info@annie.renwick.co.uk