the gingers – midland railway workshops – family portraiture photography

This family shoot was super special and a mountain of fun. My friend Nat booked in a session with me because her oldest daughter had just decided that she was going to give up ballet after years of study. She was starting high school and was entering a GATE program (gifted and talented) at a wonderful school, and she really wanted to give it all her attention…lots of transitions, all at once! Nat thought it would be lovely (and very important) to document this time of change, with the intention of putting it all into a keepsake book.

Nat had a very clear vision for the shoot and wanted to firstly capture her daughter at home, in her room, surrounded by the things that would soon be put aside for more grown up pursuits. After that, we’d be moving to the Midland Railway Workshops, a space I’d been wanting to shoot in for the longest time, so I was all hands-in-the-air excited. 🙂

The Workshops have an incredible history. They were in operation for a century, maintaining the steam engines that ran right up until 1971 and providing development and maintenance for the entire West Australian rail system. The workshops were one of the major employers in WA throughout the 20th century, and were a vital training ground for tradespeople in Perth. My window washer guy told me that back in the day, if you couldn’t get work, you just rocked up to the workshops and they’d give you an apprenticeship. When they closed in 1994, WA lost a massive industrial workspace, and a whole social structure and community built on friendship, tradition and shared workmanship. Despite the fact that working there was dirty and often dangerous with harsh conditions, it left thousands of people devastated by the loss.

They’re not easy to access, being heritage listed, so while we waited for permission, Nat at I spent several weeks sending each other inspiration shots and getting together to compare ideas and drink coffee and hatch plans. It was loads of fun. 🙂 Getting in there to shoot was a quite literally a dream come true – I’ve been living in the area for years, driving past it all the time, just salivating at the thought of being in amongst all that history and space and epic structure, camera in hand. I’d had several cracks at getting in there over the years, and had been turned down each time. So when we got the go ahead, I just about wet my pants. 🙂

It’s seriously amazing, full of old train-related machinery and bits and pieces, dark in some areas and full of light in others. Enormous cavernous spaces, very industrial, and old. When we placed a beautiful young ballet dancer within it, the contrast was striking, just like Nat had envisioned (she’s very clever, and clearly more resourceful than me!). I don’t really have the words to do it justice, so let’s just look at the pictures. 🙂

Nat has two other equally gorgeous kids, so once we’d shot a bunch of awesomeness with her eldest, we called the other two in and got all sibling-licious. 🙂 Her youngest also dances, and looks pretty darn adorable in a leotard and tutu. 🙂

This is some incredibly cute tushie-shaking – she’s not exactly a wallflower, this one. 🙂

Then we got middle brother involved, and he isn’t a dancer. 🙂 But he is a basketball player, and it’s super important to him, so when he was asked what he wanted to wear, out came the uniform.

Nat’s younger two are such characters. They’re full of mischief and fun, and not a bit shy. We’ve known each other for a pretty long time, though, and that always helps. 🙂

From 2008 to around 2014 (I think), part of the Workshops was occupied by the Midland Atelier, an art and design studio hub created as a partnership between the Metro Redevelopment Authority and FORM. It housed interstate and international artists-in-residence, as well as a number of local designers across various disciplines – photographers, furniture designers, painters, all sorts. It was totally rad, and now there are a bunch of really cool artworks just casually living in the empty spaces, like this amazing Cerberus (Susan Flavell, cardboard, glue and mixed media, 2013). Nat has a (sort of weird, but I love her anyway) affinity with the three-headed monster, so this image is now hanging in her home, nice and big, beautifully framed. 🙂 We’re still finalising the ballet book, so I’ll post about that when it’s all done. 🙂 xox

natalie I love that as well as being beautiful pictures of my kids, these photos are also artworks that will adorn my walls forever. love your work xxx

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