The project of growth

Photographer: Niki Boon | Editor: Katie Jett Walls

Essay: Niki Boon

“...I think we all experience it at some time...and if I said I didn’t , I would be lying ... I have known for a while that my photography required a lift or at very least, as an artist I was seeking further growth…”

Ernesto Bazan’s pictures had me intrigued and in awe from the minute I first saw them. With their complex compositions where everything seemed in the right place at the right time, all seeming to hold many layers within them, both aesthetically and psychologically.

Through a series of wonderful happenings in my photography journey I was able to attend a workshop of his in October 2018, in Oaxaca , Mexico. We had the opportunity to get beneath the surface of the Day of the Dead celebrations by visiting with people and places all thanks to Ernesto’s intimate knowledge of the region.

A culture a world away from my own, it was so strange and yet so beautiful. Living with people that take time to celebrate and honour family and friends, both living and dead.

The  workshop was about more than just photography. With Ernesto’s guidance every day was a lesson in humanity, sensitivity, passion, humility and kindness. He has a special way of connecting with unique moments and he helped us all to look, to really look, to see the magic when it seems there is nothing. Always challenging us to go beyond merely descriptive pictures.

Through the daily critiques I learnt about what works in a picture and what (mostly ) doesn’t, about the importance of balancing form with content, and ensuring every aspect of the frame is accounted for. Ernesto’s honest and thorough approach to the daily critique process was hard but so enlightening. He encouraged us to improve our photography skills beyond the technical. To go beyond the outer layer, beyond the obvious and reach for the poetic.

I was so hungry for good pictures and was up from first light till sundown, working hard  in an effort to make something worthy of a selection in daily critique. Amongst many other things I learnt that a good photography project is best slow cooked. The value of patience, which is a massive challenge for me and that it can take days, weeks or months to make a good picture. That the better pictures are created from a place deep inside and this can only be achieved via the process of opening up and recognising what truly moves you. Meaning the process of both self–reflection and focus are essential.

I signed up for this workshop to challenge my creativity, storytelling and photography beyond the world I knew at home. Ernesto helped me to realise so much more than that. Through his deep humanity, vulnerability and insightful teaching my eyes were opened to the power of soul and spirit to enrich my photographic expression. 

Niki Boon is a former physiotherapist, mother and self-taught photographer living with her family in rural Marlborough, New Zealand. Her photography focuses on her family and their environment.

“I grew up on a farm in rural New Zealand, with a childhood barefoot, wild, and free. In part my photographic work pulls from my childhood freedoms and adventures that still exist so strongly in my mind. Today we live on a small block of land where I strive to replicate this childhood for my children… it is here in our wild and wonderful surroundings that I endeavor to tell their story ... Life as it is.”

Learn more about Ernest Bazan’s Photo Workshops here.