Sheridan Nilsson was searching for a location with big skies, fall colors and enough space to let three young brothers unleash their limitless energy. In Richmond, on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, she found a vibrant, tree-lined driveway that fit the bill. She approached the owner about the possibility of shooting there. There turned out to be Archerfield Farm home of Rock Chic Eggs owned by the ex-manager of the iconic and provocative INXS. He kindly obliged her and, “after the boys arrived the chickens pretty quickly ran for their lives and disappeared into the long grass of the paddocks but it set the energy level for the shoot to 10.”
The horses were braver than the chickens but then we have to expect chickens to be chicken, don’t we?
We spent only thirty minutes shooting as the boys ran around, explored, climbed trees, danced, photo-bombed, joked and generally conspired with each other.
Once upon a time not so very long ago, Sheridan bought props and dressed sets for television and movies. Eventually that led to producing commercials and stills where she had the opportunity to work with some of Australia’s top directors and acclaimed photographers. After the birth of her daughter, the industry hours conflicted with her desire to enjoy her baby. It was in those alternately joyful and chaotic moments that she picked up her camera to document her own life. In 2008, she set up shop and began to capture these moments for others.
Unlike the predictable nature of Sheridan’s previous commercial work, the family portrait business requires her to be flexible and go with the flow. She shoots a lot of sessions at the beach where the environment is on its own program. The light, the tide and the surf are ever-changing. These natural elements combined with how the kids relate to the environment result in personal and unique sessions.
I tell everyone prepare to get wet and embrace whatever might happen, some children think it’s the best fun to go swimming in their clothes and then some kids hate getting wet and just want to build sand castles and chase seagulls.
It’s the children that drive the session, I don’t like to direct children too much I like them just to enjoy the process and for them to be themselves. Allowing them to just be and play generally means you will be able to capture the essence of who they are, that smile or look that their parent recognises as unique to them – not forced or fake.
Sheridan’s careful attention to the individual personalities of small people in the big, natural world quietly recalls the purity of childhood for us lucky onlookers.