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Brenda Pomponio of 13 Acres

September 08, 2015
Brenda Pomponio of 13 Acres

All article images photographed by Brenda Pomponio of 13 Acres excluding black and white portrait of Brenda below, photographed by Tim Coulson.

We know how much you all love reading our Step Inside articles and, we love bringing them to you. As such, we are thrilled to share with you that with the help of a wonderful new regular contributor, Brenda Pomponio talented photographer and curator of popular lifestyle blog 13Acres, there will be plenty more homes profiled in the future. However, we thought first you’d like to know a little more about Brenda.

Brenda Pomponio

Have you always been a photographer?

No! I have a degree in Psychology and worked for Department of Human Services, as a Child Protection Officer first. I then moved into the non-government sector mainly working to strengthen families through counselling and support. After I had my two children I then worked as a counsellor for the Department of Education and Childhood Development. I’m mostly a self-taught photographer having fell in love with the craft about six years ago when I was gifted my first Digital SLR. I was hooked and I just wanted to know everything there was to taking great pictures. I was at home with the kids and was passionate about taking great photos of them. I did some short courses, then decided to really get stuck in and enrolled in a Diploma of Photography which took me about 18 months to complete and gave me great insight into all the technical elements and theory behind photography.

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What drew you to Photography as a profession?

I have always been a crafty person, as a little girl I was always making something, whether it is sewing or jewellery making. After having children I had some time to pursue those crafts again. I started a craft inspired blog and of course I wanted to take great pictures. So I then became really interested in photography and loved it so I just didn’t stop taking photos. After a while friends and family started commenting on my work that I then considered pursing this as a possible career. My blog was a great way of getting my images out there and it enabled me to advertise in a subtle way and I was getting offers of work which surprised me at first and then I thought “just go for it” and I haven’t looked back since.

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Can you describe your style of photography to us?

It’s a very natural, organic style. I don’t really like anything that needs to look too contrived or worked on so I love shooting in the moment and being rather “invisible” to my clients. I find that this approach gets the results my clients love as it captures that candid, real essence of the moment and true personalities. When I’m shooting landscapes I love finding an odd element, like a fallen tree or a unique symmetry that can tell a wonderful story.

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What is it about lifestyle photography that you love and, what challenges you?

It is unpredictable and I love it. I was shooting a group of men from the local Men's Shed organisation the other day and at first they were a bit hesitant and maybe even uncomfortable in front of the camera. Lucky for me, I think I can draw on my experience in counselling and to pick up on these cues and really just make people relax, connect and almost forget that the camera is there. I ended up capturing the below image of the gentlemen and, probably one of my favourite shots of my career to date. I'm very proud of this image as it will be displayed as part of a local Dementia Awareness Exhibition I'm partaking in as September is Dementia Awareness Month.

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I am aware that a big camera can be quite confronting so getting my clients to relax, have fun and enjoy the moment is probably the part I love the best about being a photographer. That connection with people is what makes my job so enjoyable as everyone has a story to tell I feel so privileged each time I get to record that moment.

Who do you admire in your profession and why?

Oh the list is quite long I don’t know where to begin especially now with social media we are able to share and be inspired by so many in this profession. Tim Coulson is one photographer whom I began following when he was photographing his beautiful wife Kesh, pregnant with their first baby. I attended one of his photography workshops and his passion for photography was admirable and contagious. I have always loved the work of Philippe Halsman, a Latvian born photographer that worked in the US in the 1940’s. He photographed such iconic people of that era from Presidents, actors and singers and after each sitting he would ask them to do one final photo jumping. He even has the duke and duchess of Windsor jumping. I admire that creativity in a photographer to really think outside the square. Australia is blessed with such great creative photographers and a few that I’m enjoying at the moment are Eugene Tan (aquabumps), Louise Brimble an amazing stylist and photographer and Tahnee from Lemonade Lane.

If there was any location or person in the world you would love to photograph, who/what would it be and why?

This is really difficult to answer because I don’t really think about what I would like to photograph, I think more about seeing a moment and trying to capture it when it happens. We recently went on a family holiday through England, France and Italy, and I have to say photographing my loved ones in such iconic places like Stonehenge, The Eiffel Tower and Vatican City was just incredible, but then I also loved getting lost in back streets, quirky cafe’s and European country landscapes.

My photo collection of old doors is pretty hefty too. When you see something you love you get inspired to capture it, even if it is just on your phone. Having said that I feel so blessed to be living in North East Victoria and spoilt for such amazing scenic opportunities to photograph. It happens quite often that I’ll be driving along and suddenly stop to get the camera out and capture an amazing sunset or picturesque landscape.

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You mentioned you were living in Melbourne for 12 years and then you and your husband decided to make a “tree change”?

It took us a while to realise the country lifestyle was calling. We thought we were happy living in Melbourne but our focus started to shift, we wanted to live differently and it was actually our whole philosophy of connecting with our food and traditional family preserving that spurred us on. Both our families live in the North East and we began thinking it would be wonderful to have the children grow up with space and that wonderful country lifestyle. At the time we were holidaying a lot in Beechworth and had already fallen in love with this gorgeous town so in the end it was a pretty easy decision to make.

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Tell us how you found 13 acres? Did you fall in love with the land or, did you fall in love with the local township and just knew you had to live there?

Holidaying here made it an easy choice. We loved the area, we loved the townspeople and were already making connections and friends. One search late one evening on a realestate website alerted me to a new estate a few kilometres from town and it just looked perfect. We looked at one block…it was 13 acres, fell in love and that was it.

You built a new home on your property. We can’t wait to hear more about this process in another feature article but for now, can you describe the time frame from making the decision to move to, moving-in and how that process unfolded for you?

It was actually rather a purposely slow process. My husband was just a few years into his business in Melbourne and whilst we knew we wanted a tree-change, we put it on the back burner for a little while. After about 2-3 years we then engaged an architect to start coming up with some house plans, which took another twelve months. We were fortunate that the first local builder we spoke to we connected with straight away and didn’t really feel the need to look elsewhere. The whole process from buying the block to moving in took about four years.

How did your family and friends react to your news about moving to the country?

Some weren’t surprised! What’s that saying “You can take the girl away from the country but you can’t take the country away from the girl.”

Our friends and family were so supportive as they could see just how happy this move made us. It really was life-changing in so many ways.

If you could, would you have changed anything about the transition from city to country living?

Honestly I don’t think so. We lived in Melbourne during the first 6 months of the build, then moved during the last 5 months so we feel like we were present for the best bits! I mean it is hard going and shifting our whole family and there is a lot of work involved and preparation but it was definitely worth it!

What’s been the most challenging aspect of your “tree change”?

I think any parent that has moved their family would say that you worry about how the children will cope. Our children were aged 5 and 7 when we moved and you do worry about their ability to adapt to a new school, a new community and new house. There were tough moments and the adjustment period is felt by all, children and adults. During those times it’s easy to slip into the mentality of believing you may have made the wrong choice, but when all that new-ness settles then you quickly shift to the thinking of “why didn’t we do this sooner.”

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Do you miss anything about living in the city?

The great thing is, Melbourne is so close still. We often go for a weekend and soak up Melbourne as a tourist! We take in a game of footy, wander through the city and catch up with friends. We are doing things that we never did when we lived there. So I can’t say I miss living in the city, because by living in the country I think we appreciate the city more.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your “tree change”?

It’s definitely been achieving our goals on our property. Not only building our wonderful home, but we set out to really live differently in relation to our food and re-engaging with long held preserving traditions. We raise our own cows that get slaughtered on site that feed our family. We have a veggie garden, chooks and orchards of citrus, apples, pears, peaches and olives. We support local producers and growers and love having our days at 13 Acres making passata in summer and salami in winter. I love watching my children relish this new way of life, getting involved and having fun. It’s so rewarding.

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Is there any advice you would give a young couple or family thinking about taking the “tree change” leap?

Make a plan, prioritise what is important and don’t deviate from that plan. We knew we wanted land to be self sufficient and more sustainable and that wasn’t something we were prepared to compromise on. I also wanted a great school for my kids and town that could offer my family diversity in the way of entertainment, organisations to join and interest groups. A great way to meet new people is to join a local volunteer group as small towns need the support of volunteers for organising events and fundraisers and it gave me the opportunity to make my own connections and new friends.

In hindsight, is there any advice you would have liked to have received before making the move? Or, was there some valuable advice you received prior to moving?

I wish I did have a bit of a “go to manual” in preparation for our move. There was no one in our immediate circle of friends who had made a similar move to ask advice for, so really we did just wing it and hoped for the best. There is so much to plan for like selling the house, packing, storage, moving, new schools, work, etc that at times it did get overwhelming which is why we let the process take as long as it took. So my advice would be to take it slow if you can, enjoy the process and try not to stress, it will all be ok in the end!

The House of Home team would like to very much welcome Brenda as our regular contributor and, thank her for her time and, we look forward to sharing another feature article from Brenda about her stunning home being built at 13 Acres