March 9, 2021 | Awards

An Interview with Rashida Keenan – Open Creative Photographer of the Year 2021

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Rashida Keenan won the Open Creative Photographer of the Year 2021 title and finished 2nd in the Portrait Category.

Having won IPPVA photographer of the year 2019, Rashida Keenan continued her winning streak this year by scooping first place in the Open Creative category — the IPPVA having to skip the 2020 title because of Covid. This year, she also placed second in the Portrait category.

I am obsessed with beautiful light. My desire is to capture real moments, true connections & raw emotions.  I am deeply fond of creating timeless and nostalgic images of my family and yours.

Kitchen scene of a mother and her three small children. The youngest two are sat on the ground while the eldest, a boy, sits on a chair as the mother cuts his hair with an electric trimmer.
Rashida Keenan — Bronze Award in Open Creative

Would you share with us a little bit of background on the awarded work?

To have won Open Creative Photographer of the Year with the IPPVA really means so much to me. I am absolutely delighted. Three of my top scoring images in this category were personal images and that makes it even more special for me.

The ‘throwing water,’ shot was taken during a family holiday while camping in the South of France. One evening the children were having a water fight. I moved them to a slightly better location outside our camper van and just captured them as they had fun.

Two children play on a small, tree-lined road. They are in swimming clothes and are throwing water at each other with buckets. The movement of the water is frozen in mid air.
Rashida Keenan — Bronze Award in Open Creative

The ‘dunking apples,’ photograph was taken at Halloween. It was a Halloween tradition when I was a small child and I wanted to recreate it with my own children.

Three children in the kitchen, at a countertop. One child is dunking for apples in a large bowl, while a slightly older child is pouring a jug of water over them. The third child, a toddler in a high-chair, looks over their shoulder at their siblings.
Rashida Keenan — Bronze Award in Open Creative

Lastly, the bathroom shot was taken one Saturday morning while bathing them all. The older two had already climbed into the bathtub while I was getting the youngest ready. They take their goggles into the bath, so they don’t get the water in their eyes. This image was completely unplanned. As Violet ran towards the bathtub, I sat back and watched as Isaac and Arabella chatted to her over the edge of the tub. I knew straight away it would make a fantastic shot and I wanted to remember that moment. I shouted to my husband to grab the camera and two minutes later I had the shot.

Black and white image of a freestanding bathtub. Two children are inside wearing goggles, talking/laughing with the third child, a naked toddler who's standing outside the tub with their back to the camera.
Rashida Keenan — Silver Award in Open Creative

The fourth image was a group breastfeeding shot, that I took for World Breastfeeding Week. I was approached by a local breastfeeding coordinator to shoot this campaign. It is a subject that is dear to my heart and I was delighted to get involved. The inspiration behind the shot was to create a Vanity Fair style image that showed how breastfeeding can be both glamorous and powerful. It shows that it doesn’t need to take place behind closed doors. I wanted to celebrate the beauty of breastfeeding and have the ladies feel and look fabulous while doing so.

Fourteen women are posed on a pebble garden path surrounded by large trees, on a bright and sunny day. They are all holding and breastfeeding their babies, and they are all dressed in fashionable evening gowns
Rashida Keenan – Bronze Award in Open Creative

Last summer I was contacted by the editor of one of China’s most popular photography magazines, Portrait Photography. This magazine distributes throughout Asia. They asked if they could publish my work. I was delighted to see these images printed over 14 pages. My image also made the front cover of the September 2020 edition.

We know a lot of our readers will love to hear more about gear, equipment and post treatment. Tell us more, please.

The awarded images in the competition were shot with:

  • A canon 5D MKIV
  • 35mm / 85mm or 24mm (All canon L-series lenses)

Since the competition I have switched over to the Canon Mirrorless R5. The newer images have been shot with a RF35mm & R5.

  • Lighting the indoor scenes, I have either used natural light or a combination of natural/artificial light. I have the Rotolights and Profoto B10 with a large deep white umbrella.
  • In post-production, I have applied my own preset to all images in lightroom and then finished the image in photoshop. I am drawn to low light and colour — you will see that come across in my work.
Kitchen scene of a little girl sat on the floor, staring into the camera, surrounded by flour and other baking goods
Rashida Keenan — Bronze Award in Open Creative

What are you working on at the moment? Any personal projects or commissions you want to share with us?

With the current lockdown, I haven’t been able to do any client work for many weeks now. My Spring diary has also pretty much been wiped out. I have very little commissioned photography work in the pipeline for the coming months. However, I am always taking personal photographs and that helps to feed my creativity. I am working on some educational content for the Hello Storyteller photography community. I like to be kept busy and I love nothing more than creating. I have some ideas for images that I would love to create over the coming weeks and months.

Over this past year, I have also been working on creating a children’s clothing label. I started a new company, Rashida and Noah Designs, and I will be launching it in the coming weeks.

two children running through a field of tall grass, chasing bubbles
Rashida Keenan — Bronze Award in Open Creative

Is there a particular image or artist that has inspired you?

Definitely my greatest influence and inspiration are my children and my family life. They have inspired every image I have taken. I have a desire to record and document these fleeting years in our lives. My goal is to record them in a way that is nostalgic and timeless.

The works of Wes Anderson and Norman Rockwell are really inspiring to me.

I also admire the work of many current photographers. Just recently I discovered the work of Adrian Murray and he truly is a great storyteller. I do also love emotive imagery and the work of Twyla Jones has always been a favourite of mine.

living room family scene. The father is relaxing with a newspaper and a cup. One child is mid-air, jumping from one couch to the couch where his father is seated. The other two children are playing on the ground
Rashida Keenan — Bronze Award in Open Creative

Have you had any other professions before becoming a photographer? Did you study photography or are you self-taught?

I have always loved art, photography, and design. However, life experiences lead me to a different career path. I was part of a community rehabilitation team for the HSE, for almost ten years, as an Occupational Therapist. I worked with young adults who had sustained head and/or spinal injuries. It was hard work and I often found it difficult to switch off after I returned home.

In my heart, I knew there was something else for me. I started painting again when I was about 29 and the following year I began to think about photography. My husband bought me a second-hand canon 5d mk11 on my daughter’s first birthday. I fell in love with photography straight away. Six weeks later I left my job with the HSE. I enrolled in night classes at a local college while also enrolling for a diploma with an online university.

I never envisioned that things would take off so quickly for me. I am very passionate about photography and it certainly doesn’t feel like work. It brings me so much joy to be able to create images that tell a story and that others can relate to.

a toddler poses next to a small table with a birthday cake and helium balloons.
Rashida Keenan — Bronze Awards in Open Creative

What would be your 3 main tips for a photographer with a strong portfolio of personal work wanting to start a business?

  1. Have confidence and believe in yourself: Starting out in any new business is daunting. Stay focused and work hard. Create your social media accounts. Post the personal images and the client work will follow.
  2. Find your own style: Create images that you feel passionate about and that move you. It’s great to be inspired by other photographers but try to avoid copying another photographer’s work. Being original is the key this will help your work to stand out.
  3. Make friends in the industry: Join professional organisations. Some of my best friends now are colleagues and I speak with them daily. Working as a solo photographer can, at times, be very lonely. Having the support of an organisation and friendships with like-minded individuals is invaluable. Finally, take up any mentoring opportunities that come available.
A woman holding a toddler takes clothes off the washing line in a back yard garden surrounded by hedging. Two other children are playing on the grass with a dog
Rashida Keenan — Bronze Award in Open Creative

What would you most love to photograph right now if Covid restrictions weren’t a reality? What do you miss the most?

This is a good question. It would definitely involve travel to somewhere hot and beautiful. Many years ago, I travelled around California. I spent a few weeks in Yosemite National Park. I made a promise I would return someday with my family. It was such a beautiful place and I would love to take the children there and create some magical images. One day It will happen.


Find out more about Rashida Keenan

IPPVA OPEN CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2021 IPPVA OVERALL PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2019 IPPVA PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2019 Rashida is a multi- award winning, wedding, family & childhood photographer living In N...

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