I grew up with pictures and stories. My dad used to work as a journalist, and my mom is a talented illustrator, who made children’s books come alive for me with her beautiful drawings. They are also both very keen amateur photographers, and I remember the excitement when we got to watch 35mm slides of their travels on our old projector. It was on those Friday nights in the darkness of our living room, with dust dancing in the light beam of the projector, that my curious interest in photography (and travel!) was born.

After matric I went to study Photography at the PE Technikon, and a few years later, armed with a trusty old Nikon FM2, I travelled the world while working as a cruise ship photographer. My current job is as official university photographer in PE, where I shoot a wide range of subjects and events, using big, heavy, intimidating equipment that I am supplied with. But it is after my official “work hours”, when I pick up my little Fuji X-T20, that it becomes an extension of me, allowing me to focus on my real love and passion for documentary photography. Even though I have been working as a professional photographer for the last 18 years and exploring many different genres within it, I only really fell in love with documentary work a few short years ago, when I was tasked to document the lives of students at our university in the wake of the #Feesmustfall movement. It was during this time that I decided to make the big move away from DSLR, and I bought a little Fuji. It immediately changed the way I was shooting. The small size gave me the freedom to move around in a very unobtrusive manner, and without feeling too intimidating.

 Nowadays my work focuses both on social issues, as well as documentary family photography, where I aim to capture the beauty in real, honest and seemingly mundane moments that make up a day in the life of a family. It gives me the opportunity to search for emotion, relationships and understated gestures that may very well go unnoticed, otherwise.

As a mom of 3 young daughters myself, this approach to my photography has taught me to see our own family’s story in a new light, and to pause at, and even savour, all the crazy chaos that makes up parenthood.

Instagram: @leonette.bower
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