Coming from a creative family, and being surrounded by artists most of her life, Jett Street was destined to follow a creative path. Her career in the arts and community industry has meant she has worked with designers, models and musicians in a range of guises.
These days the Darwin-based photographer takes images of her clients through her wedding and family photography work, and shares everyday adventures through her Instagram page Little Karama Gangsters.
Living in a generous artistic town like Darwin has meant Jett has regular contact and collaboration with like-minded creatives. As she puts it, "In Darwin, you don't have to reach out to anyone - you have to try not to bump into them when you are ducking into the shop to buy milk."
You started exploring photography a few years ago - what drew you to it?
After my first daughter was born, I wanted better quality photos than I could get on my iPhone. So I piled all my birthday money together - along with a generous top up from my husband - and bought an Olympus mirrorless camera.
I didn't realise what I was getting myself into. I have categorically lost more sleep to photography than having two children.
In my early years, I played the clarinet, saxophone and drums. After uni I completed a degree in animation and in fine form. While at uni I procrastinated with jewellery making and silversmithing, along with some bad acrylic paintings which are sadly still hanging in our house.
I come from a really creative family. I was always the straighty-180 growing up, but I couldn't fight my genetic lineage forever. My mum had three kids, drove a white BMW and was a photographer. I am basically tracing her footsteps.
What do you love about taking photos?
My focus is to try to capture all the detail and magic to trigger and preserve those memories and in doing so document the story of our life or those parts of other people’s lives that I’m invited into.
Photography has enriched my life in so many ways: through the interest and observation in our story, of people, light and environment, and to experience and capture new adventures. It is a passion I can pursue whilst being present with my children, and it adds a layer of intent to my days. The photos of our life are the icing on the cake of a pretty fascinating craft. The more you learn, the more you realise you know nothing.
The word “photography” comes from the Greek words “phos” meaning “light” and “graphe” which means “to write.” Photography is the art of writing or drawing with light. I have spent a lot of time observing and studying light, which is a large influence for my work and also a part of my every day. It’s an enchanting thing to notice and one which I would have otherwise ignored. I love light, and sometimes that is all I care about in a photo. But the other 70% of the time, I am also intrigued with capturing the character and the story.
Can you describe your style of taking photos?
I love to capture the antics and character that define our daily life. I adore well-crafted images of ordinary things like eating cereal, brushing teeth, making cubbies and climbing stairs. I usually make mental notes of things the kids are doing, or how they are doing it, which speak to their character. And when possible, I try to catch this on camera.
I am starting to notice that it’s the challenges and rewards of photography that have me hook, line and sinker. It’s like gambling, but without the imminent bankruptcy.
For the record, I have burnt the porridge while waiting patiently for a moment to happen in that magical morning light. Many of my images come with their fair share of sacrifice.
How does where you live influence your work?
I grew up in Darwin and Karama was the suburb that the KGB came from (the Karama Ghetto Boys that is). So it endearingly became 'the bad part of town.' I reflect some of that gangster-ness in my stories and images.
Some of my first favourite images were taken in the swamp over the road, which I joked was our local park. Because I spend time in the neighbourhood with my kids, we stumble across some great graffiti, behaviour and characters. Living here has given me a creative license and lens through which to view the general rough and tumble of my two girls.
How do you work with your clients to tell an authentic story through photography?
This is something that I am still working on. Many of my first wedding bookings were from people who "didn't want wedding photos."
I developed an approach which is 90% documentary and 10% posed. You need some classic shots in there too, but this doesn't have to come with a side of cheese. I love weddings because there is so much activity, love and magic.
I also do in-home documentary for families and newborns. I encourage families to leave all their daily rituals until I arrive. This way, they are usually so busy doing, and not faking it, that they relax and I get some amazing moments.
You tell stories of your family through words and images. Why is this creative act important to you and how does it complement your professional photography work?
This is one of my favourite rituals and it’s a barometer for how busy and happy I am. If I can pull together some thoughts at the end of the day to share a story and a favourite photo, it means I have some mental space to do that, and it also reflects a presence I have shared with the kids through time and observation.
I started out doing this to share anecdotes with family and friends. It has become a really valued network with other "mamarazzi" from around the world, many who have played a role in my development as a photographer. I love to record all the details and parts of life that are so fleeting. It is basically, my diary, and a future gallery and love letter to my kids, to reflect our life and what I loved and noticed about them. They will never know me as a 33 year old mum when they are older, but hopefully when they read all those tangents, they will get a feel for my character as a Mum of young kids and how much I loved and adored our life.
I feel like I need to post regularly to keep some of my family and friends up to date on what the girls are doing. I also pledged to put my favourite posts into a book at the end of each year, but I still have to do 2016 and 2017. So the public accountability is a good thing.
You’ve recently branched out into sharing your knowledge through workshops – how important is creating connections with other creative people in your community, and how do you reach out to other creatives?
The reason I get so many good photos of my own kids is because I am living the same life, in all the nooks and crannies and for the best light of the day in any room or place we visit. If I teach other people to use their camera, observe light and develop a style of storytelling, then they can too. There is no one better positioned to document your days than you. You know the people, their character and the story and you have a unique perspective on it all.
Photography has helped me to focus on the beauty in our everyday life. Sometimes as a mother at home with kids (before I was working part time) being able to see and capture the humour in the chaos and mess was an absolute saviour. Even if you don't have kids, it injects a creative and interesting perspective into your daily ritual or travels. I hope that others can fall in love with it too.
I am fortunate to have been a part of the arts sector I was very young. I was able to hit up local artists to make animations with their images, use musicians work for soundtracks and collaborate with designers, models and other innovators.
In Darwin, you don't have to reach out to anyone, you have to try not to bump into them when you are ducking into the shop quickly for milk.
I have made some amazing friendships with local photographers who provide a reciprocated love of the craft, are collaborative with skills and ideas, and give my husband’s eardrums a break.
Could you share some other creative women who you are being inspired by at the moment?
My mother Linda Joy is an incredible NT landscape artist. If I keep tracing her footsteps, maybe I will become one in 20 more years.
My sister Matilda Algeria is a brilliant fashion designer. My other amazing sister Imogen is killing it in the recruitment and technology industry, while bringing Make-a-Wish dreams to life in her spare time.
In the NT, Yo Bell, Jess Ong and the rest of the team are doing some incredible work with Spun, their storytelling nights. They are bringing all the best characters and stories to life through their events and podcast. Amazing listening.
In the photography world my top five would be:
- Helen Whittle from NSW, for her beautiful portraits.
- Niki Boon from NZ for the most incredible documentary photographs of her life.
- Twyla Jones for her emotional storytelling.
- Meg Loeks from the USA for her incredible style of classic and magic, environmental portraits of her children.
- Elizabeth Wood from the UK for her storytelling, self-portraits, and general feeling.