Rachel Callander - NZ

After losing her daughter Evie, who had a rare chromosome condition, award-winning New Zealand wedding and portrait photographer Rachel Callander turned her talent to capturing the beauty and abilities of other children with "Super Powers".

Rachel travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand meeting ordinary families being made extraordinary through the journeys their children are taking them on. As a result of her travels, Rachel's insights and images offer a fresh understanding and language regarding disability. The photographs of the children alongside the conversations with their parents are presented in the Super Power Baby Project, a photographic art book.  The book was awarded the Outstanding Book of the Year Award for Independent Spirit in the international 2015 Independent Publishers Book Awards in New York. The Super Power Baby Project does not shy from the notion that genetic syndromes bring with them their share of challenge, grief and difficulty but provides a strong message that there is much that lies beyond that. Rachel demonstrates that these children have much to teach us about themselves and ourselves, which is to be celebrated as truly exceptional and is making a positive difference in the lives of all who read it; giving hope to families, challenging the deficit mentality around disability  and celebrating awesomeness.

As well as publishing her successful book, Rachel was invited to give a TEDx talk in Auckland 2014 and now she has gone on to share her message of acceptance, inclusion and celebrating diversity to audiences throughout New Zealand and Australia.    Rachel Callander IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year Award 2015 NZIPP Wedding Photographer of the year 2011 Fellow of NZ Institute of Professional Photographers (FNZIPP) BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts)


Seen Rachel before?

Speaking highlights include presenting at the NZIPP Infocus conference 2014 and my TEDx talk in Auckland.  Since then, I am really proud of the fact that I am being asked to speak to health professionals to share the images and message of the Super Power Baby Project.  The images are challenging the way they see and talk about disability and this is so powerful. Photography combined with a simple yet strong message, is making a difference and I am so excited.   One of my favourite client experiences was recently when I photographed my first lesbian couple's wedding, one of whom is in a wheelchair and has a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta. They were a bit worried about height differences and the one in the wheelchair (no names right) was concerned that she'd look ugly and hated photos of herself, didn't want to wear make up and didn't really want it to be about her at all. I loved this couple immediately because of their incredible story, their absolute depth of love and total optimistic hope and belief in their future. I told them that I didn't care about make up either and only wanted to capture them, as they see themselves and how their people see them. It was the most powerful wedding I have ever been to. There is a line in the song Dignity by Bob Dylan that goes..."Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed, dignity never been photographed"... all I could think about when I was photographing this amazing couple's wedding was that dignity was so powerfully present, almost tangible like you could pluck it out of the air and hold it in your hands. I was there with them, in that defining moment, photographing their dignity, their love and that part of their absolutely inspiring story. I learned, that love and dignity can be photographed. Because humanity is diverse and beautiful if we have eyes that serve.

What gear/software/tool could you not live without?

Coffee.. and my trusty Nikon D810. My camera helps me to see/ interpret the world. It is an extension of myself. 

Who inspires you and why?

I am most inspired (this might sound odd) by words, lyrics and concepts rather than other imagery. Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese philosopher artist and writer, has been a constant companion to me in my life and a lot of my work will have some thought of his words in it somewhere. But Nick Brandt as a photographer blows my mind. I love that he is using his talent to inspire change. He is an advocartist (may have just made up that word) advocate and artist.

Please list your top 5 songs to listen to when you are editing/working.

When I edit or work I actually need it to be quiet or my brain gets too full. But I love music and at the moment I am really digging Chet Faker, Dustin Tebbutt, Banks, I adore Mumford and Sons, and Chemicals by Little May is gorgeous.  

What’s in your Camera Bag? What’s your favourite lens?

My camera bag (I actually use it as a general overall everything/travel/handbag when it's not being home to cameras because it makes me feel good and look cool) is a super rad ONA bag.  My favourite lens I stupidly traded in and now I need to find it again but it was the Nikon 105mm 2.8.  BUT the Nikon 58mm 1.4 is GORGEOUS (and not cheap hence trading in my trusty 105mm) I have a Sigma 35mm 1.4 art lens, Nikon 70-200mm 2.8, a couple of 50mm 1.4 manual old school lenses in various stages of funtionality, and a Nikon 24mm 1.8 that I am hoping to trade in for a new 105mm... because I just love getting close. I shoot with Nikon D810 and df bodies and to be honest... gear stuff, drives me a bit nutty. I kind of just wing it and if a camera or lens feels good, then I'll work with it.  


I'll talk about my beginnings, lessons learned, mistakes made and how who you are as a person is so much a part of your craft.  I'll share my story and how photography is now part of my world in a way I never expected. My presentation traces the journey of a dream, and will open your attendees up to a way of using photography they may not have thought about. I'll cover navigating change, finding your personal legend and thinking big. My presentation will inspire the heart, and help your attendees to connect with their own stories, their own journeys and encourage them to consider their place in the world, not only as photographers or artists, but as someone with a voice. 

Who will benefit from this session?

New photographers starting out and trying to navigate their place in the world as photographers and artists, photographers interested in personal projects and how to make them bigger than they imagined. Anyone who needs a bit of inspiration to think/shoot in different ways.

You will learn about how to use your creative voice in a way that is authentic. You will be inspired to think differently about how things can be done. You will be encouraged to see yourself, your life and experiences as part of the amazing whole that makes you the artist you are. You will be inspired to be brave.