Bel Pangburn for

River Bennett (Photographer River Bennett)

I had been tapping on the front door of Bel Pangburn neighbour's house when she found me.

"Hi! " she said laughing at me.

"Oh! I thought this was your house!" I laughed back.

"No, but come through this way."

It was the gate to her backyard. Bel's border collie called Native bounded up to welcome me, while Bel tried to calm him down.
"He's gorgeous!" I laughed.

Native had travelled the world with Bel and her artist husband, Dodge. He was an obvious fit to the family, gorgeous to look at and wore a red doggy scarf tied around his neck.

As I entered her house I heard a baby cry on the baby monitor. It was 3 month old Sunday. Bel calmly went up the stairs to get her and brought her down to feed.

I scanned the room and was instantly inspired.  A huge hand-sewn American flag hung across the wall and ghost chairs sat around a woodern table. There was old stereo with records beside it, a white coffee table with fresh, yellow flowers, and art books stacked neatly beside them..
I couldn't help but notice Bel's husband's art pieces hanging in every room as we wandered through the house with Bel telling me stories of motherhood and travel.

Bel's work life had recently changed since becoming a mum as she had taken maternity leave for 4 mths. from her job as a photographer for her own company .

After being on maternity leave, Do you feel ready to go back to work?

That's a tough one. I think being a mum is one of the most important titles I hold, so going back to work hasn't been a flippant decision. I feel strongly that I want to be present for my daughter and enjoy each stage of her precious life. On the other hand, I also want to model for her how a woman can be passionate about pursuing the dreams in her heart and remaining her own person. So I felt like part time work was the best fit for me and Sunday. And I'm hoping it works!  If it doesn't, we will make adjustments. Life is just one big learning curve, hey.

Has becoming a mother infulenced the way the photographer in you sees things? 

It's definitely a game changer. In fact whenever I sit at my computer with Sunday sitting on my lap, she will try to get my entire forearm in her mouth. But that aside, since becoming a mum I create in a new and deeper way - more from my heart. Something in me was set alight when she was born. I'd had a hectic few years prior to her arrival that left me feeling pretty spent. And although being a mum is at times draining, I find it connects me to my heart, puts energy in my soul and fuels my creative work like nothing else before has.

Your images are stunning, particularly your eye for stark light and shadows. Tell us about this obsession.

Actually I'm not sure why I'm obsessed with light and shadow! I just am. It hits me. The minute my eye picks it I can't look away, so I guess capturing it is my natural reaction. It makes such an ordinary scene look so dramatic. My iPhone camera roll is filled with them.

Evening or morning shoot?

Both! Previously I would have said evening but I got some pretty stunning sunrise shots down on the South coast of Western Australia last year. That changed my tune.

Summer or winter vibes?

SUMMER! Although again, both are great. I had the opportunity to shoot in the snow when we lived in America a couple of years ago and that was super fun. That big white blanket makes everything dreamy.

Top pick of camera?

Nothing too unoriginal here - Canon 5D MkIII. I'm not too preoccupied with equipment. As long as it reliably helps me capture what I see, I'm happy. Admittedly that used to make me feel like a hack, but I just don't care anymore. 

Favourite lense?

Canon 35mm 1.4f L series. Such a good bread and butter lens. I hardly ever take it off.

Favourite editing program?

I use the camera raw functions in Adobe Photoshop, and I use Adobe Bridge to file, sort and rate images. Again, no fuss.

If you could shoot anywhere in the world where would it be?

EVERYWHERE. Ha! Seriously though. I've always wanted to go everywhere. As long as I'm a little off the beaten track, I'm happy. 

Who would you take with you?

My dream boy. Dodge Lee Pangburn.

Photographers you follow and are inspired by?

A have a bunch of friends that are SO talented at what they do, and I love following their work and watching them grow. Creativity was never meant to exist in a vacuum. 
Martin Schoeller's portrait work makes me want to do nothing but shoot faces all day, everyday. 
Edward Weston's still life are something else. Seriously. 
Terry Richardson's hard flash work is so fresh and fun. 
National Geographic for those travel vibes. 
Jonas Peterson and Sean Flanigan for weddings that don't feel like just another wedding. 
And good old Pinterest and Instagram is also a huge source of photography inspiration which always provides me with a huge range of different styles. I follow a few really great travel/adventure accounts on IG that have gotten me pretty pumped to hit the road and shoot.

Road trip or plane? 

ROAD TRIP. When you go by plane you miss too much stuff along the way! My husband and I drove from Oklahoma (middle of the USA) to Mexico to Canada and back to Oklahoma a few years ago. Changed my life. It really did. We spent most nights sleeping in the back of our car. Did everything on the cheap and just lived the roadtrip dream. There were so many times when we would drive around a bend and the view would blow us away. So many unexpected moments that are now some of my most treasured images.

You are fascinated by ...

Faces. I still think they make the most captivating images. There's something mesmerising about eyes looking down the barrel of the camera that bewitches everyone. There's plenty of research to suggest that book & magazine sales are higher when there's a portrait on the cover. People connect with people.

Your mother always told you ...

"If you didnt come home dirty you didnt have fun." Mum always made me feel free to let loose and really explore life. Keeping my clothes pristine is nowhere near as important as what I experienced whilst in them.

Any advice to other WolfpackMrs. mums about to head back to work and take the creative industry by storm?

Well ... not really. I feel I'm probably the one in need of advice at this stage! But I guess some of the thoughts I'm framing my life with right now are to be PRESENT wherever I am, and with what is in my hand, whether its a camera or a dirty nappy. Because a fun shoot and bathtime both deserve my heart. 





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