Nikole Ramsay is a well-respected name in the Australian photography industry, and an equally successful freelancer. However, it wasn’t until she was 30 years old when she left her job working for Getty Images in London to return home and pursue the life of a contract photographer.
The choice proved to be a fruitful one, and Nikole’s images can be seen in ELLE, Real Living, INSIDE OUT, Home Beautiful and in various lifestyle books for Penguin. Her images not only contain lush interiors, but feature the likes of Natalie Bassingthwaite and Sophie Vine through to the moreish treats of her food photography. Each one of her images is crisp, vibrant and captures an energy that bounces off the page.
“They are still significant moments seeing things in print. Even though it’s quite regular, I love going to my letterbox and seeing it in writing. It’s a good feeling,” she says.
Her career has encompassed wedding photography, food and lifestyle, travel and interiors, and she is of a rare breed of photographer that escapes the niche that can be forced upon them. In honour of the achievements in her career, we sat down with Nikole to discuss the moments as a photographer she felt humbled in her craft.
Shooting the At My French Table book by Jane Webster.
In 2006 via a connection at Penguin Publishing, Nikole was given the opportunity of a lifetime, shooting for the captivating chef Jane Webster in the scenic surrounds of Normandy, France.
“I was approached to do the book and that was a year-long process of going to France and spending time with Jane and her family and capturing life in the château,” Nikole says.
“[I captured] whatever they were cooking and growing, so that was just fantastic and that was probably the first time I delved into food and lifestyle photography.”
While centred around cooking, the book captures when Jane Webster sold her house in Melbourne and took her four children to adapt to life in France. Nikole’s photography showcases these moments, the beauty of crisp winter and the lush warmth of sunlight across the property, as the family welcome their new life in Bosgouet.
Shooting a wedding for a royal family of the United Arab Emirates.
“I used to shoot lots of very beautiful weddings and destination weddings, and I think the commercial training I’d had at RMIT meant that technically I was a great wedding photographer and I think that stood out,” she says.
“When I first got the enquiry I thought maybe it was a joke. I thought this couldn’t be real. They called the next day and we discussed a few things over the phone and they said to me, ‘It’s not going to be like anything you’ve shot before, not like a traditional British wedding – so much so, the groom won’t even be there’.”
A long-standing tradition in Arab culture – where bridal parties celebrate separately – Nikole was hired as the bride’s personal photographer, capturing the moments in the week leading up to the ceremony and the final day – which saw 5,000 guests and a 15-hour shift.
“It was incredible because they flew people in from everywhere, the dress designer came from France and the cake came from London and I came from London as well. It was just extraordinary extravagance on a scale I’d never seen. The bouquet was a white gold winter branch that was made by Christian Dior and diamond encrusted,” she says.
From the traditional smoking ceremony of her gown to the moments shared between family, Nikole captured each one, lavishing every moment of the experience. An added challenge came with the tradition around the bride’s face not to be seen by any men. This meant photography, editing, printing and every process of handling the photos had to be done by women.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced or seen. And two years later I shot her sister’s wedding,” Nikole says.
With Nikole’s move into interior photography, it marked a considerable shift in her personal and professional life. Living in London in 2010, Nikole gave birth to her son Louis and soon realised the life of a wedding photographer spending weekends away from home no longer matched her lifestyle.
“I knew then that I wanted to start moving in a different direction with my photography,” Nikole says.
Along with her photographer husband, the trio moved back to Australia, finding their home along the Bellarine.
“[My partner] got an agent and I started working out how I was going to start doing more magazine and commercial photography and work out a plan around that. I met an interior stylist down here, we teamed up and made a plan to work together and we did a shoot on a house down here,” she says.
“That first one in Real Living was a home in Barwon Heads. That took off and I got calls from other magazines to shoot houses.”
The partnership continued with interior stylist Emma O’Meara, and soon the duo were getting contacted by multiple national interiors titles for the well-styled and captured elements of their work.
That first shoot in Barwon Heads marked a turning point for Nikole’s career, and she’s shot interiors ever since.
Shooting holiday villas in Bali.
Part-holiday, part-photography work, Nikole found the sweet spot with exchanging services – rather than money.
“I like it when I can combine skill swapping, I think it’s nice when it’s not all about money,” she says.
The photography work came about while on holiday, and has resulted in Nikole photographing seven villas over several years for Bali villa business, Island Houses.
This particular work is a chance for Nikole to indulge in her love for travel, while nurturing her passion of photography. The partnership means Nikole is also able to take a break from the structure of other contract work, and bring her family along with her to experience the startling juxtaposition of Bali culture – from the relaxing villas to the vibrantly alive town centres.
Shooting the books Natural Harry and WHOLE for author Harriet Birrell
When Harriet Birrell first approached Nikole to photograph her cookbook, Nikole had a few questions in return, ranging from the consideration of backdrops, to design and printers. Having shot several cookbooks at that point in her career, Nikole knew the many elements of executing a successful book, and was quickly impressed with Harriet’s ability.
“I realised then that she was really serious about producing something really beautiful and well-designed,” she says.
The experience saw the duo work closely as Harriet created her brightly coloured plant-based dishes and Nikole helped those colours shine through in the printed product.
“We had a great time, and that was probably one of my favourite projects for that year,” she says.
“Even though I wasn’t doing much food photography at the time, her food is just so colourful and textured, I find it really easy to shoot and she’s just great to work with. Visually we understand each other really well and she’s quite a visual person too.”
Following the success of the first book, Natural Harry, Nikole was hired to work with Harriet once again for her follow-up book, WHOLE.
“Harriet hired me to do the photography and with the second book we’ve done it a bit more collaboratively,” she says. “So I had the idea with the second book of doing a few more environmental shots and bring in the beautiful surrounds of where we live into the images.”
Interviewed and written by Amanda Sherring.
Images supplied by Nikole Ramsay.