At first glance, Niki Boon's photographs appear to be taken from another era. Although these images are black- and-white and depict a daily existence much different than most of ours, Boon is currently documenting her family's days in rural New Zealand as they learn, grow, and interact with their environment. Through her photo series "Wild and Free," Boon captures small but poignant moments in her four children's lives, and this self-taught photographer shows a world without tech and with plenty of natural beauty, wonder, and family bonds.
A former physiotherapist, Boon began documenting her family’s life comprehensively five years ago when they moved to rural New Zealand. After her children balked at a more traditional home-based learning curriculum, Boon and her husband began encouraging their children to explore their 10-acre property as well as their prevalent natural surroundings. Boon, who says she doesn’t like the term “unschooling,” believes that her children are simply learning a little differently than they would in a typical school. Boon and her family are most inspired and influenced by the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, who advocated for using natural means to nurture and optimize a person’s well being.
Boon’s own wild and free childhood in New Zealand empowered her to loosen the reigns on her children and allow them to gain independence through their explorations. In addition to forming a strong relationship with the environment, the most significant bonds displayed in Boon’s photos are those between the siblings.
As playmates and nontraditional classmates in addition to family members, the children spend much of their time together, playing in various bodies of water, visiting and tending to animals, and engaging what are obviously games involving imagination and creative play. Although Boon acknowledges that eventually technology may come into the family’s lives, for now, both parents and children are content to “find their answers to their questions either out in nature or in books.”
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When I looked at these images, I was struck by how rooted the children seem in the moment. Although they obviously don’t depict all the moments of the family’s days, the pictures capture a sense of leisure, of play, and of mindfulness in the moment. Gone are the structured schedules, harried pace, and stressful existence that burden many families today. In its place is an unhurried examination of what children do when left to their own interests and largely their own devices: getting muddy, reveling in the natural rhythms of the day, and cultivating a love for the space they inhabit.
All images © Niki Boon, printed with permission from the photographer