There was a time when Mingela-based photographer Vicki Miller declined to capture one of the most special times in a couple’s life together – their wedding – for fear it would take her away from her country roots.
Five years on, she has clocked up 95 weddings and has her first international nuptials booked for New Zealand in January, such is the allure of her unique work capturing some of the most special and intimate moments in a person’s life.
“I grew up on a property near Mt Isa, went to boarding school and could have been whatever I wanted,” Vicki said. “I worked really hard and wanted to be a vet, accountant and journalist, but I didn’t love any of them."
A self-proclaimed nerd at school, Vicki was accepted into university but couldn’t bear the thought of living in the city longer than she had to.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to go to a campdraft or being able to ride a horse because I had an exam,” she said.
Vicki returned to her family’s property, Grasshut, Mingela, where parents Barry and Liz have a successful quarterhorse and cattle stud.
“I was lucky to have very supportive parents at a time when my friend’s parents were pushing them into degrees they didn’t want to do,” Vicki said.
At the urging of her mother, Vicki picked up a camera and started taking photos at campdrafts, and of the family’s yearlings and other stock for marketing campaigns.
“My first couple of photography journeys were terrible,” Vicki recalled.
“I cut heads off and tails off the horses. I got a roasting from Mum one day and as I like to do things properly, it really stung.
“One day soon after I took the camera and went off at 8am and didn’t return until 2pm… and raved to Mum about the photos that I had taken. It was a turning point.”
Photography grew into a side hobby, in between working on the family property, camp drafts and writing articles for a horse magazine.
In 2011, Vicki was approached by a friend to capture her wedding.
“I never wanted to do weddings as I worried it would take me away from country life and take me back to the city,” Vicki said.
She did the wedding in July 2011, followed by a second in October.
In 2013, she captured 18 weddings, 20 nuptials in 2014, 25 weddings in 2015 and 29 in 2016.
“It just snowballed,” Vicki said. “Once people saw what I was doing it skyrocketed and I am well and truly making a living out of it.”
Vicki is booked out for Saturday weddings until October 2017, and this year notched up about 170 portrait sessions and 90 newborns.
“I love that no two things are the same, no two moments are the same,” Vicki explained.
“Every weekend I get to see a bride walk down the aisle and dance the waltz but every wedding is unique in its own way.
“I love being able to capture those unique moments, capturing one of a kind. It's the part of my work that has made me successful.
“I never like to do the same thing twice.”
Vicki is self-made – “I have taught myself nearly everything I know, I worked hard and created my own style” – and stayed true to her country roots.
“The country lifestyle is why I got into photography, it's a key part of my work,” Vicki said.
“I especially love doing shoots on properties, it’s not just about each other but about their home lifestyle as well.”
It’s been a whirlwind journey to now and Vicki is content to ride the wave.
“Don’t do what everyone else is doing and do what your instincts tell you," she said.
“Be willing to work hard and do something unique. Create your own style and step outside the box.”
While 2017 is shaping up to be her busiest year yet, she has set aside a weekend in July for a special event – her marriage to long-time beau, helicopter pilot Josh Pugh - where she'll happily be on the other side of the camera.