Meet photographer & Burgess of Aberdeen… Susan Renée

‘As a child I was always making things – scrapbooks, working with clay and creating ‘perfumes’ in the sink. Although I was interested in art throughout school, I didn’t go to art school but decided to tag along with some friends who were doing their teacher training.

‘Teaching suited me well. I was a head teacher by 29. I went on to become an Associate Assessor in the Schools Inspectorate, reporting on the quality of learning and teaching for schools across Scotland. 

‘Our family is close and I talk to my two sisters and my mother every day. She remarried after my father died and now lives in Romania, so I now have a lovely place to visit in the summer.

‘I discovered photography when I was on maternity leave with my first son. There were no iPhones back then, and so if you wanted a photograph of your baby you had to either go to a photographer or learn how to use a proper camera. Once I started, I realised that photography could be my medium as an artist. I took a course of weekend workshops over a year.

‘One day my administrator asked me, ‘You take photographs, don’t you?’ I tentatively conceded that I did. She asked me to do her daughter’s wedding to an Aberdeen footballer. The wedding was fabulous. The bride ended up on the cover of magazines and from then onwards I was doing more than 30 weddings each year as well as my full time job. I treated each career completely separately, and gave 100% to each one. 

‘In 2013, I moved into Aberdeen, bringing up my two sons as a single mum. I decided I needed to slow down as I was working 18 hour days. Nobody could believe I was giving up such a successful career, but I’ve never looked back. ‘We converted the stables in our new home into Kingshill Studios, so I could concentrate on new-born and family portrait photography. Every family’s life is full of special occasions. Falling in love, anniversaries, births, birthdays, starting a new school, graduating… to me, professional family photographs are a lovely way to hold onto those special times for longer than a moment.

‘I became a Burgess of the City of Aberdeen in 2020. Being a Burgess of Aberdeen essentially gives me full rights of citizenship in the city. Burgesses have been around since 1124. The City’s Burgesses now number around 1100. The ceremony was held in front of my family and the full council. Nomination came as a complete surprise but it’s a huge honour to be recognised for my charity work and services to the local community. I was incredibly humbled.

‘I’ve always played an active role in the local community, supporting local charities that care for vulnerable children and families. My photography studio runs limited edition Superhero Portrait Sessions where I photograph children who are facing challenges in life. I’m one of the photographers for Friends of Anchor’s Courage on the Catwalk event and the studio supports a range of local charities including Charlie House, AberNecessities and Clan through special events. This is the work that makes my heart sing. 

‘It’s all about family. My sons are my world. They’re now 19 and 17, and have grown from babies into men right before my very eyes. I often look at old pictures and hug them to my chest. I want to give that same precious gift to the families I photograph’.

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