Kali Pattinson was just 21 years old when she gave birth to a baby boy. The ‘boudoir photographer’ had photographed many of Hollywood’s most famous red-carpet moments, and was well-known for her glamorous portraits of A-list stars. Life seemed perfect, as she had been promoted to Director of Photography at a major studio only months before the birth. But as soon as her sonogram revealed his existence, life changed forever.
Adopted at birth, Pattinson grew up in Canada and attended the University of Toronto as a photography student. She loved nature but grew frustrated with the cold, so she moved to Los Angeles, where she could experience more varied weather. She joined Instagram soon after moving, and began documenting her travels with glamorous shots of herself and her friends, frequently tagging her son in the pictures. Within a year, she was pregnant with her second child and decided to put her career on hold to focus on her family.
The Instagram world was a different story. As a Director of Photography, she could gain creative control of a scene and be commissioned to shoot film and TV shows. She worked across many genres, from reality TV to documentary and comedy. But it was a series of selfies that would define her career. In them, she casually posed with her dog, Blue, while on set, often with some witty commentary about the photo’s location or the upcoming projects. In her bio, she would frequently mention she was an ‘Instagram baby’, having created the account in 2012, and her feed was a goldmine for producers looking to gain social media followings for their shows.
The Selfie Has Changed Everything
Pattinson was heavily influenced by social media, which provided her with an entire platform to share her work. Her best-known selfies feature the distinctive yellow backdrop, which she used because it matched the color of the camera’s flash. The backdrop provided the perfect ‘vignette’, complementing the coolness of the surrounding Los Angeles scenery. This creative use of the photo-op helped Pattinson to stand out from the crowd, and established her as a go-to photographer for A-list celebs.
Her success came not a moment too soon for the proud mother-to-be, who had been planning to adopt a baby boy in the near future. She had found a potential family member in a pregnant woman who was hoping for a surrogate, but the woman ultimately decided to undergo IVF treatment. The birth of her son, River, changed everything. He was born on March 29, 2017, weighing in at a healthy 9.8lbs and hitting all the parenting paces successfully. His first words were “Mama!,” and he has never looked back. This experience inspired her to begin work on a memoir, with the tentative title, Love, Loss and What It Means To Be a Real Person.
Pattinson is an advocate for parental leave, which she used for much of her son’s early life. Though she couldn’t work due to maternity leave regulations, she ensured her fellow photographers took advantage of the situation by stepping in to cover her shifts, and took time out from her career to ensure her son had the best possible start in life.
While her previous job may have taken her around the world, with her son in tow, Pattinson is now firmly rooted in North America. She still takes the occasional trip abroad for work, but loves to show off her adopted country and feels privileged to raise her children in such a beautiful place. Canada has given her a new sense of purpose, and made her proud to be a ‘national treasure’ as a mother and a photographer.