A photographer’s take on how modern children view Santa

Kate Abbey, accredited photographer with the Association of Photographers, photographers unofficial santas
(Image credit: Kate Abbey, accredited photographer with the Association of Photographers)

London–based Kate Abbey, an Accredited Photographer with the Association of Photographers has created an unusual project after asking primary school children for their thoughts about Santa (Father Christmas, in some regions) and how he carries out the mammoth task of delivering presents.

What's most interesting is that Kate's series includes images with and without the children's quotes on Santa, which adds interesting context when you compare them (example below).

“I’ve been wanting to properly explore Santa for years," the photographer and director explains. "There was something about his outlandish representation that I found intriguing, and I wanted to reduce the myth of the perfect, jolly fella and bring him closer to me – into the real world. After all, he’s a real man dressing up in red clothes, heading off to do his job and earn an income."

Kate started to explore the idea of Santa going about his everyday business before he got to work, but it was the imaginative words of her niece that first brought sense to the process. "The make-believe landscape she described with superpowers and fantasy ideas led me to forming a real version of how he actually went about his business," she says.

I wanted to reduce the myth of the perfect, jolly fella and bring him closer to me – into the real world.

Kate Abbey

Kate first went about collecting the thoughts of about 20 young children in the UK, and then worked with professional Santa, Pete Mallott, and other less ‘official’ Santas to produce a series of photographs depicting the modern-day Santa.

“I spent days and days producing it – sourcing locations on the internet, then recce-ing, getting permissions to shoot, then returning to shoot it with assistants and lights and sometimes bodyguards for the areas I felt unsafe in. I treated it like a professional shot which would have cost tens of thousands of pounds but shot it all on a shoestring.”

Kate has captured candid 'everyday' Santa portraits in locations that contrast with the expected, such as a busy city street, a petrol station, and even a bus stop. It's this juxtaposition and ordinariness that she found most captivating. 

"These men aren’t magical, with their naff, PVC boot covers and the Velcro fasteners in their mundane settings. There was nothing necessarily exceptional about them and yet they had their quirks and uniqueness, which still looked pretty special to my mind. The magic is always wonderful, but it’s the reality that I love and find much more remarkable.”

Kate Abbey is an accredited photographer with the Association of Photographers. To see more of Kate's Santa series visit her website.

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Lauren Scott
Managing Editor

Lauren is the Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, having previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 

An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over eight years, she has also served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine

In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.