Looking through the lens: A family affair

Some years ago, I wrote an article about an extraordinary local photographer you’ve probably heard of – Rebecca Davidson.

At that time, she had already gained an impressive professional reputation, with a resume that included local and international shoots – for weddings, in particular.

Since then, her style, personality and ability to capture unique moments have made her a much-sought-after chronicler of any special event. And now, it seems all in her household are following her lead.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary Hollins, with their children Noah (18), Shae (17), Cooper (15) and Liam (11), are officially running a family business, covering everything from photography and videography to editing and even DJing.

Early career days
To understand how the children have grown to embrace this side of the event industry, it helps to know a bit about Rebecca’s background.

- Advertisement -

For starters, photography had not been her original career path. She was studying to be a lawyer when she got bitten by the camera bug; snapping pictures had only really been a hobby up until then. But once she went down the rabbit hole she was hooked.

These were the days before the internet, and so she headed to the public library in George Town to borrow any books she could find on the subject of photography.

So keen was Rebecca that, restricted by a two-book borrowing limit, she used her brother’s and mother’s library cards to take out four more. That was the total of the six books available on the topic, the library told her at the time.

Her father was not at all happy to see her change of focus (see what I did there?) but Rebecca had made her choice, which, in retrospect, turned out to be a very good one. This is perhaps why she has always encouraged her children to follow their passions.

Being self-taught is probably one of the reasons why she has been so successful. She has created her own methods of taking pictures, which makes her work stand out in a crowd.

When Rebecca met Gary, she had to reveal to him that they probably wouldn’t be able to have children of their own, based on her doctor’s advice. As a result, in 2001, they started looking at adoption options. However, just as they began the process, she became pregnant.

“After that, the kids just kept coming,” she laughed, adding that the unexpected blessing of having four of them has made them all very close.

Introducing her offspring to the world she worked in, actually started as a family project.

“Five years, ago my dad passed away and my mum came to live with us,” Rebecca said. “The kids wanted to cheer her up, so they started making fun videos with her – pretending to put her on a zipline or a motorcycle.

“[They] wrote these intense scripts and were super serious about the filming and production of the videos. I am not sure who enjoyed it more, them or my mum, and it definitely took her mind off the sadness of losing dad.”

A wedding planner saw the videos, and asked if Noah could film a small, two-person wedding. The couple’s videographer had cancelled and they had a very small budget.

“Of course, at age 13, Noah willingly left algebra to come and film a wedding for a couple of hours,” Rebecca laughed.

This was the beginning of what would grow into a thriving company.

Hollins Films
“They all started to do things that some of my clients wanted,” Rebecca said. “Shae began second shooting or editing or helping me with a newborn shoot. Cooper was doing Zoom weddings for clients who couldn’t have their family attend. Liam took up DJing… ”

The children are all homeschooled, and so they had the flexibility to take on the jobs, so long as they completed their assignments and kept up with their schoolwork.

Husband and father, Gary, is a “Jack-of-all-trades”, according to Rebecca, who said he keeps them all grounded, and on stressful days, can jump in and do anyone’s job, when needed.

Not everyone might be thrilled with the idea of living and working with family, but Rebecca loves every minute of it.

“In January, I was working at the Cayman Cookout [at The Ritz-Carlton] and Noah had the opportunity to film with me,” Rebecca said. “Then there was a kids function on the same weekend, also at The Ritz-Carlton. I offered them Shae as the photographer and Cooper did the video; then the client messaged me and asked for a DJ recommendation, so I told him Liam could do it.

“All five of us were on the same property working. I was so proud of them, how serious they were about doing a great job and they did amazing! Gary texted me and said he was at the bar having a pint, so technically he was there to ‘help’ also!”

Clients are also taken with the idea of the same family working different parts of their events, often teasing the kids about whether their mother taught them a skill.

“The kids will always say, ‘No way, we teach her now!’,” Rebecca laughed.

Gigs abroad
The Hollinses don’t just work together in Cayman. Each year, they go to Spain for the summer to soak in the culture, meet up with friends, and shoot weddings.

“Gary and Noah will video and Shae and Cooper help edit,” Rebecca said. “In 2019, we photographed/videoed 25 weddings. These weddings are in old haciendas; one was in an old convent and another in a castle originally built by King Philip IV in 1624. The best part about this is we try to stay in different locations so it keeps the kids on a constant adventure.”

COVID times
Their family business was booming, until it was hit by COVID, just as so many others were. The annual trip to Spain had to be cancelled, and there were many postponed bookings.

“We had 28 weddings for 2020, most of which moved to 2022,” Rebecca said, adding that despite the challenges, they all really bonded in the past year.

“My best memory from 2020, is going on our little boat at sunrise (yes, with complaining kids at how early) to Stingray City. And as the sun rose, we took a flask of tea and china cups (for authenticity) and had tea with the stingrays. At the time, nobody wanted [to go], but the next day, they said, ‘Mum, can I have that picture we took with the stingrays?’ [so they could] send it to their friends.”

Homeschooling the children has been hard work, but rewarding. It has also allowed for flexibility in schedules, helping their creativity blossom.

“Keeping the kids humble and grateful has been a very important part of our journey,” Rebecca added. She also says that they “laugh a lot”. Always the best medicine.

Looking to the future
Rebecca hopes, as most mothers do, that the children will always stay close, but supports them in following their dreams.

“I have always encouraged the kids to pursue the careers of their choice; however, I have always told them to be a good photographer and videographer, because no matter what they do in life, it is always going to serve them well,” she said. “They can all shoot photo and video and if, for example, Shae becomes an interior designer (she is taking college courses), those skills will complement her job.”

She wants the family to have as many adventures together as possible before the children move out.

“I know they will venture off, but I hope they stick together… and end up right next door.”

- Advertisement -

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now