Ex marriage counselor’s international acclaim for stunning photography

An internationally renowned photographer has revealed how she swapped saving marriages for life behind the lens.

Llinos Lanini used to work as a counselor for the relationship advice organisation Relate but her career now has a completely new focus.

A chance encounter with a group of hungry sheep on a snow-swept Welsh hillside propelled her unexpectedly to national and international recognition.

She is now one of North Wales’ most celebrated photographic artists and the winner of some outstanding professional honours.

Llinos, who is originally from Denbigh and now lives in Mold, spent the first eight years of her career as a social worker in the central London borough of Westminster, where she dealt with the full range of issues from mental health to child care.

Later, she was a counselor for the relationship advice organisation Relate for 15 years before becoming involved with the management of a nursing home in Mold.

Along the way, she married and had two children, daughter Lisa, 26, and 27-year-old son Sion.

It was in late 2005 that Llinos bought the camera that gave her a whole new perspective on life.

She said: “I was looking for a way to keep fit but didn’t really want to get a dog. Instead, I bought a slightly better camera than the one I already had and then just couldn’t put it down.

“In March 2006 I was out near Bwlch y Groes, above Lake Vyrnwy, when I happened to see a group of hungry sheep and took a picture of them.

“Then somebody pointed out a photographic competition in the Daily Telegraph and I entered it with the sheep picture I had taken.

“Unexpectedly, I won the competition and my prize really changed my life. It was a trip to Singapore to take pictures for a calendar being produced for their tourist board.

“A number of photographers took images for it and had their work used in the calendar. I took quite a few all over the city but the one of mine which was eventually used showed a café and a big balloon.

“This was the first of my pictures that had ever been published and from there things really took off.

“In January of 2007 I decided to have a crack at becoming a professional photographer and I left the jobs I had at the time, which were with Relate and in a GPs’ surgery.”

Since that decision, Llinos has hardly looked back and vast array of subjects have fallen into her viewfinder.

The stunning images she produces include the unusual and often unseen aspects of life, in towns, cities and in the countryside. Nature has also contributed greatly with spectacular images of light, frost, rain and snow.

She exhibits a collection of photographic prints and takes commissions from businesses, charities and individuals.

Llinos has had regular exhibitions of her work across the region, including at Clwyd Theatr Cymru in her home town of Mold and Venue Cymru in Llandudo.

Her self-taught artistic ability brought her fresh professional accolades when she won the Photography Award at the Welsh Artist of the Year 2010 and was a finalist in 2009.

She is also a regular speaker at camera clubs and other local organisations across North Wales and not long ago journeyed to the University of Cumbria to talk to students about her work.

For the past five years Llinos has been a  volunteer with Helfa Gelf – or ‘art trail’ – the North Wales Open Studios Network Project supported by Cadwyn Clwyd which gives artists and craftspeople the chance to step out of the shadows and exhibit their work to a wider audience.

The project has received funding through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.”

Llinos has also been a regular Helfa Gelf exhibitor herself and the next eagerly anticipated showing of her work will be an exhibition at the Manorhaus hotel and restaurant in Llangollen over the weekend of September 6-8.

North Wales Open Studios Network Project Co-ordinator Sabine Cockrill said: “Llinos is a real talent and is a stalwart of Helfa Gelf ,but she got her start in photography in a real fairytale way.

“She is an example of the range of fantastic artists we have across North Wales whose work can be seen in their studios every weekend throughout September as part of Helfa Gelf.”

Helfa Gelf / Art Trail is now North Wales’ biggest Open Studio event with over 300 artists inviting the public into their studios across Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham  every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during September.

Llinos has just spent a week manning the North Wales Open Studios Network stand at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Denbigh ,where  a series of mini exhibitions and hands-on activities were staged with six different Welsh-speaking artists.

There was the chance to create a book of Welsh poetry with Rebecca F Hardy, monoprint making with Barry Morris, Lino print with Sandra Webb, a cyanotyope workshop held by Sian Hughes, badge-making with Peris and Corr and pot-throwing with potter Louise Schrempft.

Llinos said: “The Eisteddfod Maes was just a couple of fields away from where I am originally from in Denbigh, so it was nice to return there.

“We had some brilliant artists visiting our stand and we also attracted many visitors because we were in such a good location. It was the first time North Wales Open Studios Network had taken a stand at the Eisteddfod and we’ve really enjoyed being part of the buzz of the event.”

“Helfa Gelf is a very important organisation and we currently have 171 participating studios, which is nearly 30 more than last year.

“After the Eisteddfod I am now about to start on my next big project which is to take a series of pictures of traditional Welsh chapels in North Wales, and I am doing this thanks to a grant I have received from the Arts Council of Wales.

“This new career I’ve had in photographic art has been completely and utterly unexpected for me.

“I didn’t think I had an artistic bone in my body but it has given me a fantastic opportunity to delve into a new world. It’s been magic and I can’t complain about anything.”

For more information on Llinos visit: http://www.llinoslanini.com/

For more information about  North Wales Open Studios  Network visit www.nwosn.org

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