Catherine reflects on life, current affairs and photography.
1) Christmas Cards! Our culture has gone so electronic that messages of holiday cheer are often lost in the morass of email. It’s so lovely to get quality mail. I especially love cards that feature images of my friends or family. The Novogratz‘ just sent me an epic Christmas card.
2) The fragrance of Christmas! You know what I mean… fir trees and wreaths, apple cider and spiked egg nob, ginger and nutmeg, sugar Christmas cookies baking… all wrapped up with the chilly air of the winter season.
3) Giving gifts! When I was about 13-years-old, it occurred to me that it was tons more fun to pick out the absolute perfect gift for my family members and school friends than to receive something myself. It is so cool to see the expression on the face of a loved one when they open the package of their dreams.
4) Brandy egg nog! (No explanation necessary.)
5) Reconnecting with family! We try to keep in close touch throughout the year, but we’re all so busy pursuing our careers and raising children that it’s often difficult to come together. Christmas is the perfect occasion for this….and for sitting in Santa’s lap! (This is a picture of me when I was six-years-old.)
6) Christmas lights! From Thanksgiving through New Years, my mother would drive us hither and thither, pointing out all of the beautifully decorated homes festooned with lawn ornaments and glittering lights. It’s so inspiring to see people taking such pride in their homes to express themselves and their families.
7) Absolutely-awesome Christmas spirit! People seem to be in better moods, the holiday vibe lasts from November through January, and a sense of togetherness and community abounds.
8) Holiday Movies! I never, never, never watch movies more than once–I let myself be moved by them and then move on. Nevertheless, I’ve probably watched A Christmas Story 50 times. The scene where Ralphie’s mom “accidentally breaks” her husband’s “tramp lamp” perfectly encapsulates real-life marriage–something that I didn’t understand when I was younger.
I’m incredibly honored that the International Aperture Awards selected me to be a judge for their 2010 photography competition! It is one of the world’s most prestigious online photography competitions and awards handsome cash prizes to the winners.
In order to introduce their panel of international judges to the photography community, they have been conducting a series of interviews. It was my pleasure to chat with their fabulous team, and I thought you might enjoy reading our Q&A, entitled Tenacity, Passion, & Self Belief.
We discuss entry submissions, judging criteria, novice photographers, and more! Enjoy!
How long have you been picking up a camera?
I enrolled in my first photography class, a course offered by my high school arts department, when I was sixteen-years-old. The first image I ever shot and developed was a close-up of a horse’s marble-black eye, with several green farm flies buzzing within the frame in soft focus. At the time, I thought I was a renegade! Looking back, I blush at my naiveté.
Once, for an open house event, my instructor offered me the opportunity to curate a small exhibition of my own work–my first-ever solo show! At the event that night, I overheard a parent ask my instructor what he thought of my photography. “She’s gifted, but she’ll never make it as a professional,” he said. My reaction? I’ll show you, I thought.
And, ultimately, I did.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a photographer?
As a teenager, I always had an inkling that I might become a professional photographer. I didn’t realize it was possible, though,
until I dove headlong intro transforming my passion into a commercially-viable undertaking. Negotiating that first commission
requires courage–you have to believe in your gifts enough to place a worth value on them.
At the end of the day, photography is a labor of love for me. I’ve heard people say that they could never transform their passion into their business, as it would ruin their joy for the art form. I don’t find that to be true. I only fall more and more in love with every day that I spend honing my craft and growing my business. I wake up every morning excited to do what I love.
What is your specialty as a photographer?
I’m attracted to complex, diverse imagery. My editorial work exhibits an inclination towards a dark beauty. My professional wedding photography allows me to find psychological and aesthetic balance in sensual, wrapping light and the female form. It allows me to document the extreme fantasies of beauty.
When you’re not shooting for clients, what kind of images do you like to shoot?
To date, my photography has taken me to over 30 countries. Photography gives me the impetus–indeed, the license–that I need to immerse myself in another culture, learn through experience, and forge relationships I wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Dear Blog Readers, there’s much, much more! For the full, in-depth interview, please visit International Aperture Award’s blog to finish reading Tenacity, Passion, & Self Belief.
There are times in our lives when we need a little reassurance and then it suddenly appears at just the right moment.
Sitting on a bench, nervously contemplating one of my first speaking engagements at a major convention, I was beginning to doubt myself. Rather than hyping myself up, all I focused on was whether I was ready to be doing this. Was I qualified or even skilled enough to give other professionals tips? I was scared and had no idea what to expect when I stood in front of a huge crowd of people. Would I panic or would everything go by smoothly and effortlessly?
At the culmination of my self-induced panic, along came Tony. At the time I didn’t know Tony but sensing my distraught feelings he took the time to sit and talk with me. Tony helped me gain the confidence that carried me through the event and many years of speaking engagements afterwards. All it took was someone to believe in me for me to believe in myself. Experiences like this remind me how important it is to surround yourself with supportive people that bring out the best in you. Making a conscious choice like this will enhance your business and personal fulfillment in many ways. Those who believe in you will always help boost your confidence.
So much of my passion and photographic style stems from my first encounter with Steve McCurry’s imagery. Seeing his work for the first time, I experienced a calming realization that I had encountered my ultimate inspiration. This connection defined a place of belonging, revealing stylistic interests that were not being stimulated by my more traditional photography education.
Steve’s work truly resonated with me. I felt a connection, an inexplicable understanding in a way I have never felt with any other artist. His worked allowed me to envision where I wanted to go and instilled confidence that pursuing a similarly inspired style was possible.
Motivated about photography and eager to find my true photographic passion, I set out for India on a six week trip of self-exploration with Steve’s Portraits book in hand. I spent evenings pouring over his work. His inspiration stirred something within me, and my style began to develop out of this desire to create imagery that like his profoundly impacts people in many ways.
I returned from India determined to pursue photography and moved to New York jobless, friendless and penniless. I did the inevitable, something I had to do if only to say I tried, and pursued a position with Steve McCurry. Astonished, I landed an internship position that influenced my photographic journey in intangible ways.
Working with such a talented photographer was absolutely extraordinary experience that opened the way for the flourishing career I have today. I learned to ask for the impossible and to follow your true sense of purpose. Steve was my teacher before we met and continues to be an invaluable inspiration and an extraordinary mentor to this day.
I guess it started a while ago when I realized that for most wedding photographers, myself included, “I exclusively work with natural light” translates into “I am afraid of strobe.” For many years, I lived by this mantra understanding and celebrating pure, natural light. However, despite the ability to manipulate this light, I have to admit that my photography was ultimately being restricted by the oh so glorious Sun.
As an album judge for WPPI over the years, I watched the albums go through and noticed a trend – flat light. As technology advances with higher ISOs and cheap digital cameras, people appear to be skipping over lighting theory. In reality, wedding photographers are probably the guiltiest of this in the photography genre.
While I have my reservations, I realized I had become quite comfortable and skilled working with natural light. I also understood that to be the best possible photographer for my clients and myself I needed take advantage of all the lighting tools available. This of course, included manipulation of artificial light and thus facing my apprehension head on. It was scary but also exciting.
After all, one of the greatest attributes of being an artist and a photographer is the ability to always be challenged and the never-ending opportunity to learn and grow. Last year, I choose to push myself out of my comfort zone of natural lighting and now I would like to share my journey into the world of enhanced lighting with a blog series, “Lighting Journey.” I hope you enjoy the ride.