Interview Kate Woodman – Farbenfroh und trotzdem düster

Light + Byte - Kate Woodman

Kate Woodmans Bilder erinnern an einen Hollywood-Film aus den 50er Jahren. Sie ist erfolgreiche Konzept-Fotografin, die ihr Handwerk versteht. Nichts wird dem Zufall überlassen. Die Farben, die Bildkomposition und das Licht sind perfekt aufeinander abgestimmt. Dabei liebt sie es, den Betrachter in eine andere Zeit zu entführen und ihm die Entscheidung zu überlassen, wie das Bild inter- pretiert werden soll. Neben diversen kommerziellen Shootings für Auftraggeber aus der Mode- und Beauty-Industrie investiert Kate viel Zeit in persönliche Projekte. Darüber hinaus gibt sie weltweit Kurse zur Farbenlehre und zu Storytelling. Hier erfährst du mehr über Kate und ihre Arbeit. 

Light + Byte: Can you give a short introduction of yourself – who are you and what do you do?

Kate: Born in Germany, raised in New York and now living in Oregon, I am a photographer specializing in conceptual and narrative photography. A structural engineer by training, I developed a love of photography in 2011 while investigating earthquake damage in New Zealand. What began as a compulsion to document the environment expanded into a fascination for narrative storytelling, typically with a conceptual twist. Today I shoot for a variety of commercial and editorial clients, and teach courses on color and storytelling.

Light + Byte: How would you describe your style of photography?

Kate: If I had to narrow my work down to a few salient descriptors, I would say it is conceptual, narrative, colorful and cinematic. I like to tell stories that bring you into another time; that are unique or unexpected; that convey emotions; and are ambiguous enough to let the viewer interpolate the details based on their own personal experiences. 

Light + Byte: In your opinion, why is photography so fascinating?

Kate: I think art in general is a way of expressing ideas and creating emotion, and photography in particular is the vehicle by which I can do that to the best of my ability. Photography is like a movie without the screenwriter’s narrative—it gives you the characters and pulls you in to a space but it lets YOU decide how to interpret that story in the way that you can relate to or identify with.

Light + Byte: Originally, you’re an engineer, why did you decide to become a photographer?

Kate: I got my photography start while I was on assignment in New Zealand doing earthquake damage assessment. I would spend my weekends traveling and taking as many photos as I could to send back to my family. Needless to say, the scenery had me hooked and I became enamored with the process of photographing and editing. As an engineer, there’s a part of me that wants to dive all the way in and understand the mechanics of everything, so for the next few years I tried to learn as much as I possibly could about all things photography, lighting and post processing. After about 4 years of this, I realized it wasn’t just a passing fancy—it was a passion. That’s when I decided to take the career leap.

Light + Byte: You are telling a lot of stories in your pictures. Who or what is your inspiration?

Kate: I find inspiration in so many places. The big overarching theme I tend to gravitate towards are anything historic/nostalgic, so I’m often inspired by history—events, costumes, relationships, etc. no matter the era. Person relationships—especially conflicting or tense relationships—are always an interesting source of inspiration for me as well, whether they come from my own personal history or others. Otherwise I tend to find inspiration in anything off the beaten path and a little bit weird. I always like to infuse a bit of the unexpected in my own work, for that narrative twist. 

Light + Byte: Who are your clients?

Kate: Most of my current client base is in the fashion and beauty realm. I love these clients because of the creative flexibility I often have, and fashion of course is always about creating a fantasy. I’ve also recently started to move more into the entertainment field, which is also a great place to be creative and to tell stories. 

Light + Byte: How much of your time do you spend for personal work vs. commercial work?

Kate: If we’re talking actual shoot/editing time, vs. other commercial necessities (marketing, networking, etc), I’d say about 70% of my actual shooting time is personal work. I’m not one to sit still so if I’m not shooting a commercial job, I have to be executing something of my own vision. This number is going down a bit as commercial work picks up and my personal projects increase in scope and production value, but I find it’s really important to keep my skills honed. 

Light + Byte: Do you sometimes want to provoke with your pictures?

Kate: I definitely want to provoke people with my imagery. I think the most successful art is the art that makes people think and question things—even if it’s not a comfortable thing for them to do. Doing that in an aesthetically beautiful way is what drives me. 

Light + Byte: How did you get into color as an important trademark of your work?

Kate: I never set out to become known for color, it’s just something that has evolved as my style has. Because I’m so inspired by cinematography which uses color so effectively to create an emotional response and facilitate the narrative, it seemed natural that that’s something I would pursue in my own work. I’ve always loved saturated color, it makes me feel alive. 

Light + Byte: Apart from your camera and the model, what is the most essential tool when you’re shooting?

Kate: My most essential “tools” would be my hair & makeup team. I can pretty much play all of the roles if I have to—art director, producer, stylist—but I’m useless when it comes to hair & makeup. They are the ones I absolutely have to have for the whole shoot to come together and for the images to come to life. 

Light + Byte: What is your key to success and do you have any advice to young photographers out there?

Kate: I’m sure it’s not the first time photographers starting out have heard this, nor will it be the last, but in this day in age when you’re competing against so many other photographers, now more than ever it is so important to develop your own “style”, or something that helps to set you apart from others. This style doesn’t necessarily have to be aesthetic, it can be your subject matter, or your personal branding, or your persona—but you need something that you can use as a tool to separate yourself from others. Also, I’m a big believer in the idea that if you stick it out long enough, you’ll eventually make it—it’s just statistics. So don’t give up!

Light + Byte: What was your first camera and with which camera are you shooting nowadays?

Kate: My first camera I got when I really started taking photography seriously was a Canon 40D with a 28mm sigma lens and a nifty fifty. My mom had a Canon film camera so I inherited a few lenses and stuck to Canon. I spent about 3 years with those before upgrading. These days I’m still shooting Canon but I’m now shooting with the 5D Mark IV. I love the dynamic range on it—it’s night and day from what I started with!

Light + Byte: Where is Kate Woodman going? Any plans or ideas for the future?

Kate: I hope to be continuing work commercially in the fashion, beauty and entertainment realm, but I also have a few BIG fine art projects I’m tackling right now, so I’m excited to see how those develop. I’m also moving more and more into the motion realm which has been a great learning experience. I’ve written my first short film and am hoping to get that executed by the end of the year!

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