Updated: Jun 17
Photographer, Katy Watson. Katy's photos capture the essence of life, her ability and eye presents both beauty and virtue. The vibrancy in her photographs open up a social dialog, an opportunity to delve into the stories of others.
Which photographers have influenced your thinking and photography?
I’m a very visual and emotive person, so I see images, good images, daring images, powerful images, an endless amount of images that impact me somehow. In seeing them, and feeling a certain way they shape me and refine my vision.
There are lots of photographers that I can say have influenced me in different ways; Don McCullin, Carrie Mae Weems, Kadara Enyeasi, Dana Lixenberg, Ren Hang, Gordon Parks to name a few. I really couldn’t say that other photographers influence me more than say artists working in all mediums, and also people’s characters, nature, the city, architecture - I’m basically influenced by everything!
I'm self-taught, so I've had an unsystematic and maverick journey with photography and I dip in and out of lots of different genres and philosophies. Possibly the most concrete thing that has influenced my thinking on photography has been sharing and teaching what I can about photography to others. Being a part of someone else’s journey with photography is very insightful.
What message do you communicate through your artwork?
In essence I see photography as a powerful tool for testing perception and reality. That's the heart of all my work. A still frame can freeze a moment, the dynamics between people, places, things, and as such it can help us rethink or confirm the narratives that shape our vision and experience of the world. It's an opportunity to expose and expand our understanding.
In my artwork I specifically like to experiment with perception by testing the concept of reality bound by time. In camera techniques I look to capture what our eyes or mind do not process consciously: to see realities that may exist but that we cannot process, to defamiliarise the concept of time, of challenging time as linear and our spaces as fixed. This may either result in deforming the subject by blurring, it, or by creating multiple forms by freezing multiple fleeting moments. in the editing and selection process, I look for underrepresented body forms, like "awkward" body shapes and "uncomfortable" microexpressions.
All this allows me, and hopefully others, to see nuances of reality that often get filtered out in the pursuit of idealisation. It facilities potential realities. Because that's what the camera always captures, a reality. A reality that has been manipulated by narrative or technique, but a reality nonetheless.
How do you approach photographing strangers?
With respect, humility and gratitude. My approach is very much based on positivity and openness, and the premise that a portrait is a collaboration. If I see someone I want to photograph, it's because I've seen something good, something positive, something to be celebrated! And I tell them that, I tell them why they caught my eye and what I like about them.
Perhaps I see someone that feels part of a story, or narrative that I’m questioning, or working on. In which case I approach them asking for permission, just permission for their time, then I ask a few questions to see if my broad perception was correct (if I’m doing a local story, I need to know if they live/ work local or are they passing by).
My approach tends to take into account, especially when travelling, that a camera can be threatening, so humbling yourself is a good way to express your intention when you don't speak enough of the local language. It's also very important, for me, to respect when someone tells you a solid no. The photograph is rarely more important to me than how I treat other people.
What music do you listen to when you’re editing?
I’m a total music junkie and I love all sorts. I especially love dancehall, afrobeats and hip hop, but when I’m editing and processing I need to work in a highly focused flow mode. I can't listen to music that makes me want to dance or has deep lyrics that would catch my attention. So I choose music according to what will aid and enhance my flow at any given time. It may be that I've woken up energised, so to complement that I go with liquid DnB or dub techno.
If I'm more levelled out, jazz, trip hop or electronica such as Bonobo (Black Sands Remixed is sick sick sick, I've had that on at some point every day for the last month).
For something uplifting, DJ Complexion is my go to. When I can't find any focus at all, I reach for acapella choral music. I don't subscribe to a particular religion, but I do love music from all religions. When I come out of a focused edit session, I normally crank the volume and go for the dancehall and afrobeats!
What drives your passion in photography and travel?
People. Everything about them. The world and people. I’m in awe of both. Not really sure how to explain it, it’s just a feeling and an innate drive. Maybe curiosity and fascination, and love really.
Do you have any tips for travelling solo?
Travelling solo is phenomenal. I certainly recommend it. In terms of tips, I think it depends where and why you’re travelling. I’m almost always travelling with a certain objective, either for work or education. I think it’s great to be involved somehow, in a way other than tourism.
Personally I like to research and almost always need a plan if I’m working, but I also keep myself open! Have a plan and then be open to deviating from that plan. Be open to being uncomfortable and scared perhaps at times and be open to the wonderful ways in which that fear will shift and the growth that comes with that.
All images courtesy of KT Watson.