?UESTIONS: Katy Watson

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, s