Name: Kristen T. Cates
Hometown: Standish, Maine
Film and/or Digital: I think that film is beautiful, but way too costly. So I stick to digital.
First camera: Canon Powershot SX10 IS
Current camera: I still have the SX10 IS, but I’m hoping to upgrade to a Canon EOS 50d by the end of the fall.
How long have you been taking photographs?
I’ve been taking photographs for about 3 years.
Thoughts about first images ever taken, describe them?
Oh, goodness, those photographs are tucked away deep in a folder hidden within my computer! They’re quite embarrassing, but it’s amazing to look at them and see how much I’ve grown. They are extremely (double emphasis on extremely!) over-edited. But I feel a lot of us start out that way. Or at least what I’ve seen. But I soon moved on from that and got into more natural-looking photographs, which then progressed into what I do now.
What do you see when you look at your work now?
I feel incredibly proud. It has taken a lot of patience and strength to get to where I am now. Dealing with the stress of a 365, I believe, is what pushed me into the position I am today.
What do you hope others will see, if anything? Their experience?
When people look at my photographs, I hope they can see a story. I hope that they can relate to the photo on some personal level. I think that is what draws people to a photograph or story. It’s more interesting when they can understand it.
What do you look for in an image? What makes a great photograph for you?
Again, I like photos with a personal relation. But not just that, I also enjoy reading what the photo says about the photographer. The way they cropped it, or the way they edited it, or anything. I feel like artists choose the little details for a reason. The way the body can be a positioned, the colors and tones, the weather, the location. We all do those things for a reason. And that reason is because it helps make the story clearer and easier to grasp.
My favorite artists would have to be Tim Walker, Brooke Shaden, Gregory Crewdson and Sarah Ann Loreth.
Favorite places online?
Flickr and many different Tumblr blogs.
Young photographers who most inspire you now?
Over the years, using Flickr, I’ve encountered thousands of brilliant young artists, and I’ll probably look back at this question and think, “Oh I should of put So-and-So!”, but these are who I can think of now: Mike Bailey-Gates, Sarah Haege, Steven Sites, Nikki Chicoine, Lauren Withrow and Alex Stoddard.
Where do you want to take your photography, or vice versa?
I hope they can bring not just me, but others to another world. One where birth, what’s in the middle, and death are explored. On the other hand, I hope to take my photography to college. Maybe perhaps New York? Seattle? I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where on the globe I’ll be with my photography by the time I graduate high school. But I can tell you one thing: one day, hopefully, everyone will be able to find where I am. Lots of young photographers crave inspiration, and I hope what I produce will be able to inspire and influence what they do. It’s a dream—but I’m wishing it’ll come true.
Artist’s playlist: Cinematic Orchestra, Coldplay, Bon Iver, Damien Rice, Coldplay, Frightened Rabbit, Bon Iver, Joshua Radin, Dead Man’s Bones, Ellie Goulding & Erik Hassle, Dirty Gold, Billy Joel, Gary Jules, The Smiths, Mumford & Sons, Amy Winehouse, Bright Eyes, Beirut, here: Featured Artist: Kristen T. Cates
Speaking of stories and storytelling, who are some of your favorite authors?
Hmm, my favorite authors. One author that I’m sure everyone could recognize is J.K. Rowling, I was lucky enough to grow up in the Potter generation so she has definitely inspired some of my work. Another author I think is very inspiring is Jonathan Safran Foer, his book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has had some influence on my work. It’s hard for me to choose favorite authors, though, because I like such a variety, it all really depends on what my mood is at the moment.
Fairytales, though . . . that’s where I fall in love. People know basic fairytales due to Disney movies. For example: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, but those movies are derived from actual fairytales that are the most enchanting things to read. The movies are the complete opposite of the legitimate fairytales, but they are so lovely. Some can be quite disturbing, but when you look at the real concept and annotate the story, you find so much inspiration. Fairytales are the backbone of my conceptual work. They help mold the pictures. Mixing the different stories can help create your own fairytale, and I think dreams are a great place to also find inspiration—many of my pictures (in the color series, above) were based on dreams I had the previous night.
But there is one book that has always stuck in the back of my mind throughout every picture I’ve ever taken. And that would be The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (a movie has been created from the book, but that serves nothing compared to the book). The imagery the book gives me will haunt me (in the most pleasant way) forever. It’s by far the best book I’ve ever read.
Note: Inn the middle of prepping her artist’s feature, Kristen and her family went three days without power, following Hurrican Irene. Undeterred, this past week, she found a way to email me all of her photos and answer all of my last-minute questions—no electricity, and more than once, she got me everything we needed in order to post her feature today. Sixteen years old, but that’s a pro for you. Just one of many reasons I am very proud to share her work.
Thank you, Kristen,