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For mini-postmortem #3 I decided to break my own rules a bit. Instead of focusing on a programming technique, I wrote about a time when I was looking for a job.

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The rotating gallery features the work of an emerging photographer as well as an interview with him/her, and will change every Wednesday. The gallery is based off ‘collective curatorship’, where the photographer from week 1 chooses and interviews a photographer for week 2, week 2 chooses/interviews week 3, etc. There is only one stipulation to the process: Next weeks photographer has to be someone he/she has not had direct contact with yet. Ideally, this will take the gallery on a linked tour around the Internet, and exploring and unearthing new photographers as it goes.

This week, Margaret Durow interviews Katherine Squier.

Margaret Durow: Your photos always have a very natural feeling to them. Can you tell us about your creative process.. It appears that none are set up, and are almost always moments that occurred naturally around you, that required you to be ready at just that one moment.. Do you ever set them up?

Katherine Squier: Well probably 99% of my photos are a result of seeing something around me while living my life that I feel like I want to capture. I rarely seek out a photo. What happens most often is I end up frenziedly pulling my camera out of my purse when I see someone do something and ask them immediately to freeze or I walk past something at a certain angle that catches my eye and then retrace my step. Other times it may be that I see beautiful light appear and ask whoever is with me to stand in it for a second. In those cases I am “setting” the photo up but it only happens in the first place because of what’s surrounding me at the moment.


MD: This natural feeling in your photos makes them appear as very real pieces from your life, yet there is also a dreamy look throughout your work, with warm magical light and light hearts. What inspires you to take photos this way / have them look this way?

KS: Haha, first off, that heart made of light in my one photo was totally magic! I never saw the heart until the photo was developed. I think it’s a sign that I’m on good terms with the light-gods at the moment… I’ve heard this “dreamy” thing before—but really I never mean to make it that way! I honestly don’t know what I do that makes my photos have the feel they have. I think maybe it’s the light in a lot of my photos that creates a dreamy feel? I’ve come to realize that it often happens that I see something and photograph it because I think it’s beautiful, and then later someone points out how great the light is. I notice really strikingly beautiful light—both other than that I’m often unconscious of how much light affects my photos.


MD: Do you always have a camera with you? How does this affect your everyday experiences.. do you ever find yourself thinking about the way things around you could fit into a photo? How do you feel if you forget to bring your camera with you?

When taking photos, do you compose the photo in your mind before the photo, or compose it while taking the photo?

KS: I laughed when I read this question because I often joke about how agonizing it is to see something incredibly special or breathtaking and not be able to capture it. In other words, I have my camera more often than not (it’s always in my purse). I’ve also shared with non-photographer friends how I sometimes wish I could turn my hyper-consciousness/ sensitivity to things around me off, because it becomes exhausting having to constantly have that I-see-something-beautiful alarm go off in your head. And then even if just for a millisecond you have to make that decision about whether or not you’re going to take a photo. I think other photographers can empathize with that little voice you come to love-hate. It’s a blessing because I see so much beauty in everything but a curse because it can interfere with my life. Most of the time the interference is very short & means me appreciating something that would have otherwise gone unappreciated. Sometimes though it can take over my interactions. For example, my youngest brother is very vocal about how much I “ruin his life.” So often when I’m with him or somewhere beautiful with friends I constantly want to take a photo, which translates to me asking a few times for them to stay still for a few seconds. In these cases I do feel regretful of not living in the moment completely.

As far as how I compose photos, let me preface this by explaining that I push the shutter button once I feel like what I see through the viewfinder feels good (visually). I also often stare through the viewfinder for a few seconds with my dominant right eye and then switch, usually a few times, back and forth with my left eye before I take a photo. People who haven’t watched me take photos before always ask if one of my eyes is worse. I do this because somehow mentally it helps me decide whether or not I’m happy with the image—it’s like, maybe my one eye finds it pleasing—but does my other eye? I’m a strange bird, I know. I’m sure I look reeeeeal professional. I don’t try composing a photo in my mind because to me what your eyes take in is different than what the image becomes in the viewfinder—so I do everything straight through the viewfinder.


MD: The interaction between you/your camera and your subjects seems very comfortable and close. Even when the subject is looking at the camera, it appears they only stopped a moment to look at you, not the camera. Are most people you know comfortable with you taking their picture often?

Can you tell us more about the people in your photos? What is your relationship like with the people you take photos of? Are you closest with the people you take photos of most often, or are you equally inspired to take photos of someone you may have just met?

KS: Yes, almost all of the people I photograph are comfortable with me photographing them because the majority of them are either family or close friends and if they aren’t comfortable I don’t do it in the first place. I hate the thought of making someone uncomfortable which in retrospect I think has greatly shaped the evolution of my style. I say this because one of my first main subjects was my twin sister, Jill. Jill, understandably so, would often get annoyed and/or was not okay with me wanting to take a photo of her while she was doing her own thing at home. I was allowed to take photos of the back of her head though—as silly as that sounds—so hey, you take what you can get! I’ve also always been aware of how vulnerable staring straight into a camera’s lens makes someone so in never wanting to risk making someone uncomfortable and/or losing them as a willing subject, I would always tell them they could face away. I’ve maaaaybe had a handful of situations where I have photographed someone I just met—more often than not if I photograph a stranger it’s me doing it without warning them so they don’t become uncomfortable. I think I probably am just as equally inspired to photograph someone I just met seeing as I objectively want to photograph anything that catches my eye.


MD: I know you shoot film all the time.. Which can definitely get expensive. Does this make you more selective of when to take a photo? How do you decide which moments are most important? How else does film affect the way you take photos? What makes you keep shooting film?

KS: Film absolutely makes me more selective, but honestly it still doesn’t make me as selective as I wish I were. Hah! It’s very expensive, yet I can’t seem to master resisting the urge to capture everything. It’s my life I’m living—so somewhere deep down it seems ‘justified’ in a way it probably shouldn’t be, since it can be thoughtless and a waste of money. It scares me a bit to think of how much film I’ve shot. It’s neat to think I have a photo diary of my life though and I have surprised myself in how much I’ve come to love that I now remember an event or memory by the photos I took in it. Not that that’s all I remember—but thinking of the photo(s) brings back the whole memory. Almost like when you listen to a song over and over during a certain point in your life and then years later listening to that one song brings back all those emotions. It’s kind of like that with the events and photos in my life. And I think that’s pretty special. I’m getting better at being more selective and I think the longer I continue to shoot the more I will have no choice but to be very selective because of money. Hands down I shoot with film because of how it feels visually in comparison to digital.


MD: When I look through your photos, it reminds me of looking through family photo albums, where all the photos just happen to be beautifully composed. What role has photography had in your life? Did your parents take a lot of photos? When do you first remember taking photos?

KS: Photography has become part of my life and I think I’ve addressed above the good and bad that has come with it. My parents didn’t really take photos any more than the average person. I first started taking photos after I randomly decided one day to take up photography as a hobby. That was not quite three years ago, when I started casually taking photos of practically everything with a digital. I didn’t shoot 24/7, I just did it sometimes when I was bored. Then two summers ago my dad cleaned out our attic and brought his canon AE-1 down. Things escalated from there, really taking off at the end of 2008 when I moved into an old west-campus apartment with my friends. I’ve read interviews with great photographers who first started taking photos when they were very young—and it makes me curious about how that would have affected my life and the style and experience I have with it today. I feel like things that you take on as part of your life early on can greatly shape who you become and your experience, so people who grew up taking photos intrigue me.


MD: I understand you recently graduated. Where were you going to school, and what were you studying? Have you had any photography or other art classes throughout school?

KS: I just graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I have never taken an art or photography class and I never plan on it, at least in the near future, because I’m afraid that I would start really thinking about what I was doing and it would mess with my head.


MD: A lot of your photos have a small town feeling to me, partly because they seem very personal to your life. Can you tell us what it was like where you grew up and went to college? Do you think living there might create that feeling in your photos, or is it more the relationship with your subjects?

KS: I’ve grown up and gone to college in the same place—Austin, Texas. It’s near and dear to my heart. My school is actually on-and-off tied with another college as the #1 largest university in the nation and Austin is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the United States. These facts seem strange though and I’m definitely one to gravitate towards the quieter and softer aspects of things, and a dense & populated city and campus life is something that has never really inspired me. More than anything I think it’s my relationship with my subjects that gives my photos that feel. I’m learning through how other people describe my photos that my photography feels more personal. This really struck me when a man commented that a photo of mine made sense to him after I told him it was of my twin sister. He said that most of my photos felt like someone “looking caringly at their younger sister.” I liked that.


MD: Now that you are graduated, what are your future plans? You are taking some time to travel, I believe? That sounds very exciting, Can you tell us a little about where you’ll be going? Do you have future career plans? Where does photography fit into them?

KS: My future plans are as follows: Go to Europe for six weeks, come back, and then figure things out from there and hope for the best. My trip to Europe is very, very exciting—I’m going with a childhood friend and we’re traveling Western Europe for over a month. It’s really difficult right now because to be realistic we’re cutting out a lot of cities we initially were planning on visiting but won’t now because of time restrictions. I have to keep telling myself that there is never enough time to see everything and a rushed trip wouldn’t be an enjoyable one. I have no idea what my future career plans are and it’s frightening but exciting. I’m the live-your-life-to-be-happy-so-you-can-make-other-people-be-happy type of person, and then you do what you have to to stay in that place. So we’ll see if I’m lucky enough to find something that makes me happy while paying the bills, but for now I’m not counting on that happening any time soon at least. As far as photography I don’t think it’s realistic for me to think I can make a living off of it—because commercial work like graduation photos & wedding portraits are what makes money, not photos that feel like a photo diary. In April I really enjoyed getting to shoot this up and coming band Local Natives because I was being paid to photograph them like I would photograph anything else. In other words I was paid to meet an amazing band and do what I would have done anyways: take photos. I’m a big people-person so if I had the opportunity to do my thing while meeting neat people, I guess that would be as close to a dream job as I can think of at this point in my life. I’m not sure about the long-run career plans…but one thing is for sure: I will always keep shooting because I can’t imagine not!



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