Art Producers Speak: Helen Cathcart

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Art Buyer: I nominate Helen Cathcart who is a wonderful talent who deserves greatly to be recognized as she is an incredibly well-rounded photographer who can shoot just anything and make you want to either eat it/visit it/or meet it.

I chased this candy floss seller down Chowpatty beach like a madwoman. I was out there photographing for Mr. Todiwala’s Bombay Cookbook and this image made it onto the cover.

I chased this candy floss seller down Chowpatty beach like a madwoman. I was out there photographing for Mr. Todiwala’s Bombay Cookbook and this image made it onto the cover.

I have photographed backstage for Nicholas Oakwell Couture since his first show. He produces the most beautiful clothes. I love the crescendo that builds up backstage until the models walk out on the runway.

I have photographed backstage for Nicholas Oakwell Couture since his first show. He produces the most beautiful clothes. I love the crescendo that builds up backstage until the models walk out on the runway.

This shot was part of an Australian themed recipe shoot for House and Garden. I have a wonderful picture editor there and he has given me many opportunities in shooting a range of different things for the magazine.

This shot was part of an Australian themed recipe shoot for House and Garden. I have a wonderful picture editor there and he has given me many opportunities in shooting a range of different things for the magazine.

This was an advertorial shot for John Lewis and commissioned by the Guardian. I love to make my images look painterly and was particularly pleased with this one.

This was an advertorial shot for John Lewis and commissioned by the Guardian. I love to make my images look painterly and was particularly pleased with this one.

Conde Nast Traveler US sent me to shoot this amazing hotel in the desert in Israel and my poor friend got roped into donning a swimsuit and posing for me.

Conde Nast Traveler US sent me to shoot this amazing hotel in the desert in Israel and my poor friend got roped into donning a swimsuit and posing for me.

I really like this shot of Derren Brown standing in front of a painting he has done of his father. I think it captures a moment which shows his personality, which is actually quite shy, and also that it showcases the fact that he is an amazing portrait painter which not a lot of people know him for.

I really like this shot of Derren Brown standing in front of a painting he has done of his father. I think it captures a moment which shows his personality, which is actually quite shy, and also that it showcases the fact that he is an amazing portrait painter which not a lot of people know him for.

This is one of my favourite recipe shots of Limbu Pani, which I shot back in London for the Mr. Todiwala Bombay Cook Book.

This is one of my favourite recipe shots of Limbu Pani, which I shot back in London for the Mr. Todiwala Bombay Cook Book.

I absolutely fell in love with the Isle of Skye on this commission. This shot is of a deerstalker on the hunt for some venison.

I absolutely fell in love with the Isle of Skye on this commission. This shot is of a deerstalker on the hunt for some venison.

I shot a lovely book this year which was a bit of a departure for me called ‘The House Gardener’. This was an interior shot from a great location house we used.

I shot a lovely book this year which was a bit of a departure for me called ‘The House Gardener’. This was an interior shot from a great location house we used.

I got up at 4am to go out with Olivier Parpillon on his boat. It was for a feature on Bourget du Lac, a village with 4 Michelin starred restaurants. He supplies them all with Lavaret, a fish only found in that lake.

I got up at 4am to go out with Olivier Parpillon on his boat. It was for a feature on Bourget du Lac, a village with 4 Michelin starred restaurants. He supplies them all with Lavaret, a fish only found in that lake.

This was one of my favourite shots from a Cookbook I shot on recipes from the Amalfi Coast by the Caldesi’s. It was in fact my first of many cookbook’s, commissioned by Hardie Grant who I love working for.

This was one of my favourite shots from a Cookbook I shot on recipes from the Amalfi Coast by the Caldesi’s. It was in fact my first of many cookbook’s, commissioned by Hardie Grant who I love working for.

This image was part of a shoot for a Corney and Barrow Christmas Catalogue. It was the first time I realized the feel I could get if I was shooting in near darkness!

This image was part of a shoot for a Corney and Barrow Christmas Catalogue. It was the first time I realized the feel I could get if I was shooting in near darkness!

How many years have you been in business?
I actually started out as a photo editor for 5 years and when my boss found out I did photography too, he let me commission myself for some features, but I made the leap to full time photographer about 3 years ago.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I did a degree in Photography but I would not attribute that in any way to me making a living from Photography today. It was a very fine art based course with no interest in actually teaching you how to get a job at the end of it. I spent 8 hours a day in the dark room which isn’t very useful to me now. I followed it up with an MA in Design and Art Direction in order to get me out of waitressing and I learnt much more from that!

I gained most of my technical knowledge from two photographers I worked with on my picture desk but mainly I believe you learn on every shoot and that there is a way of seeing things that you can’t really teach.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I was given Eve Arnold’s Book ‘In Retrospect’ my by Aunt when I was quite young. I absolutely loved her style and what she captured and how she had just gone out there and put herself in situations. I think that was definitely my main inspiration that I could be a photographer. Although I don’t shoot fashion, fashion photography always inspired me and especially the early fashion photographers such as Richard Avedon and Herb Ritts.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
I have to say this can be quite difficult when you become busy and are shooting commissioned work all the time. For me I make sure to mix up the work I am doing which is why I shoot a lot of different things.

I am trying to be more strict with myself to shoot more personal work but I made a concerted effort at the end of last year that I was going to take some time away from shooting altogether to get my creativity back. I went to Cape Town for 6 weeks at the start of this year just to get to the light, get into a different way of life, even paint! It was just what I needed.

I find that somehow my work has always been inspired by nature and going back to that always helps me.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Every shoot is so different but this can definitely happen. At the end of the day you and the creative are usually on the same page so you will try to push the boundaries as much as possible. A lot of it is about dealing with people and explaining your point of view on the shoot. Almost selling it I guess. Once they see what I am doing they usually go with it. I have very rarely felt restricted and having been on the photo editor side of things I think I can see things from both sides quite well.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
It is sometimes so hard to find time to update the buying audience on your work but so important. I try to do a little newsletter every so often. I use instagram a lot and I have a blog that I like to show personal work and recent shoots, and this goes out to art buyers I have worked with and would like to work with.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
I think you can easily slip into this, especially because it is very important to listen to what the buyer has asked for and make sure they get it, but I have always found that when you produce something that is entirely your point of view and you are really happy with it, it is usually different to anything else and that is the work attracts other work.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
I’m not shooting for myself as often as I would like. I really want to get a film camera so that when I shoot for myself it doesn’t feel like work, it feels completely different. I find it takes me a few days to unwind, not shooting at all for me to see things for myself again so I try to block out days where I don’t take commissions for this to happen. I get a lot of inspiration from travel though and this usually keeps my work fresh. I have been planning for ages to shoot behind the scenes at a strip club but can’t find any strippers! If anyone knows any, let me know!

How often are you shooting new work?
At the moment I’m shooting almost every day. I love what I do and keep getting commissions that I love which are very hard to say no to!

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Helen specialises in photographing food, travel, interiors and portraits. She started her career as a photo director, followed by freelance picture editing and photo direction on various news stand titles including British Vogue. After a move to Sydney she made the transition to full time photographer and now shoots for numerous magazines and brands and has photographed a number of cookbooks. Helen is currently based in London.
www.helencathcart.com
www.helencathcart.blogspot.com
twitter and Instagram: @helencathcart

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

There Are 4 Comments On This Article.

  1. ted batten

    Wow, she does beautiful work. Perfect website, too.

    thanks, anonymous art producer, whoever you are.

  2. Really, really lovely work. That tabletop shot was stunning and indeed painterly. It’s nice to see a photographer with a broad range of work kill it with each shot. I always hear “You need to specialize. YOu can’t do everything.” and wonder why not? She is and her work is great.

  3. Thanks so much for the fishing shots! I love being able to see into another world that I would not otherwise get to see. Thus the power of photography. :)