September 24, 2010 by N@
Award-winning editorial photographer Catherine Hall is a masterful visual storyteller, powered by boundless energy, creative artistry, and a gift for connecting with others. With assignments as diverse as corporate/ industrial shoots, fine art portraiture, and fashion-lifestyle work, Catherine nimbly serves the needs of her broad-based clientele. Her projects to date have taken her to 30 countries within North, Central, and South America; Europe; Asia; and the Trans-Pacific.
Catherine’s flair for building trust and connecting easily with subjects is prized by clients, as is her passion for perfection, easygoing nature, and out-of-the-box artistry.
While she gives her all for each and every frame she shoots, checking backgrounds, flattering angles, lighting, depth of field, and composition. She achieves her most dramatic results when she follows her heart and gut.
Catherine’s award-winning images have been exhibited in galleries in Paris, New York City, the San Francisco Bay area, and Lestans, Italy, near Venice. Her work is featured regularly in prestigious publications, among them The New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, and National Geographic Traveler.
How long have you been picking up a camera?
I enrolled in my first photography class, a course offered by my high school arts department, when I was sixteen-years-old. The first image I ever shot and developed was a close-up of a horse’s marble-black eye, with several green farm flies buzzing within the frame in soft focus. At the time, I thought I was a renegade! Looking back, I blush at my naiveté.
Once, for an open house event, my instructor offered me the opportunity to curate a small exhibition of my own work—my first-ever solo show! At the event that night, I overheard a parent ask my instructor what he thought of my photography. “She’s gifted, but she’ll never make it as a professional,” he said. My reaction? I’ll show you, I thought.
And, ultimately, I did.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a photographer?
As a teenager, I always had an inkling that I might become a professional photographer. I didn’t realize it was possible, though, until I dove headlong intro transforming my passion into a commercially-viable undertaking. Negotiating that first commission requires courage—you have to believe in your gifts enough to place a worth value on them.
At the end of the day, photography is a labor of love for me. I’ve heard people say that they could never transform their passion into their business, as it would ruin their joy for the art form. I don’t find that to be true. I only fall more and more in love with every day that I spend honing my craft and growing my business. I wake up every morning excited to do what I love.
What is your specialty as a photographer?
I’m attracted to complex, diverse imagery. My editorial work exhibits an inclination towards a dark beauty. My professional wedding photography allows me to find psychological and aesthetic balance in sensual, wrapping light and the female form. It allows me to document the extreme fantasies of beauty.
When you’re not shooting for clients, what kind of images do you like to shoot?
To date, my photography has taken me to over 30 countries. Photography gives me the impetus—indeed, the license—that I need to immerse myself in another culture, learn through experience, and forge relationships I wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
You have been an international judge for many years now, how did you first get into judging?
Interestingly, it wasn’t my original intention to be a judge! At the beginning of my career as a professional photographer, I chose to be very proactive about entering a lot of competitions, as I desired to bring exposure to my artwork. This played a significant role in carving out my name in the industry, and my role as a judge came as a natural extension of that.
Do you think there are extra considerations to be made when entering an international versus local competition?
I am less concerned about the scope of a competition then the style. It’s important to educate yourself about the parameters and expectations of entrants. What is the contest about? Is it conservative? Do they prefer traditional lighting or are they open to experimental lighting? Do they prefer daring editorial photos or textbook, conservative photographs? The most important aspect of entering a competition is to gear your entries toward your audience.
It’s been said many times that entering a competition is more than just winning. What do you take away from a competition when you enter?
Participating in the Aperture Awards competition has been particularly influential for me as a photographer. Typically, contest judges make their decisions behind closed doors, without offering feedback after the winner is determined. One of the great things about the Aperture competition is that the judges have the option to comment.
Several years ago, two Aperture Award judges provided me with commentary about one of my entries, explaining that while my image was wonderfully composed, the lighting was flat. These judges are respected photography professionals, to whom I looked up. While I already intuitively knew that my images were flat, the message finally hit home when coming from the judges.
Learning why I hadn’t won proved even better than winning—it challenged me to begin exploring lighting techniques that have transformed my images for the better. It’s not winning that matters; in the end, the point of life is personal growth.
What are the first three things you look at in images when you judging a competition?
When judging, for me the three most important components of an image are – the lighting, composition, and expression. It’s something technical and, at the same time, something psychologically gripping.
What advice would you offer photographers entering a competition for the first time?
Seek feedback from others—family, friends, and, most importantly, colleagues and peers who are also photographers. Don’t just enter what you think is good, because all artists are biased about their work. And it’s crucial to listen. Often, it can make all the difference to let go and trust the insights of others.
Entries to The 2010 International Aperture Awards close on 15th October.