Cate Wnek | Artist Spotlight with Joyce Kang

Ever since I "met" Cate as one of the students in my film photography workshop, Embrace The Grain, I knew she was someone very special.  It was such an honor to able to witness her unique style comes through her work during the workshop.  

Needless to say, I have been a Cate Wnek fan ever since!

Her film images are always leave me in awe!  I am super excited when she agreed to be interviewed on Little Bellows and allowed me to ask some really tough questions about shooting film.  Are you a fan of Cate?  If you are not, you will by the end of this interview, I promise!  Let's get to know Cate: 

Joyce:  First, I want to say CONGRATULATIONS to your well deserve article feature on Lemonade and Lenses!! How exciting it must be for you!

Cate: Thank you! It was completely surreal, and I wouldn't let myself believe it until I saw it in print. It was such a tremendous honor, and it made me realize how important it is to keep my dreams and goals right in front of me, and not be afraid of achieving and exceeding them.

Joyce:  How did you first get into photography? Do you have a formal education in photography or self-taught?

Cate: Looking back to growing up, I always had an interest in photography. I had Ansel Adams and Robert Doisneau posters up in my room. But I never knew that it was something that I would seriously pursue until after I had children. Like many, I was drawn to photography because I wanted beautiful images of my children. Once I discovered how light can really shape an image, I fell head over heels in love. I am mostly self-taught, with lots of wonderful workshops such as Embrace the Grain. One thing that I love about photography is that there is always something new to learn and master.

Joyce:  Have you always shoot on film, why (or why not)? What is that "thing" about film that keep you wanting to shoot film in this digital, pixel peeping photography world today?

Cate: I launched into the wonderful of film this past January. I felt like I had maxed out a bit in my learning of digital photography, and film seemed like the perfect foray. I have always loved the look, and I had a huge curiosity for the darkroom. Add to that, I made a new acquaintance whose late husband was a photographer, and she was looking for someone to put all his film gear to use. Talk about signs! What a boon! Now, having used film for a while, I find myself preferring it to digital for it's wide range of tones and ability to react to light in such a tangible and beautiful way. My first choice from here forward will always be film. I feel like I am indulging myself whenever I unwrap a roll to load into the camera. And, I actually feel my heart swell when I load a sheet of 4x5. It is a bit like a big new love.

Joyce:  As you know, I have always been your fan since "meeting" you during Embrace The Grain Workshop!! Your work has an unique introspective and thoughtful quality...I can't really describe it well, but I can see YOU in every image you create. What is one advice you can give to Little Bellow fans who are struggling to develop their own unique style?

Cate: Oh my goodness, you are too kind to me! I don't know what better compliment I could receive. It's the double scoop with a cherry on top! Thank you! Well, when I hold that camera in my hands, I have such a stronger feeling of connection to the moment I'm observing, and I just love recording and sharing something so subtle that others might overlook. It's a vibe, or a split second of a rhythm, that conveys the whole story to the viewer, whether it's a small detail or a larger scene. I also love to play with the light to help tell the story. I do lots of experimenting, messing around, and I place a lot of faith in the camera. Especially with film, I almost make a wish every time I press the shutter. Holding my breath in hopes! If you're struggling to develop your own style, then I would suggest shooting more, and taking more risks. Trial and error, again and again. Then cull those images that make your heart full, gathering those images that are most honest and true to you. It's a never ending process, which I find to be one of the most satisfying aspects of photography.

Joyce: I think one of the struggles as a mother is finding the balance between work and family time. How do you balance the two?

Cate:  Oh I love this question, because I have been thinking about this a lot lately. It is hard to avoid feelings of guilt as I pour myself into this passion. It's easy to think that it is taking away from my children, husband, and everything else in life. But, after reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I see how if I wasn't doing this then I wouldn't be as good a mother, wife, person. In throwing myself into this journey into photography, I am actually making myself more capable of love and happiness. I am setting an example for my children, that hard work and persistence will bring good things to us all. I do try to balance as best I can, especially with eating right and exercising. The more healthy and happy I am, the better I am for all of the people who are important to me. I try to keep my time at my desk to when the kids are at school. And I love surprising them with photography adventures, such as going to the beach after school, or this spot near us at low tide for the tidal pools.

Joyce:  If you have one advice you can give to those who are just starting out on film photography, what would it be and why?

Cate: Please don't fret about the mistakes, instead, see them as are part of the fun. Seriously! I can't tell you how many good laughs I have had at all my missteps this year. There are so many ways to fowl it up film, in camera and in the darkroom, but just remember that each time you make a mistake, you are learning. Oooooh! If you are like me and love learning, then it will be an exciting adventure.

Joyce:  If you can spend one day with one person (present or past), who will it be and what would you talk about?

Cate:  Oh, well I have to say Sally Mann. I just love her work, all of it so much that I feel like I know her. I would love to observe her printing process, and just hang out with her, talking about photography and possibility over a glass of wine. Oh to be able to count her as a friend.

Joyce:  What are some of your favorite cameras and equipment that you can't do without on a client session? Do the setups change for personal work? Can you share what are your must haves for for personal work?

Cate:  Most of my work is personal these days, as I only do a client session here or there as requests come my way. So, I don't have an established routine there yet, but I have used the Hasselblad on the couple of sessions I have done recently and have loved the results. The vintage cameras I am borrowing right now are making it so my Pentax 645N is gathering a bit of dust. Going forward, I am excited to play more with the large format Graflex I am borrowing. It's a World War II press camera, 4x5, and I just know it's going to be sublime to discover all of it's possibilities.

Joyce:  What and Whom do you draw your inspiration from?

Cate: First and foremost, it is the world around me, what I see here, which is pretty my children and the light. Maine is such an inspiring place to live as a photographer. I will often peruse Henri Cartier-Bresson's work for interesting compositions, Sally Mann for light. Also, Alain Laboile and Yan Palmer for their eyes for life.

Joyce:  If you can go back in time and do it all over again, what would you do differently and why?

Start into photography sooner. I wish I had taken Photography in high school, and gone to art school. I always yearn for a formal photography education now. It would have saved me many long hours studying for Organic Chemistry exams, wanting to cry and pull my hair out for my inability to connect with that matter. I enjoyed the lab work though, which is a fun connection to my work in the darkroom now.

Ok, here goes the "quick shooter"...here we go: 

What are your favorite artists on your play list right now?  Bon Iver on Pandora

."I wish my kids would hurry up and go to sleep so I can watch..."  Downton Abbey

A quote you live by:  I dwell in possibility . . . - Emily Dickinson

Where is the most exotic place you have ever been?  Ireland

The first item on your bucket list:  Road trip across the country to visit the national parks with my family.

Your favorite hobbies beside photography:  You know, it's all about photography for me now

Beer or wine?  Wine, full-bodied red

Flip flops, sneakers or sexy stilettos  Flip Flops, I love heels, but they hurt my feet.

Car, Train or Airplane?  Airplane

Two truths and a lie:  I grew up dancing. I am from Virginia. I am so organized!

See!  I told you you'd be a fan at the end of this interview!  Want more Cate?  Follow her through the links below:

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