It all started with a Polaroid camera. I was four years old. I would merrily run around the house and out into the garden, taking pictures of my world, the world as I saw it. These pictures were everywhere around our family home: candid pictures; pictures often unwittingly spilling with emotion; pictures sometimes beautiful with artistic blur and a little left of centre; pictures of my pet bunny rabbit; pictures of ribbon-tailed kites dancing in flight; pictures of my father’s hands – overworked yet yielding; pictures of my brother’s guitar; pictures of flowers and goldfish; pictures of puddles and poodles; and pictures of the pretty blonde boy who lived across the street. My mother used to have to prise the Polaroid camera from my tiny fingers after I’d fallen asleep...
And the passion has never deserted me.
Thirty summers have risen and fallen, and I still look at the world around me through a viewfinder. I still see things differently, from most. I still see beauty in the mundane. I still look at beautiful faces and see how I would like to present them. Thirty summers later and I still hunger for the shadows and chase the light. I live for the light, that perfect light; that perfect face; that perfect moment, to capture that emotion and immortalize that emotion.
Perfect light cannot be switched on. Emotion cannot be switched on. Perfect light is found at 4am amid the neon rivers on the rain-stained streets of Manhattan. Perfect light is found beneath the watery winter sunshine in a Scottish forest on a crisp December morning. Perfect light is that sharp blade of light breaking through bedroom curtains, like a headrush, the morning after the party. Perfect light is the rainbow found on the floor as light is refracted through an abandoned glass of water on the window sill mid-July.
I am an artist and a cannibal. I am constantly devouring everything around me… every face, every location, every dream. Thirsty for new light, new faces and new surroundings. I do not like harsh, artificial light and the confines of a studio. To me, these aspects of photography do not inspire, or stir creativity. To me, they kill it. Give me the outdoors, the unpredictability of natural light. Give me unpredictable weather. I am from Scotland, unpredictable weather is wonderfully predictable. I live for those moments because that’s where the real magic happens… like the unexpected thunderstorm or otherworldly cameo appearance of a rainbow during a fashion shoot. I live for these moments. They shape and inspire me. I feed off that. I feel alive.
The essence of emotion can only be captured with patience. I wait, and I watch. I wait for that magical moment when the subject seems lost within themselves; lost in a wave of nostalgia or the rhythm they walk to. I wait until it is almost tangible, visceral, then I shoot.
When I shoot I become someone else. The passion, the addiction to beauty takes a hold of me, possesses me, and I shoot. I shoot until that moment passes – that perfect moment, that perfect feeling is immortalized – and a new one begins.
Inspiration comes from the world around me. Inspiration comes from within. Within the surreality, hysteria and beauty in my imaginarium: a strange and wonderful pastiche of excerpts of my dreams and flashbacks of memories, passages of books I have read, torn pages of vintage Italian Vogue I have avidly collected, scenes from the films I have seen, memories of places I have travelled to, and flitting thoughts of places I have yet to visit; a world where anything and everything is possible. The genius of Hedi Slimane, Helmut Newton, Annie Liebowitz, Anton Corbjin, David Bailey, Cecil Beaton and Bob Carlos Clarke have all inspired me and shaped me. Moving images from Polanksi, Vadim, Fellini, Bertolucci, Warhol, Fassbinder and nouvelle vague cinema are also a huge inspiration to me.
Every day I am inspired.
Every day I dream.
Little by little, day by day, I turn my big dreams into little realities. I constantly set myself projects: projects to refresh my portfolio and keep it dynamic and pulsating. One such undertaking is my ‘365 Day Polaroid Portrait Project’ which constitutes taking one self-portrait every day. Many others have done this before me, but I have a twist. These images are taken (and edited) solely using the iconic iPhone 4 and using a plethora of photo editing apps that can be downloaded from the iApple Store. Upon completion of this quest of self-discovery I will publish all 365 images in a mini-book which will be available to buy from my website.
My latest book project is entitled ‘A Different Take’ and it is a celebration of the diversity of people. As each page turns, a new face appears. People: some I know, some I don’t. Each person will then be asked to describe themselves in 4 words. This will be the title of their portrait. Again, this book will be available to buy from my website. The book launch will be heralded by an exhibit of a choice selection of portraits. This project is still in its infancy, it only began on 1st March 2011.
This innate addiction to beautiful imagery that courses through my veins, bleeds into other aspects of my life, by way of music and written word. Not only do I paint with light, I also paint pictures with words and song.
I grew up in a house full of music and love. A house furnished with books: books that I regarded as my friends. That circle of friends amassed and my hunger for written imagery remains urgent and steadfast. A house blessed with music: an old piano, guitars and violins. A house teeming with art: a house fragrant with linseed oil. To grow up in this creative and nurturing environment, full of love and an undying appreciation of art, music and beauty was a blessing.
As a child, having access to Leica, Pentax and Bromica cameras was something I never took for granted. They were my soulmates and I treated them with respect. Memories of the smell of bromide in a wardrobe, light sealed out by way of masking tape, serving as a makeshift darkroom with my brothers (also photographers) was fun and remain imprinted as some of my happiest memories.
Memories of a warm, nurturing and creative home: memories of devouring coffee-table books and technical manuals; memories of drawers full of reels of film – reel upon reel of trial and error and self-directed learning.
This is who I am, and what has shaped and inspired me to create the pictures I make today.
(Kat McDonald Photography)
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