Meet Katherine Barcsay
A big part of The Room Downtown is creating a photo studio that will support and champion the LA photography community. And what better way to do that than to feature some wonderful photographers themselves! This month, we have the pleasure of featuring LA-based photographer Katherine Barcsay.
Upon some casual web-hunting, the first thing a person might notice about Katherine is the variety of talents and accomplishments under her belt. A photographer, yes, but also a cinematographer, actress and graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, now Company Manager of AADA (started from the bottom now we here, etc.), and badass academic with a Master of Arts in Film Studies. Just check out her thesis, “PROFIT AND PRODUCTION:
JANE AUSTEN’S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE ON FILM”, it’s pretty dang interesting. Okay, I just read the abstract and a few pages here and there. What I gathered, however, confirmed some thoughts about the focus of this article, Katherine’s editorial and fashion photography.
The thesis seems to posit (and please Katherine, excuse me if I’m way off base here) that analysis of a film adaptation rewards more complex and original thought when focused on the context from which the film was created (the socioeconomic and cultural forces during production), rather than nebulously analyzing the fidelity of the piece to the original source material; using the various film adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a case study. Throughout the thesis she reaps the rewards of this tactic, working through P n’ P’s viability as a story to be continuously adapted and the mechanisms that support this viability within audiences and the film industry; supporting her focus on scene over subject to reveal the more interesting picture. Smell that transition? Indeed, Katherine’s voice as a photographer seems to lead with the same foot.
Thematically, much of her work plays with the presentation of gender and glamour, using wide expanses of sky and swathes of carefully constructed light to create vignettes and separate the subject in the foreground from the scenic elements of the background. This intelligent use of light and composition makes the subject truly POP. At the same time, however, the subjects are surprisingly neutral. Their gazes are usually passive and cool, forms loose, bodies geometric. The result is that the humans in her editorial work become sculptural, stripped of their own personality. Instead, they act as a focal point for the entire scene of the photo, a beautiful property to gather and accentuate the feelings, compositions, and ideas of immaculately chosen and crafted environments and wardrobes (be it a Victorian dress, mid-century suit, or delicious coating of glitter). Though the subject is often central within the image, the mise-en-scene is what truly shines. This focus on the environmental context of her fashion/editorial photography, as in her thesis on film adaptation, creates more interesting and complex results than if she’d focused her images more heavy-handedly on the subject. All of this is only accomplished through Katherine’s mastery of her craft, artfully crafting a holistic image where the elements of the photo never fight against each other.
Also, though I didn’t cover it here, Katherine is an excellent wedding, production, and event photographer. Check her out! To get more information on Katherine and her work, take a look at her interview below.
So, what got you into photography in the first place?
I grew up in a family of amateur photographers, so I’ve had a camera in hand as long as I can remember. I graduated from polaroids, to point and shoot, to film, to the professional grade digital cameras that I now shoot on.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to get into photography?
Learn everything about your camera. Start shooting in manual and just play. You can learn so much just by trial and error.
Tell us about one of your favorite shoots!
I think my favorite shoots come from collaborations with people who are creative and have a specific project in mind. Recently I did a shoot at an abandoned plane in the Nevada desert. The whole team drove out and back and it mixed exploration and creativity, which is my favorite thing about shooting at a location.
What do you do to recharge, refresh, or inspire your creativity?
Shooting for me. It’s easy to get lazy about this, but just getting out of LA and driving to somewhere that’s beautiful and inspiring and just shooting some cool landscapes is often enough to recharge me.
How would you describe the relationship between you, your camera, and the subject during your average photo shoot?
Have you ever faced a photo shoot or client or situation that was particularly challenging? How did you overcome it?
I’ve mostly been really lucky, but I’ve struggled with some clients who were anxious about the way they looked in photos and who weren’t comfortable in front of a camera. It’s really just about having patience and being open to modifying your plan or style. I think there are often occasions where we have a specific idea of a shoot in our head and it doesn’t always go to plan. Some of the shots I’ve been happiest with occur when I was able to just be open-minded and stray from a plan.
What’s your current dream/fantasy shoot?
Something in Iceland. It’s a photographer’s dream. I’d love to get some photos of the Northern Lights. If I could get lighting equipment and some models out there to do a couple of other shoots, so much the better!
How do you approach studio vs street photography? Is there anything particular you look for in a studio?
I have a small studio in my garage, but otherwise I’m looking for locations that are interesting and that will enhance the photo itself. In terms of a large studio space I’d be looking for something that allowed for natural and studio light and could accommodate a large shoot. My studio is often too small for larger scale projects.
What are some things or people that have inspired you as a photographer?
Too many to name! Everything from professional fashion photographers to fine art photographers to commercial photographers. I think there is something to be learned from everyone.
How have you grown as a photographer since you started? Any different techniques? A change in mentality about the form or yourself as a photographer?
Hopefully a lot haha. If you look at some of my early portraits, they’re pretty painful. I think I invested in myself. I got better equipment, learned about my camera, played more and shot for me. It’s not something you get into to make money. You have to be shooting because you want to, otherwise what’s the point?
Photographers: Katherine Barcsay, Jonny Barlow (photo of Katherine)
TAGS : Los angeles feature photography, katherine barcsay photography
Also published on Medium.