Introducing Jack’s SHERO: None other than Cat Race of CatsDog Photography!
The pandemic has been tough for many photographers but one of the positives that it has given us is more time to invest in what we love. It’s given me more time to work on the Don’t You Want Me Project, to upgrade my lighting set up, to find an assistant and to learn from and connect with other photographers.
One of those photographers is someone I’ve been wowed by ever since I first saw her work, and luckily for me, she agreed to a zoom interview - that’s right, one of my all time sheroes - the unmistakable personal and photographic style that is Cat of CatsDog Photography.
Here’s how the conversation went:-
Jack: OMG OMG OMG your work is amazing, tell me how you got to where you are today!
Cat: Awwww! Thanks lovely! I studied A-Level photography then worked for a fashion photographer whilst studying web and multimedia at the University of Central Lancashire. I’d always loved photography, but never considered it a realistic career choice - photography was just for fun right? WRONG. I got a part time job assisting a fashion photographer which not only gave me a huge amount of experience, but also made me see that there were so many different careers I could pursue as a photographer.
During university I began working at Venture, a family portrait studio that has an excellent reputation and where I learnt so many invaluable skills. If any dogs came into the studio I jumped at the opportunity to work with them but in doing so, I began to notice how much easier a session was outdoors when I had been practicing with the CatsDog mascot herself, Poppy the chihuahua! I decided to go part time at the portrait studio so that I could focus more on my own dog photography and within 3 months I’d built up enough of a base to go out on my own! And that was back in 2013 and it’s been a crazy adventure ever since! I love working outdoors, there’s far more variety and I just think the dogs are happier being in their natural environment.
Jack: Can you tell me a bit more about the crazy adventure?
Cat: It’s been a massive journey since the early days in 2013, but it’s also been a natural progression which I think many photographers can relate to. During the first year I was shooting 30 sessions a month, then I met Michael, the other half of CatsDog Photography (and also my other half!) in 2014, and business picked up even more so I started employing a couple of other photographers. I thought I’d really made it - my days in the studio had it drilled into me that the more the better but it was getting to a point where I realised I was working for myself, but not actually getting to do the things that I really loved doing. I wanted to focus more on the whole client experience, the creativity of the session to the end product and happy client. So CatsDog Photography went back to its roots; me, Michael, having fun and producing quality work. More of a high end boutique feel with a huge amount of fun involved.
Jack: You’ve achieved what many photographers can only dream of. What do you put it down to?
Cat: Isn’t life always a bit about luck? But I would add to that my education, training at Venture, consistency and a real go get attitude. We worked 7 days a week year round for the first few years, partnering and connecting with so many different people. We worked tirelessly and consistently on our social media, and I think it really helps when people feel like they know you. Finally, like you, I just happen to really really love what I do, and you betcha that helps!
Jack: Your photography has taken you to lots of different places - can you name a couple of your favourites?
Cat: Honestly, every time we’re commissioned to do a shoot abroad my heart just swells with gratitude and I love each and every experience, but we really loved Toronto - such a friendly amazing city - we’ll definitely be back!
Jack: What are your proudest achievements to date?
Cat: I placed in the British Photographer of the Year Awards in 2019 as well as placing three times in the Kennel Club’s Dog Photographer of the Year (including two category wins). I’m also a judge in this year’s Pet Photographer’s Club International Pet Photographer of the Year competition as well as other online dog photography awards. Opening the studio on Tulketh Brow so that we could host our gallery and staff was also a pivotal point in my career. A well known pet photographer in Chicago reached out to me and asked me to travel there to do a session with her dogs - which was such a compliment. But in all honesty, whilst it’s great to be recognised for my work, I think my biggest achievement to date is simply being able to do what I love every single day.
Jack: Have you had any pandemic silver linings?
Cat: Just like you, it’s given me more time to dive into work that had long been on my to do list. I’ve started playing around with editing videos on adobe premiere and it’s just the next natural step for the marketing of the business.
Jack: I totally love your aesthetic, do you ever get any pushback on the way you look?
Cat: I think because of my social media presence people have already brought in to who I am, and they feel like they know me when they arrive for their session. I’ve never experienced any downside personally and everyone seems to love my hair. I can only actually think of one instance when we had a super lovely, super tattooed guy working for us and a woman was a little cautious but as soon as she met him she obviously loved him. I think generally, in the creative industry there’s always the expectation that you’re a little more quirky.
Jack’s final thoughts: I still feel incredibly lucky to do the work that I do, but I wasted far too much time being scared and being stuck in a job I just didn’t love and certainly didn’t fit in. This is going out to anyone who feels too scared to leave something they don’t enjoy, too scared they’ll fail, people who feel not good enough - if you’ve found something that you want, work your ass off on getting it, rock your own style, and be you, unapologetically. I wasted 20 years of my life in a suit and a body that I didn’t belong in. Covering up and hiding parts of myself. I’ve found my passion now but it should have never taken that long. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life is fleeting and that we must strive to find things that we love. Now go out there and don’t waste another second.
BE YOU, BOLD, BRIGHT, BEAUTIFUL.
You can follow Cat’s adventures on Instagram AND if you’re as obsessed with her work as I am, she actually has a couple of dog photography workshops coming up! How cool is that - get in touch with her if you’re interested!