Catherine Laura interviewed

By June 6, 2014

Art & Photography. Leeds.


Catherine Laura is a photographer specialising in underwater fashion (yes, you did read that correctly). After graduating from the Leeds College Of Art in 2012, the same year that she won the Young Fashion Photographer Of The Year award, she is currently based in a small village near Hull. At the age of just twenty-four, Catherine has worked with prestigious clients including Speedo and Eau De Cologne and has been featured in industry leading publications such as Elle and Vogue Italia; her career shows no signs of slowing down.

The photographs that Catherine Laura produces are like nothing that most people will be familiar with. Often utilising the reflective and refractive properties of water as a medium, she combines these elements with a strong, personal vision; riffing on mythology, folklore and childhood stories to weave a sense of narrative into her images. Handling light and shadow like a painter, Catherine’s work is not easily forgotten once seen and, taking time out from her busy schedule, she agreed to talk us here at The State Of The Arts.

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TSOTA: Hi Catherine, it’s great to speak to you. How’re you doing?

CL: I’m doing very well thank you, aside from the fact I’m a cricket widow.


TSOTA: What’s that sorry?

CL: My husband plays cricket, so I’m currently a cricket widow. It goes on for days and then they just eat cakes and drink tea. It’s not even a real sport.


TSOTA: Yeah, to be fair it is just one up from golf. Right, err… I was wondering; how it was that you got involved in underwater photography, given that it’s quite a niche area?

CL: Well, the photography came in when I was doing my A-levels. I used to be a fine artist, mainly a painter, but I got so impatient waiting for layers of paint to dry that needing fast results, lead me to photography. I only photographed on land at first but then when I told the tutors at Loughborough, where I did my Foundation course in art, that I’m a scuba-diving instructor their reaction was “Oh, wow! Why don’t you do an underwater photography project?” At first I didn’t even think that it would be possible but after I did some research I gave it a go. That was it, from then on. It’s perfect for me really because it combines two things that are huge parts of my life, the photography and the water. I get to be a little mermaid!


TSOTA: Your images have a really strong and consistent aesthetic and they often seem to have a classical, mythic quality. Is there anywhere or anything specific that you draw inspiration from?

CL: Yeah for sure. When I was a kid my dad would play really old films all the time and he was into a lot of literature, particularly Shakespeare, so I think that must have filtered in somewhere. That coupled with stories from my childhood, remembering things like ‘Wind In The Willows’, it’s all just bubbled away in my subconscious and gets spat out in these romantic, otherworldly images. I like to create something that is so very different from what people see everyday. Also, I have Gypsy heritage on my dad’s side and all of the folklore that comes with Romany Gypsy life has always really intrigued me.


TSOTA: It’s interesting that you mentioned that you have a background in painting, as your handling of light and colour and the overall feel of your images has a definite painterly quality. Is this something that you try to achieve consciously?

CL: Yeah, definitely. Whenever I can I always try to use natural light. I don’t particularly like the harshness of studio lighting, so where I can, whether on land or on water, I’ll opt for natural light. This is something that I have to keep in mind constantly, especially when I’m hiring a private pool. It’s largely the qualities of natural light that allow me to make images as I do. From being a fine artist and doing all the hardcore research that goes with that, going to loads of galleries all the time, these are things that I’ve been doing since school, so that constantly informs my work as well.


TSOTA: In 2012 you won, Young Fashion Photographer Of The Year, which is obviously a huge award, but I was wondering if it actually had any instantly noticeable affect on your career?

CL: I think it did, yeah. I mean, I had people phoning me and emailing after I won and I think that it did make people in the industry take more notice of what I’m doing. Also, it gave me the confidence to approach more clients. Just to email and say, “Hi, I’ve just won this. Here’s my work. Let me shoot a feature with you” or “let’s shoot a look-book”. The other thing is that with underwater fashion photography being so niche, I was wondering if I could really make it work as a career and winning the award just gave me a huge confidence boost in general.


TSOTA: Having worked with clients including Speedo, Eau De Cologne and The Clothes Show Live, and having been featured in publication like Elle and Vogue Italia, less than two years out of university, what advice do you have for other young photographers who are trying to break through?

CL: Wow, ok! Well I suppose the main one would be to just shoot loads. When I was on my degree I was shooting something new every week, finding new people to collaborate with and trying new ideas out. If you are constantly shooting and you love what you do, then that’s a great start. Also, don’t be afraid to contact people in the industry and ask to work with them. It can be really scary just firing off emails and calling people but you have to get used to it. Networking and going to events, trying to be in the right place at the right time is something that I spend a lot of time doing and again, you just have to do. Other than that, I guess, just believe in yourself and don’t let yourself believe that you can’t do it.


TSOTA: Having become an established professional, I’ve noticed that you haven’t, as most, especially young creatives do…

CL: What? Run off to London?


TSOTA: Well, yeah.

CL: Haha! No I haven’t.


TSOTA: So what is that keeps you in Yorkshire?

CL: I live in a little village near Hull and to be honest, I couldn’t imagine not living around nature. I’m talking to you now looking out of my window and there’s some beautiful little woods at the bottom of my garden. A lot of my inspiration for the look of my images comes from that, from living in the countryside. If I was looking out of the window of the flat that I couldn’t afford, at some grey buildings and a tiny bit of sky, I just wouldn’t be able to make the photos that I do. I do go down to London for shoots and events and meetings but with a train or a car it doesn’t take that long at all. Basically, this is just where I need to be creatively.


TSOTA: Lastly, do you have anything exciting coming up that I you would like to tell us about?

CL: Hmm, well I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say. I do have some great things on the horizon but you’ll just have to watch this space.


Thank you Catherine!

Filed under: Art & Photography