Interview Cathy Whatever Photography

Hi Cathy, hope you are well.

I am very well thank you and hope you too!

So let’s start with some background! How long have you been doing photography for?

From as far as I can remember, I have always loved photography! I got my first film camera when I was around 8 or 9 years old, and my first digital camera when I was 15. I remember spending hours taking photos of everything and everyon, playing with the settings and, let’s be honest, deleting hundreds of really bad photos. 

When I was at university, I spent 6 years managing a blog for which I was spending most of my spare time taking pictures at video game and music events in Paris. But then I moved to Spain for work, and because I couldn’t go to Paris to cover events anymore, I progressively stopped the blog.

In the past 5 or 6 years, I mostly used my camera for friends or family events, or to take some pictures while traveling, until a few months ago where it kind of kicked off again.

Although you are seemingly new to the DnB club life, your pictures seem to be getting you a lot of attention and you have been the official photographer for various nights in London recently. When was the first night and how did it come about?

To be honest, I think I have just been very lucky… My boyfriend Morgan is a Jungle & DnB DJ and he has been in the scene for ever. He introduced me to a few of his friends at Rupture in March, and we added each other on Facebook after that. In May, David Stretch (AKO Beatz) posted on his wall that he needed someone to take pictures at his Foundation Jungle night the week after and I told him I was coming to the event and would be happy to help.

I didn’t really have a portfolio or anything, so I just showed him a few pictures I had taken the week before at the Clashmouth DnB label market, and of Morgan mixing at home (in Star Wars slippers – but you can’t see that in the pictures) (He’ll hate me when he reads that! hahaha), and he decided to trust me. I told him a hundred time but I can’t thank him enough for that!

Star Wars slippers!!! Brilliant, actually laughed out loud when I read that! So with the way things started out for you, do you feel that it’s a massive necessity to possess a full portfolio when trying to get into photography with clubs etc?

I don’t think a big portfolio is necessary, but it is good to have a few pictures available that you can show to give an idea of your style and what you can do with low light. It can be a bit tricky to shoot in a dark club, and some promoters might want to make sure that you can handle it. But the most important thing to have for me is passion. If you have fun and enjoy the night, there is a big chance that it will show on your pictures!

The last gig we saw you do was FUTURE at the club Lightbox in Vauxhall, that must of been a great place to take photos from a creative perspective with all those lights and colours right?

Future was absolutely amazing! But challenging too! To be very honest, I was feeling very (VERY!) anxious before the event because I had never done such a big night and I felt like an impostor. There are so many amazing photographers out there that I admire!

When Andy (from Sines Series) sent me the link of the albums of the previous events, I thought ‘Holly Molly… It is going to be hard to get even close to that level… but challenge accepted!

During the night, I spent the first 2 hours panicking (Thank you Brian-Monita for trying to calm me down ) because I was struggling to get good shots.

The amount of light sources made it really hard to focus and a lot of my pictures were either underexposed or blurry. I went outside, had a deep breath (and a vodka redbull. Ooops), changed my settings to go full manual, and thought ‘Ok Cathy, try to get 50 good shots and the job will be done’. I went back in, Doc Scott was playing a wicked set, I managed to take a few pictures I was really happy with, got a bit of confidence back and I spent the rest of the night having fun, trying different angles and styles, and enjoying the beats!

So do you find now that there’s a certain level of versatility and persistence required when entering different clubs and their set ups (i.e lighting and lay out) after the conditions you experienced at the Lightbox?

Yes, nightclub photography is very different from everything else as the environment is very dark, the lights are constantly changing, there can be smoke, lasers and other type of special effects, and the crowd and DJs are moving around. You can’t be like ‘hey sorry, can you please stop mixing a second and look at my camera? I want to take a picture of you’ (I wish, though!)

It is the same for the crowd shots actually. You will sometimes be stopped by 2 friends who ask you to take a picture of you, so you start to focus and shoot, but then 2 other friends join and your focus is all messed up so you need to refocus, position yourself differently and shoot. I have so many fun stories already of pictures that got messed up because I was not fast enough to adapt to a situation!

Overall, I would say that you need to be open minded, ready to go out of your comfort zone and accept that your usual camera settings and shooting style are not a ‘1 size fits all’ and might not work in all clubs and nights.

It is good to be able to react very quickly to everything that happens around you as the best shots are usually candid and genuine interactions between people: 2 DJs who high five each other, a handshake with the public, someone shouting and pointing up because they love a drop, a DJ giving his headphones to another DJ during a B2B, etc.

These moments happen just once so you need to be very alert and attentive. All of this while adapting to the changing lights and effects…

So… yes… versatility and persistence seem to be the perfect words for club photography!

Carrying on with creative perspective, how do approach each night with the photos you are looking to capture… Do you have a set style of photography you apply and also is there a certain type of image you look to capture?

I love low light photography, because you can only play with colours and movements, and it forces me to go out of my comfort zone every time. Every club, night, and DJ style is different! Some of them are jumping around, others are very deep and focused, and I always try to capture that in my pictures. Before an event, I usually have a look at Instagram and Google to see what the club looks like. This will help me decide what lenses I bring, and give me ideas of pictures to take. I also try to arrive at the venue before the night starts, to test my settings, ask if there will be smoke, flashlights or lasers, and see what are the best spots to shoot the crowd and the DJs. My favourite type of pictures are DJ shots, where you see the hands moving on the decks, with a long exposure to get the movement and ambient light, but I also love to get pictures of people enjoying the music and dancing, particularly when they don’t notice that I am taking a picture of them… or when they are far away, in another dimension.

So everybody sees you taking pictures but there is a whole other element afterwards in the editing and picking a set of photos to present etc. We have noticed that most of your photos are readily available quite quickly, do you find it quite easy task to do?

I love the editing process and this is why I always do it the day after the event Going through the photos the day after is a way to bring back memories and it is almost like the night keeps going on as I browse the pictures!

I usually spend a couple of hours deleting duplicates, and blurry or not usable shots, before going through them again to select around 100 photos I am happy with.

After that, I edit the pictures one by one but I usually don’t do too much as I like to keep them as natural and vivid as possible. I have set up my own presets to add some vignetting on the edges on the pictures to focus on the subject, and sometimes correct the exposure if the pictures are too bright or dark. For some shots, I choose to use black and white, usually to give a different vibe, or when there are too many different colours on one picture (clothes etc). Overall, the selection and edition process takes me around 4 or 5 hours, and a couple of hours more if I do a short video trailer in addition to the pictures.

I’m interested to know on average how many pictures do you usually capture that are of a quality you are happy with? Or does this vary depending on the environment?

It really depends on the length of the night and the light conditions actually! During my first night, because I didn’t know how the photos will look like, I took around 2000 pictures, pre selected around 200 I was really happy with, and then delivered around 100 pictures after removing pictures that were too similar to each other. I am a bit perfectionist, I like when each photo has its own personality, either because of the subject, the framing or the light / colour, so when I have 2 similar shots, I usually only select and edit one.

During shorter nights or when I am more confident about the lighting and the venue, like the Drum+Basics night or the DJ Mag Bunker Skeleton one, I take around 300-400 pictures and deliver 50 or 100.

At Lightbox, because of the issue I had during the first few hours… I took almost 6000 pictures and selected / edited around 100. When I told you I panicked, this is what I meant!

So let’s talk equipment, what sort and camera and accessories are you working with?

My camera is a Sony A6000. It is a mirrorless camera, and it sometimes surprises people who see me during the events, because it is very small compared to the typical camera you might be used to see photographers use! I used a Canon DSLR camera for a long time, but I switched to Sony in 2011 with the Nex 5, and then the A6000 that I have been using for 3 years and I am planning to upgrade in the next few months.

The benefits of using a mirrorless for me is that it is much easier to carry it around, it is not heavy, and it is less intimidating than most DSLR cameras, which I find great to get more candid shots of crowds and DJs, without bothering anyone. I can be a bit shy in real life, so being undercover with a tiny camera is perfect for me.

This camera is my best friend, I know all the settings by heart and over the years, I learnt to use it in a way that doesn’t freeze the subjects. Like I said earlier, I love movement in my pictures, because it is the closest I will ever get to capturing the sound and the vibe of a night and a sick DJ set!

In terms of accessories, I use a 35mm and a 50mm lense with a wide aperture to get as much light as I can for portraits and close shots. For wider shots like those from FUTURE, I also use a 16mm lense and a fisheye.

Last but not least I always bring a grip to shoot horizontally and vertically, a flash (that I don’t always use), a diffuser, and (a lot of) batteries for my camera!

So in regards to drum and bass, are you a fan of it? Considering you go to a lot of nights to take pictures now… 

I love drum and bass. I used to listen the more mainstream/commercial stuff (shame on me!) and got introduced to jungle by Morgan. I particularly enjoy minimal DnB with very loud bass and beats. Some of my recent favourites include tracks from Artilect, Spirit, Jem-One, Oliver Yorke, Ricky Force, SB81, J:Kenzo, Overlook etc! I am really enjoying the process of discovering new tracks, new artists, spending hours browing Mixcloud and Soundcloud (and also spending too much money in vinyls…)

Liking your taste of DnB! Any DnB club nights you have got lined up that you are gonna be looking to attend in London (and beyond)?

As a photographer, I just got asked this week to be the photographer at Lightbox again for the Dispatch Recordings night on August 10th, and I will be covering Brighton Loves Jungle with Om Unit, Doc Scott and DJ Stretch on Sept 28th. I am really looking forward to these two nights!

Otherwise, for my ‘personal enjoyment’, I am going to my second Rupture night next week, and I will go to the Jungle List’s new night, Pressure, at the end of August.

I would love to go to the Metalheadz night at Egg London in August as the previous one in May was amazing, but it is just after a week of business trip with work so I might need a bit of sleep… I might change my mind at the last minute though

So away from photography, what do you like to do with yourself?

DJ/Club/DnB photography is my hobby, but during the day I am doing marketing in a video games company
In my spare time, I play the piano, video games, travel when I can, cook (French crepes, anyone?), read (dystopian novels mostly), and I recently bought a controller to start learning to mix, which is really good fun!
I like to be busy, have new projects, and do 100 things, but don’t get me wrong, I also love to spend a full day in bed watching Love Island and drinking tea and coffee. I might just be multitasking and post treating pictures at the same time.

I see you mentioned travelling, something I’m also very passionate about, I also saw you recently visited Iceland, how was the trip? And give us your full review.

Iceland was A-MA-ZING. It is a photographer’s paradise! The landscapes are beautiful, the sights are crazy, and it feels like a different planet. It was also very relaxing, and after a few hectic months, it felt really good to be almost alone in the middle of nowhere and in contact with nature. Very different from underground DnB clubs but hey! It is all about balance!

What can we expect from you moving forward in your photography career and for the remainder of 2018?

Let’s be honest… I have no idea! I just hope to have more opportunities to shoot cool events, meet cool people, and have a lot of fun on the way!

Web: www.cathywhatever.com

Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/cathywhateverUK/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/catelectoons

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathy.whatever/

 

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