Cait Kovac is an All-American, All-star photographer who specializes in capturing the heart of the American landscape. It was the candid honesty I found within her pictures which inspired me to reach out for an interview. Kovac primarily works with her favourite shooter, the Mamiya 7, and spends a great deal of time both thinking about and composing a shot. Patience is one of the many prime ingredients for being a successful photographer and Kovac has plenty of it. We were lucky enough to score an interview with the talented photographer. Take a look below to read her thoughts on inspiration, the photographic process, and advice for budding picture-takers.
First, tell us a little about yourself: where are you from and what do you do for a living?
I grew up in upstate New York, lived in Atlanta the last six years and now I’m settling in Silicon Valley with my boyfriend, Shawn, and our two dogs, Matilda and Zeke. I am currently pursuing my photography full time.
When did you realize you wanted to become a photographer? Can you tell us about the impact that your father had on your development as a photographer?
My father first sparked my interest in photography and he bought me my first camera in middle school. I watched him document our family at every moment with his Nikon film camera and make videos as well. The same year an art teacher let me use the small closet darkroom after school every day. I’ve never looked back from that year, but its hard to remember the exact moment I realized I wanted to be a photographer. My father’s love of photography started me out on a path of discovery, but his impact has faded over time and my inspiration shifted.
What draws you to film photography? What is it about the Mamiya 7 that makes you more inclined to choose that over any other cameras?
The gradual process of shooting film means I spend an extended amount of time with one image. Taking the time to find a subject, carefully framing and making a photograph, waiting for film to be developed, scanning, and editing requires a lot of energy and time. It can be a slow, sometimes frustrating process, but often very rewarding. It took me a while to save for and purchase the Mamiya 7 and I love shooting with it.
The tangible aspect of shooting instant film draws me to film photography as well. I enjoy being able to take a photograph and hold in my hands.
Your work features very candid pictures of the American landscape (urban and natural). Can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?
I’m fascinated by the relationship between nature and society. I feel drawn to how we alter landscapes and how nature attempts to reclaim it. This relationship is the largest recurring theme in my work. I’ve never felt comfortable creating portraits or asking strangers if I can take a photograph. Although often when I’m out I have been asked to take someone’s photograph, they are usually disappointed its film, asking, “Where is the viewing screen?”
If it’s not obvious already, I think your work is wonderful. Have you been featured in any galleries, photo-books, or exhibitions?
This past fall I had a few photographs featured in Landlocked’s inaugural zine. I’m currently working with Landlocked on a book of instant photographs that will come out this summer. I also participated in Jpg-Jpg-Jpg an endless visual conversation between photographers. I haven’t had work in exhibitions or galleries recently, but hopefully there will be more new exciting projects in the future.
Are there any artists that have or currently influence you?
There are so many artists and photographers that inspire me and often influence me. Since moving to California I’ve been following many California designers and artists like potters Robert maxwell and David Cressey, Charles and Ray Eames, architect Richard Neutra and photographer Julius Shulman. I’m influenced by photographers, Michael Writston, Michael McCraw, Tara Wray, Aaron Canipe, Missy Prince, and Tammy Mercure. This list could go on and on…
Can you take us through your process from start to finish from constructing a shot to printing the final results?
I spend a great deal of time driving aimlessly to find subjects to photograph. My process differs slightly from camera to camera. When shooting with the Mamiya 7, I take the photograph, when the roll is completed, it usually sits around until I have at least 6 rolls or more. I send all my 120mm film to be processed at Dwayne’s Photolab in Kansas. When my film returns, I scan all film with my Espon V700 scanner, and lightly edit in Photoshop, mostly dust removal. After a photograph is finished I often share it on my blog. I don’t regularly print work unless I’m selling or trading or working on a project or submission. Lastly, I archive the negatives.
When shooting with any of my instant cameras, I take the photograph and after scan it with the Espon V700. I edit in Photoshop to remove any dust and often post it to my blog or share with other photographers. Then I archive it along with my other instant work.
Do you dabble in any other art-forms? Sculpture? Photography?
I don’t currently dabble in any other art forms unless forced, but I do love and appreciate all art forms. I take the time to check out art galleries and museums in my area. The Oakland Museum of California is a favorite lately.
Do you have any tips or tricks for aspiring photographers? Are there any entry level cameras or lenses you would suggest for someone who doesn’t have a lot of cash, but still wants to take beautiful pictures?
Starting out with your camera phone and a great application like VSCO Cam is an affordable way to start creating. I would encourage aspiring photographers to explore all areas of photography until they find their niche. I enjoy the Fujifilm Instax camera. Its an affordable instant film camera. The camera is easy to carry around and travel with, but also very easy to break. I’ve already broken six Instax cameras, the plastic camera cannot withstand any type of mistreatment! Polaroid land cameras are another great option for shooting instant film. I also recommend that aspiring photographers try to contact other photographers or artists, either to go take photographs together, ask for advice, or to trade work and feedback.
Finally – out of all of the pictures you have taken; which one (or series) is the most meaningful to you and why?
The photograph of the rope swing is one my favorites. I had the opportunity to write about it for American Guide, “The rope swing hangs from a railway bridge high above. It’s difficult to tell how long it’s been hanging there or how much longer it will last there. The swing appears to be constructed of found materials from the park. It wouldn’t be brave to use the rope swing, it would be foolish, but still I find this scene incredibly enticing. I know that the weight of anyone would surely make the rope snap, falling mid-swing, into the water below which is too shallow for it to convince anyone to try it in the first place. I attempted to photograph the swing as it gently swayed in the humid air at the start of an Atlanta summer while the mosquitoes and ticks invaded every inch of available skin.”