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Photographic Healing

Visual artist Kate Robertson

“I’m employing black and white darkroom methods to make photographs. Also, I’m working with healing communities within a contemporary art context.”

Kate Robertson

Kate Robertson (born in 1981) is a contemporary photographer currently living in Melbourne, Australia.

She studied photography at “The Victorian College of the Arts” and at “Royal Melbourne Instiute of Technology” (RMIT), both in Melbourne, Australia.

Kate Robertson is represented by Edmund Pearce.

Artist statement

“Through photography, I am interested in working in the between space of contemporary art and ethnography, in order to explore the inner workings of community and lived experience.

In particular, I am drawn to the practices, formations and related phenomena found within alternative healing communities. By employing methods of engagement and documentation in the field and over an extended period of time, I attempt to map these healing approaches, the associated networks, and the community’s endeavour to create a more caring, humane and respectful society.

Back in the studio and darkroom, I use different photographic techniques to highlight the sensory modes of understanding that these natural healing ways depend upon. My photographic processes are varied and are usually drawn out over a long period of time, thus becoming a slow, meditative and healing activity in itself.”

Interview with Kate Robertson

Kate, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?

When I was twelve and took my first few photographs whilst bushwalking with my dad on Mount Buffalo (North East Victoria, Australia). My Dad would bring his Dads Pentax SLR when we were bushwalking and I would photograph the landscape. The developed photos were definitely nothing great; however finding my initial interest in photography within this landscape is pretty memorable.

Why did you become a photographer?

This is a hard question as I am not too sure, other than nothing else really ever interested me. And, if I did dabble in something else, then I would find myself quickly returning to photography!

Which photographer has inspired you most?

Len Lye, a New Zealand artist who employed photogram methodologies for his experimental films and photo making. He also makes incredible kinetic sculptures. I particularly love his use of organic forms, colour and rhythm to explore perception and energy. Also, who else can use the word zizz’ in describing their art making and make it seem completely right?!

‘…(I’m) interested in the business of energy and getting a feeling of zizz’ Len Lye.

What’s your favorite inspirational photography quote?

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

Ansel Adams

How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?

I’d like to think my photographic language is sincere. My creative process is very slow (although I see my creative process as a contemplative reflection on community experiences and photography)!

What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?

  • Spend time and energy understanding ideas and concepts that matter to you personally, then explore these ideas and concepts through your photography.
  • Experiment and then experiment some more.
  • Understand your place in contemporary (and history of) photography.

What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?

Employing black and white darkroom methods to make photographs. Also, working with healing communities within a contemporary art context.

What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?

An unhealthy amount of obsessiveness for photography is useful; it helps to justify the time, thinking energy and money you will exhaust on photography! Determination to keep learning, experimenting and pursuing opportunities is valuable, too.

What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.

I think a photograph works for me when I can tell the photographers ‘voice’ is imaginative and knowledgeable. Also, I love when I can tell the photograph’s maker is employing historical and/or contemporary photographic references.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?

Experiential learning and participation in the communities I work with.

What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?

I use a variety of photographic processes to make a photograph. I have a black and white darkroom, which is a 30-minute bike ride from my studio. In the darkroom I have a couple of enlargers that I use to make photograms. A few years ago I was given a Jobo from a photographer who was pulling out his darkroom, which I use to develop all my film. In the studio and on locations I mostly use a Toyo view 4×5 inch camera and shoot on Ilford black and white film.

What’s your favorite website about photography?

I have more than one: Foam Magazine, Aperture Magazine, Unless You Will, Tangent – New Zealand Contemporary Photography Collective, Layflat, and New York Close Up – Art21.

What photography book would you recommend?

“Rockaway, NY” by Roe Ethridge. For me, this book opened up a positive and new approach to photography at a time when the ubiquitous image was becoming so commonplace in society.

Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?

Keep experimenting and making photographs, take initiative and create your own opportunities, and don’t give up – no matter how many times you hear ‘no’!

Kate Robertson Dust Landscape
Image from the series “Dust Landscape” from Australian photographer Kate Robertson

Abstract photograph from Kate Robertson
Image from the series “Dust Landscape” from Australian photographer Kate Robertson

Visual artist Kate Robertson
Image from the series “Dust Landscape” from Australian photographer Kate Robertson

Australian contemporary image maker Kate Robertson
Image from the series “Dust Landscape” from Australian photographer Kate Robertson

More about Kate Robertson

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