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Perspectives

Published by Catherine Nguyen

Last month, I introduced you to my new blog CatSpace, where I touched briefly on perspective and how it relates to my craft as an interior and architecture photographer.  My recent interview with Robert HoSang, host of We Are Boss People, started me thinking about perspective-where it stems from, how it takes shape, and how it influences the work I produce today. 

My perspective is the result of every decision I’ve ever made and every opportunity I’ve pursued.  When I’m on a shoot, I draw upon years of study and work in the medium.  I am also pulling from the life before I became a commercial photographer. It wasn’t the career I had envisioned for myself. I spent time in the world of banking and management consulting, project management at a branding agency, and studying programming and economics at Columbia University-all experiences that helped me realize my passion for the creative. 

After spending a decade in the corporate world, I took the opportunity to travel, camera in hand.  I was interested in capturing scenes so I could paint them later.  I ended up going home with almost three dozen rolls of film.  At the time, I was uncertain of what I wanted to do with my life.  Given my newfound enthusiasm for photography, my cousin suggested I attend the Academy of Art University in San Francisco to study photography.  It was a giant leap of faith, but what can influence perspective more than a life-changing risk?  Not only would I be giving up my life in NYC and the reputation I had built there, but I would be going back to college alongside a completely different generation.  However, I did have a few things going for me.  I knew that I was better suited to commercial photography than to fine art photography.  Also, my skills in math and science were invaluable for learning the technical aspects of photography.  None of our experiences or skills go to waste-they become part of the whole, helping to build and shape our perspectives.  

As a photography student, I captured landscapes and paid specific attention to still life during my senior year.  Although interested in Fashion on Location, San Francisco turned out not to be the ideal location for those efforts.  Finding stylists proved to be a challenge; the model pool in the area was limited; and fashion photography is physically demanding.  As someone already in her 30s, I had no intention of spending the next five years as an assistant’s assistant.  Plus, the lack of women fashion photographers was becoming more and more evident (which is a topic for another time!). 

So, I set off to find my niche.  While in school, I assisted for a food photographer, Noel Barnhurst.  I also worked as the third photographer for Melissa Campos, a wedding photographer.  Later, I worked for John Hayes with Open Homes Photography, shooting 140 homes for him in less than three months.  While I learned a lot, I knew my search was not over.  Right around this time, the 2008 housing market crash gutted the real estate photography business, so I shifted from photographing home to shooting hospitality for a Vancouver-based company.  I learned a lot in a short period of time.  Eventually, I returned home after being on the road for more than three months and started shooting for a property management company while picking up assignments for interior designers, architects, and decorative artists.  It became clear to me that my passion lies in photographing interiors and architecture. 

In 2013, my husband and I moved from San Francisco to Raleigh, North Carolina.  I reached out to the Creative Director of Walter Magazine.  Within weeks, I was freelancing for the award-winning publication and embracing the wonderful culture that North Carolina has to offer. 

I share this synopsis of my story with you because each of these experiences gave me a new perspective-another layer of knowledge I could use to hone my craft.  Even my focus on still life in college prepared me for my future endeavors; interior and architecture photography are similar to still life, just on a much larger scale.  Now, when I shoot a space or a portrait session, I am pulling small pieces of information that I’ve stored from my previous work in landscape, fashion, food, hospitality, and real estate photography.  Every job, every boss, every challenge, and every win has resulted in the perspective that I currently possess.  I am grateful for it all. 

Thank you for going on this journey with me!  Please look forward to my December blog, which will dive into specifics of commercial and residential interior and architecture photography, sharing more of how perspective has catapulted my work across the Raleigh-Durham and San Francisco markets.  Until then…