Brand Photography Challenge Winner - Catherine Smith

brand photography essex photographer family photography full house Mar 09, 2023

In February, the Full House theme was BRAND and Catherine Smith's bath portrait won first place. It showcased what her brand is all about with so much connection. Here's her story...

1) Tell us about you Catherine...

I’m Catherine, Essex girl living in Kent with my South African born husband Peter and our three daughters ages 11,10 and 5. We also have a 2 year old black Labrador called Freddy.

2) What got you into photography?

We moved to Kent when I was pregnant with my eldest. I was working in the City at Lloyds of London Broker and had done so for the past 15 years. Having my daughter was the catalyst for so much change I just didn’t see coming. I had an amazing career but I didn’t love it - I always felt ‘is this as good as it gets ?’  The plan was to return to work after 6 months of having her and pick up where I left off. Having my daughter really made me assess my priorities. I wanted to be home with her so I extended my leave to the full 12 months, by which time baby number 2 was on the way. I knew there was no going back, so I cut ties taking a leap of faith that something else would come knocking. That’s when I got serious with photography.

I wanted to get a better camera to document our growing family. Baby number 3 was on her way by then, so I rocked up at  John Lewis near us to have a look. I’d done a bit of homework so had a rough idea of prices. They had a really good semi-pro camera I had read about but priced up wrong (like £700’s wrong), so I queried it. They acknowledged the mistake and said I could buy it for that if I wanted to. Good old John Lewis!! I bought it. Had no clue how to use it so enrolled on a Beginners DSLR course at the Adult Education Centre and went from there. I went on to complete their Intermediate and then Advanced course.  I wanted to keep learning and creating, so in 2017 enrolled on a part time BA Photography Degree.  I’m now just over half way through. Working it around my family, whilst helping my husband with his business. 

My photography was vastly improving, as in getting closer to the imagery I wanted to create,  but it still never clicked I could do this for others. Until I came across a few photographers on Instagram which led me to Lens11. Joining the community & signing up for Next Level in 2022 put a fire in my belly to push myself in a way I hadn’t considered - it's the power of being supported by positivity. I find being a photographer is one thing, being a photographer in business is a whole other.

3) What do you love most about photography and how does it benefit your life? 

How it makes you feel and how it can shape your memories. I am a bittersweet soul - constantly in awe of the fragility of life and find photography taps into this sometimes melancholic view I carry. I used to disguise this aspect of myself, but actually starting to realise maybe its my super power, helping me be more intuitive and empathetic. Photography is definitely an outlet for this. 

4) Three words to describe your style...

‘Could do better!' I find it difficult to be objective about my style. My personal work and private work feel two very different styles but actually probably fall under the same umbrella of; natural, light and soulful. With the subjective nature of photography, I’m sure others would see something very different. 

5) What inspires you in the everyday that you inject into your imagery?

Light. Shadows. Optimism. Impermanence. How simple pleasures are universally felt. How we are all trying to find our way. Connection. Love. Storytelling. All the good stuff really. 

6) What tips would you share to get the best pictures?

What works for me is studying other practitioners, not just the greats but contemporary artists too, as well as keeping pace with the ongoing global photography conversations. Seeing work in the flesh, not just photography - but all mediums.  Doing something photographically related every Prioritising my personal work - its the source from which I grow. 

7) In what capacity will photography feature in your future?

It is my future! I have little capacity right now to do much more than I am, with occasional portrait & family sessions for others in the mix too. It’s my hope to do more and more of this as time opens up and goes on. That and developing my personal projects to a point where I could exhibit. Just saying that out loud feels big and scary but it is definitely a dream of mine I hope to one day realise.  

Thank you Catherine for being an amazing read - we think your passion for photography and your humility shines through.  We adore your work and can't wait to visit your exhibition one day! 

You can see more of Catherine's creative work on her Instagram page here, and her website.

Learn more about The Full House Club, a thriving community of women photographers here.