Katie McAtackney

University: Norwich University of the Arts

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Editorial, Narrative


Artist Statement: Katie McAtackney is a technically adept photographer and a thoughtful and intuitive artist.

Her body of work is versatile with a constant visual approach - she seeks out the everyday beauty in her subjects. She captures a candid reality that commands a deeper meaning than might be connoted on first glance.

Preferring to shoot on film, her aesthetic is raw but tender, finding beauty in imperfection, and polish in the detail of everyday life.

Katie’s current project, On the Road is an ongoing personal journey. It consists of getting from one place to the other by hitch hiking, couch surfing across Germany and the UK, and truly being out of her own comfort zone. 

From the series  On the Road

From the series On the Road

What are some standout moments from your time at university? Possibly, being in that creative zone. Surrounding yourself with other like minded creatives, bouncing ideas off one another and getting the one to one support of tutors. 

Another one is, starting a new project, and thinking nothing is working for you after weeks of shooting non stop, then suddenly you shoot again and that shoot hits the nail on the head, and you get it right; that’s probably one of the best feelings, just knowing you got it. (finally.. ). 

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? Personally, I don't really like to limit my practice. I think as an emerging photographer you are still exploring many genres, and still experimenting with various of subject areas which can be very difficult. 

However, if I had to pick I would probably choose a mixture between editorial and narrative. 

From the series   On the Road

From the series On the Road

What themes do you find yourself exploring? My practice is very much of the ‘everyday’. I am interested in capturing those little simple, candid moments that people often miss due to rushing around. My work basically shows taking your time to slow down, appreciate the little things in life. Whatever that may be; whether it is a simple cup of coffee in the morning, or how light reflects onto the walls or on to subjects. But above that, I’m also interested in people, getting to know them, breaking that barrier which many people have up when they first meet someone for the first time. On the Road explores how a stranger and another stranger meet for the first time, having trust in each other, and I feel so privileged to have a strangers trust into letting me take their portrait in their own house or car. 

How do you decide what to photograph on a journey; do you simply just capture your everyday? As I mentioned above, I am interested into the simple pleasures of life, therefore I tend to capture those moments. I also work with natural light, I feel light sums up the total aesthetic to the overall image. Whether that is a cold or warm atmosphere. Light creates that. Therefore, I try and capture wherever light is at the time. 

But it is not just the everyday, sometimes I get a gut instinct to take a photo in that moment, whatever the subject may be. I try and tell some sort of narrative through my series.

From the series   On the Road

From the series On the Road

Your images are very personal to you and reminiscent of previous journeys; what do you hope for your viewer to gain from your work? I hope for the viewer to gain a strong emotive response to the image, weather that may be a feeling of nostalgia or something else. I believe a strong image or piece of art will always makes the viewers feel something. I also hope the viewer can immerse themselves into the journey with me. 

As people are always travelling, do you think this work will ever be complete? Yes, people are always travelling, however for me travelling is very therapeutic. The rhythm of the train, car, bus sends me off to a deep thought about life. It is mainly where I get my ideas from. I just shove my ear phones in and stare out of the window, thinking about everything and anything. 

Currently, I don't think this series will ever complete itself. For me, I find everyday is a journey in itself. Right now, I am working on producing a book of On the Road currently focused upon my first few journeys around in Germany and the UK. Someday, I hope to go back to my roots in China and explore the culture of it and hope to track down my birth family. 

From the series   On the Road

From the series On the Road

What sorts of memories do these images provoke when looking back at them? To be honest for me, it was more feelings than memories when looking back at them. It was remembering the feeling when I first got into a strangers car for the first time, and them driving off, it was the feeling of experiencing a whole night with a stranger for the first time, sleeping on their couch, wondering what I would do if things got out of hand. But above all, it was the feeling after I’ve travelled; it feels like an achievement for me and I think looking back, those were probably one of the best experiences ever. I have met so many inspirational and open minded people by being on the road and capturing what was around me at the time. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good experience (even though if people said I am mad for doing it!)  

Are there any standout photographers who influence your work?

Of course, Where do I start? 

Possibly the most influential photographer has to be Alec Soth due his natural flare for story telling. I visited his exhibition in London, Gathered Leaves, and was absolutely blown away by it. 

Wolfgang Tillmans is another one, the way he creates such evocative images of the everyday, especially in his series Fleeting moments. The use of colour and texture creates such of an atmospheric feel. 

Another is Gustavo Johnson who is a film maker. I was very inspired by his video for Volvo - Vintersaga.

The overall film creates such of a moving and well put together story of various people travelling and just living each day as it comes. 

From the series   On the Road

From the series On the Road

Many photographers would be likely to use digital in the situation of your work, what pushes you to use film? At the start of the project, I was quite against the use of film. However, when I went through the digital shots, and started to make small retouches, I just felt the shots were not as pure as they were when I first took them. I wanted to capture realness and purity. I carried on with digital for a few more shoots and knew it wasn’t working. I just felt there was something missing, y’know?

With film, you just take a photo, and that moment is captured. It is so much more authentic than digital. I felt I was really capturing the realness of the ‘everyday’ and my journey through film.

How are you making a book for On the Road? Ah, I’m still figuring that out! At the moment, I designing the layout in Indesign, and hopefully will find suitable paper and printers to print it. Then I will bind it myself. This will add to my portfolio!

From the series   On the Road

From the series On the Road

Have you got a favourite photobook by another photographer? Hmm, not right now.

How does your work progress without the support network of university? Have you got any tips when it comes to gaining feedback or making big decisions? I think you kind of have to rely on your gut instinct most of the time. It is hard creating projects without the help of fellow students or tutors. But, for me I kind of know what is working and what is not and what you want to do- however that part does take time. Finding your style is quite of a tricky one. 

At the moment I am part of Gallery Six. As a member I am able to collaborate with other first year graduates from different universities and work on your own or together on briefs directed by The Old Truman Brewery. This is for three months (free!) So most of the time I am there! It is an amazing idea and the best environment to be in; especially after university. I would definitely encourage any other first year graduates to join!