Ohio Interviews: Photographer Katy Shayne

Katy Shayne is an internationally published female artist from Texas. Her clients include Elle Magazine, Jill Stuart, and Women’s Wear Daily.

“Katy Shayne’s photographs feel a bit like the childhood scrapbook of David Lynch, emphasizing on the grotesque with a pretty major dash of female identity. Smashing innocence with vulgarity, and at times, even horror, Shayne creates her own unique genre of photography—” Maddie Maschger, Juxtapoz Magazine

Interview by Mariam Nasrullah

I understand you are working on a project photographing the inside of your grandmother’s home. Can you tell me a little bit more about this project? What was the inspiration behind it?

Photo by Katy Shayne
Photo by Katy Shayne

My Nana has always been so special to me. It is funny to respond to this today when it is Mother’s Day and my grandmother was a strong maternal and feminine figure in my life. It is hard to write about her in past tense because her death (she passed away this last summer) is still so hard to comprehend.That and she feels very present for me still. She is present in my mind and very much in this project. Nana lived in the same home all through my life and it is beautiful. She had such an artistic touch to decorating her surroundings and she loved feminine touches like the fields of floral tapestry pillows, baby pink velvet guest room chairs, delicate whicker and gold splattered wood. I began capturing her home as a way to remember it as it was, and now I am so glad that I did. I mostly use photography to create something new, not to capture the past. But, through this set I have been able to see it all from a new place and I like that change. I walked around her home and took 35mm and 120mm film “portraits” of her things. Her things represent her for me much more than any photo of her. As a little girl I would finger her perfume bottles and blot my smeared hot pink Revlon lips and look up at her blonde, blue-eyed smiling beauty and I miss her so very much.

Photo by Katy Shayne
Photo by Katy Shayne

In general, what is your creative process like?

If I am traveling I carry one camera with me; it just is easier and I like to shoot very fast in an almost stream-of-conscious kind of way. Often those photos feel automatic and I love capturing moments that seem humorous or colorful to me. The message is always one of joy and humor then. When shooting fashion, I always have a strong sense of art direction and collaborating is something I more recently have enjoyed, allowing me to focus on my technical skills which are not always where I want them to be. I will have an idea based on a feeling from a painting, or other photography (I love sitting in book stores leaning over fashion mags and art books) and music is always a huge part of the inspiration. I need a lot of intake, like music and beautiful films (I love Cocteau, Catherine Breillat, and more recently Louis Malle). The tools are very important and I have many camera to choose from. Some give dreamy ethereal images, some clean and sharp. Sometimes I like both in one series, but I do wish I could be more decisive because I love it all and I have a hard time honing in sometimes. I scan all my own negatives so I can have that control from the beginning and sip coffee and look out my window by my desk and dream.

Photo by Katy Shayne
Photo by Katy Shayne

Can you describe what one of your favorite shoots? What made it so special? Do you prefer shooting fashion over shooting people or places?

Honestly it would be too hard to choose a favorite shoot in particular. I often endeavor to art direct, style and shoot small projects and those often result in a few images I treasure very much. Those are probably my favorite projects though I have learned to really love collaborating with others. I love portraits and I love fabricating a setting or a character. I have explored self-portraiture in an alternate way by taking models and shooting them in my home in my things. I also love fashion because it is mostly fiction and set-up characters, scenes and it can be very cinematic.

In your previous answer, you talked about exploring self-portraiture in an alternative way. Can you elaborate more on that? What draws you to this type of exploration? What do you think it shows about you?

Yes, so I have tried exploring a new kind of self-portraiture. Instead of photographing myself, I photograph objects. These objects usually are mine and hold significant importance to me. They often represent the person who gave the object to me, or a memory. I have many things from my uncles who passed away and now from my grandmother. I hold these things dear and often incorporate them in my work.

What are some photographers and their projects that you have been enjoying recently?

Recently I have enjoyed the works of Martin Parr. His style is so appealing to me with his use of colors and expressions. He shoots candidly and his subjects are often real people going about their lives, but he has also worked in fashion and those images have his touch of humor in them as well.

Find out more about Katy Shayne’s work here.