The latest in our series of creative profiles focusses on photographer Natalie McKain.
Photography by Natalie McKain
Interview by Emily Beard
Hey Natalie! Tell us a little about you and your work for anyone who is not familiar.
I’m an Australian Fashion and Portrait Photographer. I’m basically just a walking hurricane of emotions and daydreams
Do you remember taking your first photograph?
I always wish I had a cool answer for this question…I don’t. It was a series of blurry shots of fish underwater at the Great Barrier Reef, when I was there on holiday as a kid.
Would you say living in Australia has an influence on your work at all? How is it living there compared to where you grew up?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to Queensland when I was a teenager. Where I live right now, doesn’t have a thriving fashion industry, it’s kind of a transient place for creatives. Most people here move elsewhere in order to further their career. That in itself has been a real influence on my work. I’m a big fan of turning adversity into creative growth. Every day I tend to hit a brick wall in some way but it kind of puts a fire in my belly and it makes me want to just keep kicking down walls. It can be very emotional to work that way, so I just put that back into my work too.
We meet you for a day out in Australia, where do we go?
As long as we get a coffee first, I’m pretty happy to go anywhere! I love Burleigh Beach on the Gold Coast, so we’d probably head there. I’ll be the one sitting in the shade, wearing enough sunscreen to glow at night.
Whose work do you enjoy/find inspiring?
I find cinema really inspiring. It teaches me a lot about how angle subtleties, distance, shot size and colour can all have a significant effect on the way the viewer feels about the subject. It’s something I carry with me into my shoots. I remember watching Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere and there’s this scene at the pool where the camera zooms out really slowly, letting us breathe in the moment. I think about it a lot, how something so subtle could make me feel so much!
I love honesty, rawness and unusual beauty, so I tend to look to the artists who explore those aspects in their work to inspire me. Harley Weir, Lea Colombo, Zee Nunes, Maxime Imbert and Jamie Hawkesworth, Philip-Lorca Dicorcia and Bill Henson are a few of the artists whose work you’d find frequently in my inspiration folders.
Do you have a muse of character you refer to for inspiration?
I think I used to when I first started shooting but now I like to just observe each model I work with, find a personal connection and be inspired by them individually.
If you had to describe you work to someone who couldn’t see it, what would you say?
I hope that my work has an obvious sense of story to it. I use light, framing and angles, to drive emotion and create intimacy. I like seeing a glimpse of someone’s internal world in anything I’ve captured. I love imperfection in my work, out of focus shots, raw skin and minimal retouching.
Who has been your favourite person to photograph/your favourite shoot you’ve done?
My rather sad answer to this, is that I don’t have a favourite shoot. I’m too self critical. I tend to shoot and move on to the next one. Always wanting to do better next time I guess.
Each person I shoot is usually my favourite at the time. I love it when I come across someone fearless though and willing to give me their trust. Those are the best shoots! Then again, shooting new models has a different kind of beauty, there is such vulnerability and lovely awkwardness in those shoots and I love that too. So, I love shooting everyone it seems haha!
If you could photograph anyone, alive or otherwise, who would you pick?
David Bowie, Tilda Swinton and Adwoa Aboah, Bjork.
And finally do you have any advice/mantra you live by?
This sounds awfully like a lame self help statement but you have to try to create work without worrying about who will like it. It’s great to be inspired by other peoples work and it’s important to understand trends and experiment with new styles but ultimately you just have to create from a pure place. At least that’s how it works for me and it took me a while to figure it out. The work that is my best, is the work that is honest. Sounds simple but in a world of constant inspo sources at our fingertips, it’s so easy to get lost.