Interview with Caitlin Russell
By: Lily Ratcliff
With the recent creation of ST.ART’s ‘Travel Tuesday’ feature, we have received some amazing and exciting articles, playlists and photography all about far off places and diverse cultures. Caitlin Russell, from East Kilbride, is an enthusiastic and passionate travel photographer and blogger who kindly shared with us her beautifully vibrant images from her latest travels, which were recently shown as travel feature piece, here at ST.ART. Her work is both scenic and striking, with each image capturing a fleeting moment from her journeys. From travelling from Hong Kong to Paris, and quite stunningly taking all of her photographs with her phone’s camera, we sat down with Caitlin to discuss her work what photography means to her.
ST.ART: So have you always been a keen photographer or was it once you started travelling that you really got into photography?
CR: Well, I got my first proper camera for Christmas when I was 15. Obviously, I had been interested in photography before this but the pictures from my new camera were far better than my phone’s first pictures. We lived beside a big country park and I used to take my nieces and nephews to the beach regularly. I would end up wandering off, taking pictures of what I saw as I walked. I have always had an interest in photography but I never really shared it. When I got my first camera one of my friends used my photos for her art folio. That’s when I realised that I’m actually okay [laughs], I was just so happy that someone wanted to use them! The more I travelled, the more I wanted to capture what I saw. As I tend to travel without my family, my mum always asked after photos, which I sent back to her, but over time I like to think I’ve developed an artistic eye. I know what I want the image to be like before I take it; I envision it in my mind. I then make it my mission to find something like it and take the dream photo.
ST.ART: You can defiantly see that in your work. A few of your photographs from your recent Paris album and your past trip to Jakarta are similar in their form, some of the buildings and their interiors are very symmetrical. Is that intentional?
CR: [laughs] Yeah, it’s just me being really fussy about things.
ST.ART: Well, they all look great! Is there any inspiration behind the symmetry or do you just really love a centred photo?
CR: It’s honestly just me being really particular and so intent on how I want the images to look like.
ST.ART: That’s fair enough [laughs]. So, when you go to Asia I’ve noticed that quite a lot of the photos are a mix of nature and urban life, I’m thinking specifically of your trip to Hong Kong. There are some incredible photos taken from under bridges which are almost overgrown with greenery. Is that something you stumble across or something that you search for?
CR: Living in Scotland, one minute you’re in a city or town and the next you’re surrounded by mountains, snow and the countryside, and I really just love the contrast between the two. I just think it is so interesting how there can be such a stark difference in such a confined space…and I just love taking pictures of it all.
ST.ART: So would you say that Asia is your favourite place for this sort of nature versus urban contrast, because it has so much variety in its cities, and its many cultures?
CR: So far, yes. But when people ask me ‘where’s your favourite place?’ I really can’t choose, because everywhere is so different. We, my boyfriend and I, went to a place called Bagan. It has like 3000 ancient temples and there’s just nothing there for miles and miles… and then Singapore is the complete opposite; hyper populated with big towering skyscrapers. They are equally beautiful and so different. That is what I hope to capture in my photography.
Hong Kong, 2015/ Photograph by Caitlin Russell.
ST.ART: Do you find that, because you have so many photos from Asia, that as a whole the continent just lends itself aesthetically to photography? Everywhere you walk there seems to be a photo opportunity waiting to happen.
CR: Yeah, I’m quite obsessed with it [laughs]. But for me it really all comes back to the fact that I want to share my experiences with my family.
ST.ART: So you view photography more as a way of sharing, rather than just a hobby.
CR: Yeah, for sure.
ST.ART: You document everything with a purpose, to share what you have seen.
ST.ART: So do you only work with a digital camera?
CR: No, I actually use my phone camera [laughs].
ST.ART: You’re joking, that’s amazing…wow!
CR: Asia, Paris and all the trips so far are all taken on my phone. The only digital camera album was from my trip to St. Ives… It’s crazy how well a phone camera works.
ST.ART: Do you ever find any issues when working with your phone’s camera or is it a matter of convenience, especially when it comes to sharing all your images?
CR: It’s one of the many benefits of the digital age, being able to use a phone camera and instantly be able to share an experience with your family, friends and blog followers. Also, my eyesight is really bad so when I work with my phone, I can see everything super clearly [laughs].
ST.ART: So when you work with a phone camera, do you take photo bursts, multiple photos of one particular place?
CR: Well, strangely enough, no. When people take a selfie they tend to take 100s or so but with my travel photos I tend to just take one and go with that.
ST.ART: So would you say that your photography is all about a single and fleeting moment?
CR: Yeah, for sure and I have some pictures that are kind of scattered throughout the blog, which are fleeting moments from the trips. However, I wish in hindsight, I had taken more as I never want to forget what I’ve seen! Next time I go away I’m going to try to take even more [laughs].
ST.ART: You can see that in your recent Paris album, you have such a wider array of images from all sorts of locations. Do you still have a pattern throughout the pictures, similar to the frequent temple photographs from Asia?
CR: When I was in Asia the website was just a platform for me to share my images but now it’s becoming so much more popular and the Paris trip added a lot to my blog.
ST.ART: Yeah, for sure, you have a huge amount of followers!
CR: Yeah, I think over 9,000 now, compared to before the Paris trip when it was only around 2,000. I’ve been working hard to get foot traffic, to promote my work. So, when I travelled to Paris I was really intent on writing a blog post and taking photos of absolutely everything. Also, I had just studied Versailles in Art History so, of course, I was hugely excited to take photographs of it all. It was unbelievable. I had a totally different mind-set when going into the Paris trip. My trip to Asia it was more focusing on the culture and travelling, whilst Paris was orientated around blogging and was very Art History driven.
ST.ART: So, would you say that for the future the blog is something that you want to maintain and maybe make into a career?
CR: I think a travel photographer is my ideal job. I simply love photography but writing about it all, and importantly sharing what I’ve seen and experienced… I feel that now I’ve changed my approach to photography that maybe a travel photography/blog career is more feasible and I’m slowly swaying more towards it [laughs].
ST.ART: Would you say that photography really has changed your life?
CR: [laughs] Absolutely… this is quite sad to admit but even today on the bus I was looking out of the window and was constantly looking for things to photograph. Just looking outside the window, there is so much to inspire me.
ST.ART: So, whenever and wherever you are, you’ll be taking photos?
CR: Yeah, for sure… I even sometimes wander down to Castle Sands and just snap a few.
ST.ART: So, what’s happening in the future?
CR: Lots of articles, travel pieces and interviews are happening. Quite a few exciting things are in the works.
ST.ART: Any new trips?
CR: Yeah, I’m going to New York in March, and to Long Island, New Jersey and Canada. I’m so excited to photograph Niagara Falls and to try to take as many pictures as possible of New York. My mum is from New York so I’m hoping to see the city in a different light, she’s going to show me the places where she went when she was younger.
ST.ART: An insider’s perspective?
CR: Yeah, seeing things in an another light.
ST.ART: And finally, if there was three things you could say to anyone trying to start travel photography or travel blogging, what advice would you give them?
CR: Just practice. Use your phone, don’t feel that you have to go out and buy £800 camera to be good at taking pictures, anyone can do it…it’s all about practice. Also, you don’t have to go to Singapore to take a nice photo, we all live in beautiful countries, so start photographing what’s around you. And share it, it’s good to get feedback! No matter what people say, positive or negative, it’s good to hear and it will help you improve.
Visit Caitlin Russell's ST.ART artist profile page and visit her blog here: www.caitlinjeanrussell.com