Inside this issue
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
Cath Waters is a photographer and artist living in central Scotland. If you are a Flickr user and you don’t recognise her by name, then it’s possible that you may have come across her under her pseudonym, papersnapdragon. I’ve been enjoying her images for a while, which sit somewhere between landscape photography and digital art. Her mood-filled landscapes marry relatively simple views with textures to create what she refers to as ‘digital mixed media collages’. Her textures are derived from a variety of sources - you name it, she has probably tried it. So successful is Cath in creating her own textures that she offers these for sale and runs workshops as well as exhibiting and selling her images at art fairs and through a number of outlets across Scotland.
Until relatively recently your Flickr name was “papersnapdragon” but you now use your own name? Have you found yourself through your art?
I stopped using the ”papersnapdragon” user name because I like to use Flickr to post all sorts of stuff, not necessarily work I want to have under the Paper Snapdragon umbrella (having said that, my Flickr stream has been very neglected recently). I wouldn't really say I've found myself through art and in many ways it's been the cause of a bit of an identity crisis as my background is in science. I love what I do though. I get a huge amount of satisfaction both creatively and in terms of being able to build a business that doesn't feel like a job and allows me to work around my three young kids without having to pay silly amounts of money for full time childcare fees.
Would you describe yourself as a photographer or a digital artist? Do you think it matters – e.g. in the way that your images are perceived?
Recently I've been describing myself as a digital artist. It doesn't really matter to me one way or another but I think that to describe myself as a photographer, especially a Scottish Landscape Photographer, brings certain expectations about how my images should look. Without the digital art element, I don't think my photography would be particularly remarkable so to claim I am a photographer in a professional context would be misleading. I also found that the kinds of shops and galleries that stock my work are much less inclined to show any interest if I introduce myself as a photographer! The technique that I use is often referred to as textured photography but I found that to the uninitiated this term was pretty meaningless so I now describe my work as digital collage in which the landscape photography is one element of the collage.
Can you tell me a little about your education, childhood passions, early exposure to photography and vocation?
I have been around photography from a young age. My Dad is an excellent street photographer and had a dark room set up in our spare room. He has a fabulous collection of black and white shots of semi-derelict Byker in Newcastle that he took in the 70's which the rest of the family are trying to pursued him to exhibit.
At secondary school I was always interested in art but I had a brilliant biology teacher who sparked my enthusiasm in science. I did ask a careers advisor how I could combine arts and science but she typed it into her BBC micro and it said I would have to be a landscape gardener! Despite this I continued with art to Higher (Scottish A) level at the expense of physics, and my final modules were landscape painting and photography.
I studied Cell Biology and Immunology at uni, and continued with a PhD at Edinburgh Medical School in Cell Pharmacology. During my student days I still painted (really badly) but after my PhD I spent the next 10 years working in science, mainly in cancer research, and while I enjoyed taking snapshots of various travels I didn't seriously take up photography again until my kids came along and I stopped working full time.
Tell me why you love landscape photography?
Which photographers inspire you most? What books stimulated your interest in photography and who drove you forward, directly or indirectly, as you developed?
I think I'm inspired by painters more than photographers but Chris Friel's work has opened my eyes to a whole new world of what can be achieved with a camera. I find his work mesmerising, it's both dark and uplifting and of course, technically brilliant. I also love the work of Valda Bailey, Doug Chinnery and Peter Scammel. Flickr is a great source of inspiration - there are so many great images popping up that inspire me to try new things.
How long have you been creating textured landscapes and how did this start?
I've been doing this for nearly 4 years now and bizarrely it started in the virtual world, “Second Life” where I played around with making artwork combining textures and photography of virtual landscapes. Some of the virtual landscape installations in Second Llife appealed to me, especially those made by the avatar “AM Radio” as they were beautifully minimal. Pretty quickly though I decided to move my photography back into the real world, which makes much more sense given that living in Scotland I'm surrounded by some of the best landscapes in the world!