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Cath Waters

Featured Photographer

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Michéla Griffith

Michéla Griffith

My images combine an early love of drawing and painting with a long-standing passion for photographing the landscape. An important part of my portfolio continues to be about the interaction between water and light in, but I’m also experimenting with movement on land and even my own progress on foot through the landscape. Website

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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.

Stac Pollaidh

Stac Pollaidh

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.

Luskentyre Bay, Harris

Luskentyre Bay, Harris

Tell me why you love landscape photography?

I don't want to see blazing sunsets with every blade of grass and every rock in uber-sharp definition; it's too much for my eyes!
It was painting that drew me to landscapes originally and I think I'm probably trying to use a camera to create what I would paint if I was better at it. There is quite a lot I don't like about landscape photography, I can admire how technically difficult it is but a lot of it seems very formulaic. I don't want to see blazing sunsets with every blade of grass and every rock in uber-sharp definition; it's too much for my eyes! I'd rather get a hint of a place, a glimpse of an atmosphere, and until quite recently when I discovered the work of Chris Friel and others of that impressionist photography genre I had always thought that was outside the remit of photography.

East Lothian Field, Yellow

East Lothian Field, Yellow

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!

Camusdarach Beach, Arisaig

Camusdarach Beach, Arisaig



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  • Wonderful Images with great depth, warmth and dare I say it ‘texture’. I immediately got a sense of Harris from some of the images which I now see is the case. I’ve never worked much with textures but when I saw mixed media and viewed these images I genuinely thought that perhaps they were a blend of photographic image and physical landscape art. I opt more for ICM and minimal layering with some abstracts but I can see the potential to recreate some of the texture that is lost in this way. I had a feeling Chris Friel’s great work would have inspired Cath. I look forward to enjoying more of her work.

    • Cath Waters

      Thanks for your kind comment Rich. I think that my goal in using textures is similar to that of using ICM in that I want to simplify as much as possible. With the more abstract images I have produced using ICM (not very many good ones) I’ve found that adding a layer or two of sharp texture (scratched metal for example) flattens and refocuses the image and stops my eyes hunting for a focal point.

  • valda bailey

    A lovely selection of images from one of my favourite creative people. Thank you for the mention – an honour to be included amongst such a select bunch.

    Having tried (and failed miserably) with textures, it is fascinating to get an insight into the way you work. The subtle colours you use with such skill complement the textures in the images perfectly.

    Thank you to Michela for once again putting her questions to an artist with a very unique approach.

    • Cath Waters

      Thanks very much Valda! Your multiple exposure work is just fabulous. It’s inspired me to persevere with an approximation of the technique where I combine multiple photos of the same scene in PS rather than in-camera. Expect some poor attempts in my flikr stream sometime in the future :)

      • valda bailey

        Thank you – but It’s horses for courses. I can’t do Photoshop with any great degree of competence. I look forward to seeing the results of your endeavours :)

  • TivFoto

    Wonderful character to these images, I particularly like the choice of patterns to suit the moods of the photographs. In a world full of super perfect images that I strive for and sometimes get bored of seeing everyday, makes me think about my own vision and creative level. Very good work Michéla

    • Cath Waters

      Thanks Michela, it was fun to do the interview and prompted me to think in more detail about my work and where it is going. Nice to get positive feedback too, I always wondered what real photographers would make of it all!

  • Hi Cath, Thanks for your down-to-earth insights into your work flow. It was particularly interesting to hear how your decisions right through your creative process, from image capture to post-processing to printing are affected by your vision of the images that you want to create. Very inspiring.

    • Cath Waters

      Thanks Deirdre, It’s planned to a certain extent but with the texture work there is still a lot of trial and error. The undo button is my greatest friend!

  • Robin Hudson

    Photographically speaking I suppose I’m a bit of a purist… so whilst I love some of these images, particularly Strange Day, I don’t really see it as photography. It seems to me to be more of an art form that starts with a photograph and ‘morphs’ it into an artwork. I suppose it’s akin to a paint based artist relying on a photograph as a starting point, not that there’s anything wrong with that! Some lovely work there… perhaps it’s ‘phartography’ or ‘photographart’ – whatever, it’s fun and inspiring.

    • Cath Waters

      I agree with you Robin, I use photography as a part of the finished art work but my images certainly shouldn’t be classified as photography in it’s purest sense. It’s very much a hybrid. I call it digital collage but I quite like “phartography” :)

      • Robin Hudson

        Keep up the good work! But I think Photographart may be more politically correct :-)

  • kevinmarston

    Really enjoyed looking at your work Cath. Your use of textures combined with your creative eye for space and minimalist composition is wonderful. I don’t care what you call it – it works for me! Great interview (as ever) from Michela.

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