Interview with photographer Kathy Cadigan

 

Posted on June 20, 2011

This week’s featured fiber artist is Kathy Cadigan, whose work you may already be familiar with—she’s the photographer behind many of my patterns’ photos, including Jabberwonky, Dangerous Garden and Cheshire. She’s also a knitter and spinner herself, so her photography really reflects an appreciation for what people look for when judging knitwear based on a photograph. Check out some of her gorgeous handknits, and then get to know her below!

Name: Kathy Cadigan
Location: Redmond, WA
URL: www.kathycadigan.com / KathyCadigan on Ravelry / kathycad on Instagram

Introduce yourself!
Hello! I’m Kathy Cadigan: knitter, spinner, picture-taker.

What do you do?
I knit and spin for fun, and I love taking pictures. I’ve also recently started putting my photography to philanthropic use at Boyer Children’s Clinic in Seattle, a non-profit organization where my husband serves as a board member.

How did you get into photography?
I initially got into photography the way a lot of people do: by having kids! But I really didn’t become obsessed with it until last year when I had the opportunity to take a 10-day solo trip to France to attend a dear friend’s wedding. Armed with my Sony point-and-shoot, the pressure for me to document absolutely
everything for my family at home really sparked a fire. Needless to say, I snapped countless pictures of art, architecture, food:

France

About mid-way through my trip, I had The Epiphany. (Is it possible for anyone to spend time in Paris without having at least one of those?? I think not.) It happened when I was out exploring the 10th arrondissement. As I made my way along the Canal St. Martin, I came across a group of young people at a skate park. I proceeded to point my camera at the kids and an interesting thing happened—those who had previously been standing around, picked up their boards to skate. I don’t speak any French, and I’m sure I didn’t dispel any notion of the “obnoxious tourist” by clicking away unabashedly. I was intent on catching a few pics that my youngest son would enjoy seeing. But some minutes later, I actually began to receive a bit of eye contact from my subjects, along with a few shy nods and even the offering of a cigarette.

skaters in Paris

That’s when it clicked for me (pardon the pun): “What connection would a stay-at-home-mom from Seattle have with a group of Parisian skaters if it hadn’t been for the camera?” My epiphany: Picture-taking is a viable form of social interaction, and the pictures themselves become an elevated form of non-verbal communication. So that was that. I fell completely in love with the whole photography thing right then and there, and I blame it all on the City of Lights.

As for knitwear photography in particular, I became interested in it because of Ravelry; however, I wouldn’t have pursued it seriously without the encouragement of my very gifted designer friends:  Samantha RoshakStephannie Tallent, and Susan Moskwa.

Samantha Roshak wearing her Aventurine hoodie

What do you think are the most important elements of knitwear photography?
Simply put, good knitwear photography inspires you to knit.

A wedding photographer whose work I admire once said, “Happiness always photographs well.” I take that sentiment to heart when I’m shooting knitwear subjects and I strive to highlight the person wearing the knitted object on equal terms with the knitted object itself.

sweater

That’s really the thing I enjoy most about knitwear photography: the opportunity to relay that particular core of affection we knitters have for our craft. As we set out to find the perfect wool and work it with our own hands into the perfect fabric, we engage in an extremely passionate pursuit. Every time we pick up yarn with needles, we have fiery hopes of achieving a satisfying, creative expression of ourselves—either to wear, or to gift to a special someone who’s deserving.  I love having the chance to capture all of that in an image.

sweater
shawl

And it’s not always necessary for the knitter or designer to be on-camera (say, in the case of a sock) in order for an image to convey inspiration and the pleasure derived from knitting:

Cheshire socks

What advice would you give to someone with basic photo skills looking to improve their project photos?
I’m self-taught when it comes to photography. A few words that sum up my process for project photos: snap, snap, snap… angles and light. When you’ve captured a good angle and have good natural light, there will be less need for post-editing color adjustments, etc. So:

  • Keep in mind that you’re using a two-dimensional medium to convey a three-dimensional subject. Shoot your object from lots of different angles to find that “magic” one.
  • Experiment with lighting by changing the orientation of your object to your light source.
  • Do your images appear flattened out? Socks look as if they were photographed miles apart from each other? Change angles, change light, snap until you get it right.
  • When you’re happy with what you see, make note of the adjustments you’ve made in your object’s physical environment. Take note of your camera settings too so you’ll be able to replicate your process more easily when shooting your next item.

If you could magically acquire a new skill, what would it be?
Wow.  How I’d love to open my eyes after a high-speed brain download and say, “I know kung fu!” Besides that, I wish I had the ability to speak every known language on the planet.

Do you have a favorite colorway?
Right now, I love ultra-neutral colorways like Madelinetosh’s Tern and Malabrigo’s Simply Taupe.

What’s one thing most people don’t know, or wouldn’t guess about you?
Most people wouldn’t guess that I’m of Chinese descent (my mother’s side of the family). I think my height throws people off—I’m 5′ 10″.

Is there a fiber artist in the Pacific Northwest that you think others should know about?
Suzanne Pedersen, founder of the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival. She’s an extremely well-respected and dedicated artist with a wealth of knowledge that spans many disciplines; but I don’t think she does much social media, so many of your readers may not be familiar with her. I wish that more knitters who don’t happen to live in the NW or haven’t attended workshops either in her home or at the annual retreat in Tacoma could be better acquainted with the warm, wonderful, fascinating person she is.

Read interviews with other designers, dyers and fiber artists from the Pacific NW here.

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Comments

 

Morgan

June 20, 2011

This interview was great! As a reader, I got to catch a glimpse of the passionate and talented photographer Kathy is. Go KCee!

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Morgan

June 20, 2011

As a daughter, I’m so proud of my mom and all the work she has put in!

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    Susan M.

    June 20, 2011

    You’re lucky to have such a cool and talented mom!

    Reply

Linda

June 20, 2011

Kathy this is a great interview…I’m so proud of you and happy to note I knew you when…..

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Yeshua

November 22, 2011

Discovering the Coolest socks leads to an interesting interview and fresh websites of 2 talented photographers…. there goes another 15 minutes on the web!

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