Today we’d like to introduce you to Cat Gwynn.
Cat, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In my early twenties, I was working at a swank restaurant in Beverly Hills and making good money, which allowed me to travel. I’d never owned a camera, and it seemed like a good idea to photograph the places I saw, so I bought a little point and shoot. I fell in love with framing up images and pushing the button. About a year into this, my friends and family saw my passion and talent and encouraged me to study art more seriously, so I enrolled at Otis Parsons Art Institute.
After a few years at Otis Parsons, I became the teaching assistant to one of the professors and there was a student in our class who was a music video director and was looking to hire a photographer to shoot and print images as photo animation for Sting’s “Be Still My Beating Heart” video and I got the assignment. That project led me to shoot publicity and production stills for many music videos and commercials. Besides the production work, I was also shooting headshots, PR, and editorial portraits for magazines.
As my career continued to grow, I was signed to Corbis and Getty Images and shot stock photography and assignments for the agencies during the hey-day when opportunities and decent fees were abundant. A few years back Corbis got swallowed up by Getty Images and while I’m still represented at Getty the glory years are well behind us. While I love shooting commercially, I’ve never set aside my focus on shooting fine-art photography and have always continued my education and working on personal projects.
In the mid-nineties, I studied in a master’s workshop with one of my hero’s, documentary and portrait photographer, Mary Ellen Mark. It was life-changing. She challenged me in ways that genuinely expanded my vision, and to this day her teaching voice is in my head to get in closer and interpret a moment rather than merely document it. She was a consummate storyteller, and while our styles are different, my love of storytelling was born. Since then, I have worked on numerous book projects and understand the value of deeply immersing myself in long term projects.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There’s been numerous challenges and obstacles in the past decade. When the Great Recession took hold, coupled with changing technology and the easy accessibility to images on the web, this drove pricing down exponentially for stock photography and assignments. Many pros left the industry, and this unfortunate reality forced us photographers to branch out and reinvent our careers.
It took me some years to recover from all these negative factors and finally, as I was getting back on my feet, I was diagnosed with serious breast cancer. While I worked part-time during my protracted treatment schedule and the surgeries I went through, I had to stay focused on my health and the long road of recovery it takes to reclaim your life after cancer. I am only now getting back up and running, once again.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck is a funny thing. There’s dumb luck, like finding a $20 bill on the ground, and then there’s the true definition of luck, which is when opportunity meets preparation. I have been a longtime meditation practitioner, and my practice has taught me how to sit with uncertainty and also the essential value of being fully present with life. Mindfulness had genuinely improved my emotional well-being, but I had no idea how important this practice would be until I got sick.
Living with cancer is a confining experience, and as the treatment protocol intensified, my immune system became more compromised, requiring limited exposure to the world around me. So, I mapped it out: my day-to-day existence was now reduced to about a ten-mile radius. Surrendering to this confined reality, I decided to engage in a daily practice of seeking out images with my iPhone that would connect me to the immediacy of life.
I was regularly posting these pictures onto social media, and the response to them was tremendous. As this body of work continued to unfold, I began conceptualizing how I could turn it into a book and came up with a pitch. My photo memoir, “10-Mile Radius” was picked up by Rare Bird Books that are based here in Los Angeles, and was released last year to fantastic reviews.
So, while my photo business did lose money and momentum during this period, I gained an art book and a writing career. In the past few years, I’ve done numerous speaking engagements about my story and facilitate this process of mindful expression and transformative narrative in mental health and cancer rehabilitation, and coach private clients how to use their innate creativity and present time awareness to be with illness and other challenges that life inevitably hands us.
You could say getting cancer is terrible luck, and in some ways that would be true, but good fortune can come out of something this life-altering if you are open to going with the flow and seeing where it takes you.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Cat Gwynn Photos story. Tell us more about the business.
I shoot portraits, lifestyle and fine-art photography. I am the author of “10-Mile Radius” and am working on my next book project “Cry For Me,” and also write and shoot photo essays. I teach art and mindful expression and do public speaking.
I’m available for bookings, or if you’re interested in purchasing fine-art prints, you can reach me through my website, where you will also find links to booksellers where you can buy my book.
- Address: 5419 Hollywood Blvd. #C722, Los Angeles, CA 90027
- Website: www.catgwynn.com
- Phone: (323) 819-6500
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos © Cat Gwynn