Photographer Kat Kaye explores the inner turmoil and battling within the self in the context of a sport and a single player in her shoot “Against Me.”
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have always had an interest in observing people, the process of introspection, and how we communicate different elements of our identities. I studied Communication at the University of California, San Diego and I was particularly affected by Michel Foucault’s writings on power and identity. It was then that I realized that how deeply our sense of self is predicated on cultural mores and not inherent traits, which reinforced the importance of questioning things on a regular basis and made me even more curious to explore what lies beneath the surface. Shortly after that, I found photography and studied at Art Center College of Design where I was able to take my ideas and communicate them through a visual means.
Can you expand more on the concept? I’m really interested in how you’ve portrayed boxing in artistic and editorial way. Can you tell me about what inspired that? Why sports?
In this series, I explore the inner turmoil and battling within the self in the context of a sport and a single player. I find it interesting that more often than not when we criticize and argue with others, we reveal more about ourselves than the actual target of our anger. And when we feel like we are fighting something within ourselves, it always seems as though the target or reason for our frustration is so out of reach and intangible that it can feel like you’re swinging punches underwater. The spectatorship of sports gives us a buffer of sorts where we watch players overcome difficulties and have a vicarious experience through watching. The sports arena becomes a sacred space. But in a battle against another, one ultimately competes with themselves. You can’t control your target, you can only know her better and work from an informed space. The same feels true for self examination.
Who is the subject and why did you choose them?
I chose to work with Austin Victoria because of the commitment that I saw in each role he played in his portfolio. There was a sense of being rather than trying in each of his shots. Authenticity is important in how I approach my work. If I need someone to fight themselves in a photo shoot, it’s not enough for them to mimic the poses of that character. I need them to become it, if only for a moment. I want to see them going through the motions until it becomes real, until I see a shift. This requires a willingness on the subject’s behalf to be vulnerable. I could see that vulnerability in Austin.
What do these photos mean to you?
Every time I begin a series, it starts with a question that I’m asking of myself. The photos are a documentation of the process that goes into exploring that question and learning more, much like testing a hypothesis. I have an idea of what it will turn out like but I remain open to allowing things to progress organically. All of my photos are incredibly personal for me. Each image is essentially a self portrait and I feel very grateful for subjects and collaborators who help bring these ideas to life.
What can we expect from the continued series?
So far, I’ve photographed boxing and baseball. I have more sports to shoot and will be incorporating women into the series as well. In fashion, there is traditionally an expectation for a woman to either be soft and affable or exuding sexuality. I’m interested in conveying strength through something other than sexuality for this series as I find it to be limiting to be defined so simply under those terms.
Is there anything about your work you wish people knew?
There is always something happening beneath the surface. If you’re having a reaction, I urge you to explore why.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I am very grateful to work with such fantastic people. The entire crew for this shoot was extraordinary to work with. Austin stayed committed throughout and once he got into that mental space, the entire mood of the room changed. Sabrina Che did a beautiful job as she always does with the wardrobe styling, bringing in a softness that was necessary. This was my first time working with makeup artist Manny Rishi did a really amazing job. It was also great to work with Thomas at Whittier Fight Club where this was shot.
Photo by Kat Kaye