Art Producers Speak: Cathrine Westergaard

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email:

Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate: Catherine Westergaard

One of the reasons I love what I do so much is the opportunity to work with incredible women from around the world. Ubah Hassan is the perfect example of what inspires me in women, both exotic and beautiful as well as intelligent and a heart of gold.

This image is one that universally art buyers gravitate toward. What woman doesn’t need to take a quiet moment?

These images are the first of a series I am working on about taboos.

This series was shot for a client in Australia. These images capture a common theme in my work. I am driven to explore the isolation and detachment people often experience in complex love relationships and how this causes us to our preconceived ideas to unravel

Sometimes a moment perfectly captures my sense of humor. This image always garners a satisfying response and a really big smile.

This collection of images has been published around the world. It is the editorial that keeps giving. I explore the idea of dolls and mannequins throughout my images as a commentary on the roles women play in modern society.

This shoot with Oh Land was so much fun. She is one artist I have shot whose personal side matches with her artist persona.

Working with Jana Wirth was an exquisite experience on this shoot. She embodied the lost spirit I was looking for with a sophistication and elegance too.

These images were a part of a series about women in power. We had a surreal time shooting this because Li Ming was so capivating that I ended up shooting roughly 3,000 frames that day.

This shot is from the second shoot I was lucky to do with Mathew Settle. It was fun being able to stop traffic in New York and succeed in catching that real New York moment

I loved the stylist’s sense for this series. Chrissy Lloyd created such a fun collection of characters perfect for our shoot in Williamsburg Brooklyn.

This shoot with blogger Jordan Reid titled Love resulted in images that that we were all felt captured their relationship perfectly

I was so lucky to have the chance to shoot next to the old Domino factory in Williamsburg Brooklyn for this campaign.

I loved the amazing Cuban restaurant we shot this campaign in. The lighting was perfect and gave the feeling that we had been transported to another time.

Actress Malgosia Garnys has appeared in my work for years. She has been a muse and inspiration for a lot of my work. Our work together serves as a contistant measure of my growth as an artist.

How many years have you been in business?

Professionally and seriously for five years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

I am self-taught as a photographer but I have been formally trained and studied fine art at many top art schools.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?

During my Williamsburg Brooklyn years (1997- 2005) I became close friends with photographer Natacha Merritt. We spent most of our friendship exploring our crazy, wild scene together through photographs. During that time I also discovered great photographers that opened up my creative perspective and helped me understand why photography is so powerful. Artists like Helmut Newton, Tim Walker, Nick Knight, and earlier Terry Richardson. Then after 9/11 I felt compelled to begin documenting anything and everything I could. I became so focused on the necessity of not taking anything for granted and photography provided me a sense of solace and connection to life.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?

I honestly think my work is a direct extension of who I am as a person and artist. I crave new perspectives and experiences that are “out of the box.” So I seek them out and thrive in them. This gets translated into the way I live every aspect of my life including being an artist and a mother. If I do not stay true to myself and to my voice, how would I be able to teach my child to do so? When he was born I saw him as a perfectly clean slate. It gave me the opportunity to start from scratch and carry forward a life philosophy that challenges the norm and pushes us both to create and discover an exciting, honest, and unique experience.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?

I have been lucky to have great clients that hire me because they love my work as well as my energy for life. I know there is a lot of pressure to translate images into commerce and that often plays a huge role in a client’s decisions. I just think it is important to understand your client’s needs which helps create trust and a sense of security. Then I work with them to open up their perspective, push boundaries and be provocative. It is what makes people take notice right?

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?

Over the past few years I have impressed buyers and agents by my marketing mojo. I remember when the recession hit I had the great fortune of being taken out for drinks with a VP of a great ad agency. I had gone to the agency for a portfolio review and met with their art buyers and producers. The VP was so kind to take his time to advise me. He began by telling me that due to the economy the industry was getting really tight and budgets were being compromised. He said “Cathrine our buyers loved you and your work. As an emerging talent my best advice is to keep creating work. Keep putting it out there and in front of people. When the budgets come back, you will be on people’s mind and when the right project presents itself they will come to you.” I am sharing this because it was great advice and applies really to any artist out there.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?

I would always say that it is a dangerous road to go down because fundamentally it is the antithesis of your value as an artist and creative thinker. I think your career longevity comes from the ability and willingness to have a strong point of view and then the courage to stick by it.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?

Shooting for me is akin to eating and breathing. If I am not creating new work all the time for myself I begin to feel a sense of emptiness and frustration. Creating is “my Everything” and for me there is no separation between art and life. My favorite new saying is “If you are not growing you are dying!” I create to grow, stay fresh and provocative, and to maintain an honest connection to life. I began directing film for this exact reason. Now I am directing a film of my own creation, a new category of film for me fusing art, fashion, and narrative called The Queens. It’s an example of how I need to make sure I am always exploring new modes of expression and taking myself artistically to the next level.

How often are you shooting new work?

If I go more than two weeks without creating it’s too long. I love what I do so much. I guess some might say it’s like a torrid love affair, and I need it always.

Cathrine, child of a Broadway producer, spent her childhood amidst aspiring creative dreamers, the world of auditions and red carpet openings. After studying in some of the most prestigious art & design schools in the U.S, she pursued a career as a painter, which eventually led her to find her life’s passion in photography and directing. Cathrine’s directorial music video debut won the MTV competition ‘freshmen’ and was placed in a worldwide rotation. Her work is defined by elegance with a modern twist but still maintains a progressive signature style, and has brought her opportunities to work with advertising clients, prestigious fashion magazines like Vogue Italia, celebrities, record labels, and publishing companies throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Cathrine Westergaard:

For representation and booking:

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

There Are 3 Comments On This Article.

  1. Beautiful photographs, but I long for the day when we can stop referring to black women as “exotic.” I’d also hoped we were at least a couple decades past the point when an image of a black man whispering in the ear of a white women would be used to represent the concept of “taboo.” If I’ve misinterpreted the intent of that image, please let me know.