Celebrate and complain together
Katie and Joe Bauer are fashion photographers, a team, and husband and wife who have been working together for several years now and have recently moved to NYC. The years of practicing different aspects of fashion photography led to the idea to establish a practical education that offers classes on working with models, publishing editorials, planning the shoots to name a few. Through constant learning and perfecting the shoots the team masters the way to wow the viewer. The work with lights and shadows, building a composition with contrasting a subject and an object in a frame captivate the eye of the beholder.
Color shoot or black and white it is always about making the best of knowing the what and why of photography, of taking theory and bringing the frame several levels higher. Katie got a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, and Joe also has a degree in Computer Science. Sometimes life has its own plan. Persistence, courage to explore new opportunities and embracing change are a key.
Read the interview to get tips and change your perspective in photography. Find out more about the online education by Katie and Joe
"I may have never picked up a camera — I never considered myself creative until I met Katie. In another life, I could see myself really enjoying psychology, or maybe turning my drumming skills into a career".
— Joe Bauer
Hi Katie and Joe, such a pleasure to have you for this interview! Where did you think you would be if you would never meet one another or if you were interested in different professions?
K + J: We talk about this fairly often, actually! It’s really hard to say, obviously, but it’s possible Katie would have gotten into photography/art on her own and moved to the West Coast. She’s always been into art and fashion. I may have never picked up a camera - I never considered myself creative until I met Katie. In another life, I could see myself really enjoying psychology, or maybe turning my drumming skills into a career.
What are the pros and cons of working in a duo, how do you complement each other's’ work and ideas?
K + J: I think the pros and cons are sometimes the same thing. We have different perspectives and have different opinions about things like styling, light, composition, casting. That can be really helpful and make our work more interesting, but it sometimes can be frustrating when we’re not seeing eye to eye.
One major pro is that we’re a great support for each other. Nobody can appreciate our own successes or relate to struggles like we can for each other. Celebrate together and complain together. It’s really really great to not be alone in this.
How is working in Wisconsin different from Portland? Do you think the change of environment brings about the change of luck or new opportunities that could have never happened without this move?
K + J: Leaving Wisconsin and moving to Portland was the best decision we’ve made for our art and for our personal growth in general.
We would not be where we are today if we would have stayed in our hometown.
We actually just moved to NYC a few weeks ago (!!!), for many of the same reasons we moved to Portland: e.g. more clients, more models, better styling options, etc. Moving to a new place and getting a new perspective has become a very important part of our lives.
What did you study in college and does this knowledge you gained ever impact your work today?
K + J: Katie has a degree in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. I have a degree in Computer Science. The CS stuff has allowed us to build our photographer education site from scratch, which we’re both really proud of (learn.katieandjoe.co).
Other than that, though, our schooling doesn’t really affect our photography much, if at all!
Pentax, Fujifilm, Canon, Kodak, Contax - what is your favorite camera to shoot on? Does it happen that you bring 2 cameras on set and each of you operates his own?
K + J: We are rarely both shooting at the same time and usually pass the camera back and forth as each of us has ideas.
Our favorite is definitely the Pentax 67 - we have the 1st gen model with TTL meter and a custom 3D printed right-hand grip. It’s really satisfying to shoot.
For 35mm, we love our Contax G2 for our fashion work. We also really love this little crappy Olympus XA2 that we always keep loaded with Tri-X 400 and shoot personal stuff just for fun.
What is the place in town you love to visit that gets you inspired, energized and thinking of the new creative ideas? What is special about this place?
K + J: The ocean, specifically the Oregon coast, has been a major source of inspiration for us. The colors, the wind, the wildness of the waves. It’s really, really magical.
Also, traveling to new places has always sparked inspiration for us. We’re looking forward to finding our new favorite spots in NYC!
What is the most challenging in shooting a model you never shot in your previous editorials and your tip to make it work?
K + J: There is always a warm-up period when we’re shooting with someone we haven’t worked with before. We sometimes take a handful of photos on our digital camera to kind of find our groove before really jumping into the official photos for the shoot.
It takes a little bit to figure out how she moves, if she likes more/less direction, how confident she is in front of the camera/crew, etc.
The best tip we have to make it work is to be really warm and friendly with your team. Ask questions, find out a few things about each other, make jokes, find common ground. We’re all just people, and having a great connection with the people you’re working with will make everything 10X better.
What is the best part about shooting black and white?
K + J: We don’t have to color-correct our scans :)
Really, it just feels more romantic, dramatic, and less distracting than color.
You create very interesting portraits in black and white that remind me Ingmar Bergman’s aesthetics in The Seventh Seal. How do you choose the composition and embellish it with the play with lights and shadows?
K + J: That’s a major compliment, thank you.
We try to make sure there is a good amount of contrast in the composition. A dark background with a light-skinned model. Or a long black dress on sand against a cloudy sky. We just try to make sure our subject is separated from her surroundings in some way. We do this with both black and white and color.
“We’re all just people, and having a great connection with the people you’re working with will make everything 10X better”.
When setting a shoot with 2 models as in December editorial - FRANCES MAY, how do you direct their movements and being in sync with the natural background?
K + J: We’ve found that when you’re working with multiple models, it’s really important to come into the shoot with some ideas of poses and interactions they can have with each other. You have to be extra decisive in your posing and make sure you have plenty of ideas to support the models when they don’t know what to do.
Sometimes we try out poses in a mirror with each other before a shoot, too. I suppose that’s another pro of working together :)
Katie, tell about your experience as a stylist in the series Brent. How being a photographer helps viewing the chosen looks in a different perspective for the shoot?
K: With Brent, I decided I wanted to style him in a British-boy-fall look (trenches and sweaters).
Being a photographer helps me as a stylist because I know what kinds of colors or patterns will look good on my specific camera and in the locations I choose.
I actually kind of dislike styling, but I'm able to produce exactly (or at least close to) what we originally envisioned for the shoot, and we end up happier with the final images.
Tell about your project - Learn (K + J). How did it start and what are your plans for the future with this educational program?
K + J: We have spent the last 4 years figuring out the different aspects of fashion photography on our own, and it’s been hard! All along, we wished we had some practical resources (articles, courses, guides, mentors) to help us figure out all the things that we were stumped by.
Basically, we decided to put together a very practical resource for people who are in the same position we were when we were getting started.
We hope to save people lots of time and headaches and make the fashion world more approachable.
We plan to keep adding classes and posts and videos and lots of (hopefully) helpful stuff!