Katie Fenske is a landscape photographer in South Carolina, whose work captures the loneliness and quiet found in the environments around her. We share a love of photographing houses and the remnants of human efforts interacting with nature, acknowledging the presence of people by depicting their absence. She was one of the first people that I photographed, and the first stranger who I met for the first time when I showed up to photograph them in person.
I asked Katie to take me someplace that was meaningful to her, and she did not disappoint. After only a few hours of talking and braving a fierce wind to take pictures (literally every time I would be ready to click the shutter, Katie’s hair would whip into her face and we would collapse with laughter as she tried to straighten it out, only to have the same thing happen again), we were fast friends and felt completely comfortable with each other, which is a feat for two introverted photographers who prefer being behind the lens. From the first time I had seen her images, I was impressed by Katie’s intentionality in what and how she photographs, and her dedication to integrating image-making into her daily life. After being given a camera to document her daughter, taking pictures became a compulsion that she couldn’t shake. Her camera never leaves her side and she often spends her evenings chasing the light and capturing the golden glow it casts over neighborhoods and fields. My conversations with her only confirmed the thoughtfulness and passion she has for her craft.
How and why did you start taking pictures?
“It was out of necessity–I wanted good pictures of my daughter, who’s now 6 years old, I couldn’t afford to have a photographer come out and take pictures of every little thing that I wanted, so my family all pitched in and got me a camera for my thirtieth birthday, and I taught myself how to use it. And I fell in love with it, with the medium, and just kept going with it.”
What inspires you?
“I feel the need to photograph something, like a compulsive need to photograph things almost daily, because I’m always looking. It can be the way the light is hitting something, it can be the actual object, if I pass by a house that has lots of stuff I’m always really attracted to those—it just amuses me to see the things that people decorate their spaces with. I like seeing how people live…if something just amuses me I’ll take a picture of it, if something looks really lonely, or sad I’ll take a picture of that.
I like to experiment, which is one of the reasons I like photography—there’s room to wiggle and grow, within moments of each other one picture can look very different from the next.”
Do you have a philosophy around how you work?
“I don’t know that I have any kind of personal philosophy that I’ve defined, I just try to be respectful of other people’s space…I don’t like to take a photo selfishly, I like to be respectful of other people. To not let what I’m doing get in the way of someone else living their life, or stepping on people’s toes. I don’t like to make people uncomfortable so that I can get a good photograph.
I don’t take it lightly, I want to produce good work. But I always produce things that I want, if somebody else doesn’t like it I’m fine with that. It’s a way for me to be introspective I guess.”