01 KAITLYN BOSNJAK
It’s one of those mornings that signify an autumn beginning. the air is chilly as the first licks of daylight trickle the pool - It’s usually the time of day people switch snooze and roll over, but when you’re a film PHOTOGRAPHER, this is your moment.
Kaitlyn Bosnjak has already been up for hours. When I arrive on set where she is shooting an upcoming editorial for beautifully curated and sustainable Franco-Australian magazine Peachy Keen, she’s already 4 shots into the first look, and while that might not seem like much to digital photographers, that’s 16% of a roll of film. Watching Bosnjak work with the model is something different than I’ve ever seen; it’s fascinating. It’s such a carefully thought out process - everything preparing for one try at one shot - a direct contrast to my day yesterday, in studio, where there were over 50 images captured and lights/outfits/hair and make-up were all slightly shifted before the actual shoot began. I ask what she loves photographing most, and I learn her answer, like everything she does, is very considered. “I am most inspired by people and subjects in their most natural form. Raw beauty is so captivating, and as much as I’ve enjoyed doing editorials with beautiful brands, I am always drawn back to the simplicity of natural beauty.”
Lilli - What’s the first thing we should know about you?
Kaitlyn - I grew up in Florida, I was doing photography from a really young age and I was really inspired from my Grandpa, I think that set the foundation for where I am today.
But, if you were to look back to when I was younger, you would probably think ‘Oh, she would never be in fashion or anything like that!’, I was into horses and farms and I wanted different things. Where I am now, though, I’m very passionate about what I do and I love to create, that’s what motivates me everyday. I love meeting new people, I love being inspired by and working with other people, other photographers.
I am a little bit introverted, but at the same time, I think that gives me time to create and think and be inspired by things around me.
That’s more than the first thing - that’s a thousand things!
L - Even better! So what was it that shifted from growing up to now?
K - I think back then I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. The only thing I was certain of is the I wanted to move to Australia and I wanted to study here, but when I did, I hadn’t picked up my camera in years. When I moved here, I met one of my good friends Christie, one of the most creative friends that I’d met, and still have, and we made a pact to do something creative together every time we hung out. She also had a film camera so we started just walking around, she would take photos of me, I would take photos of her, and that evolved into doing pottery together, doing drawing classes together - we just wanted to be creative together, because we both knew we were creative but we just …
L - … in the 9-5 grind it can plateau ..
K - Yes, exactly. I think what changed from me going from photography as a hobby to photography is something that I want to pursue as a career is when I realised that - photography really stimulates me creatively and I really love it and I can do it, and it’s something I’ve always been able to do. And now I want to see where I can take it.
I think that’s when it shifted, from working in the fashion industry and working around creative people, seeing editorials and thinking, ‘Wow, I really love that and I want to be involved somehow’ to being like ‘Wow, I can do that.’ Just being more confident in myself.
L - Completely. Sometimes I wish I had confidence in my ability - it’s not obnoxiously - but that I feel I can contribute something of worth and get things done - I wish I had that when I was 18!
K - Same! I felt like it took me a long time to get going. Especially when you’re in the social media sphere and you see all these women who are so productive and they’re just turning 25 and they already have a huge following and they’ve started their own business and putting out all this content creation and here I am at 28 just starting. But I’ve had to realise that that’s ok, it’s been a journey and everyone has different journeys and I can’t compare myself to anyone else. But confidence has been a huge thing and really owning loving the art and what I can create. And I’ve met so many other digital photographers who say ‘I don’t understand how you can do film, it’s so scary, you can’t see anything!’
But you have to be confident in your craft - ok I’m looking through the lens, the lighting is really great, everything is good, everything is what I want. But it has to be more considered than digital, which is why it can take a really long time to get way fewer shots than you would get doing digital.
L - Can you explain what Just Film is?
K - Just Film for me, started as a passion project, photography was a hobby for me and I took so many scenic photos. Literally of the beach! Then I decided to put my art out there - I started the Just Film Instagram page and decided to just put it out there and decided I didn’t want to hide it anymore, I was worried that people would criticise it. I didn’t realise at the time how many people were doing film, I thought it might get criticised, but I though lets just make a page and this was my starting point to possibly having this as a business, to possibly having this as a career. That was my kickstart - I’m just going to put this out into the world and if people like it they like it, if not then if they don’t they don’t, but I’m still very passionate about it. I thought, let’s see who I can meet, let’s see what I can create, let’s see where it goes. It was a leap of faith.
L - What did it feel like when you got the first moments where momentum started to build and people began sharing and loving your film?
K - It felt awesome, it was so cool. I think we’re our own toughest critic, so half the time even now I’m doing photography and I see photos and think - ‘that’s so so’ - it’s hard to not critique your own photos to the point where you don’t like them anymore.
L - What’s been your career journey until now?
K - I worked a lot in 9-5 jobs in offices, but career wise with photography, it was test shoots on the weekend, trying to build up my portfolio, trying to get my foot in with the modelling agencies to be able to showcase more of my work. But now, it’s been a bit of a dive in the deep end, head first! It’s been like, ok well let’s get this going, let’s work out how to make this work as your full time job. It’s been a lot of communicating, a lot of shots in the dark, reaching out to stylists, to magazines, to models, just saying ‘hey would you like to shoot’, ‘I’d love to collaborate with you’, it’s just been a lot of finding brands that I love, emailing them and seeing if they’re interested. Some get back to you, some don’t, and I’ve been lucky to have a few say yes, to get the ball rolling to doing more content shoots for brands and now eventually for magazine editorials. Peachy Keen is the first editorial shoot that I’ve been asked to shoot, which is so exciting. It’s mainly been reaching out, not being afraid of people saying no, trying to make connections and build your brand. It’s been a lot of that ..
L - .. a lot of making the first move ..
K - Yes definitely.
L - How instrumental do you think socials like Instagram have been?
K - It’s been instrumental, so helpful.
L - I ask because I feel like social media has been getting such a bad wrap at the moment…
K - I’ve seen Instagram as a tool to kickstart my career and share my passion for photography. I’ve been able to create my page with just my photography, and ..
L - For free ..
K - For free, exactly, it’s been a really big tool, to use the profile to connect with people.
L - What would you tell your 18 year-old self?
K - I would just say to be confident and not be afraid to push boundaries or to take the next steps into doing what you love. There is a part of me that wishes I would have noticed that I love photography so much to make it my career when I was younger. I would defiantly tell younger self to go after what you’re passionate for and to be confident in what you’re doing. And don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help or to learn from other people - and be open about not knowing things because that can be daunting to say I don’t know but who can I ask? Are they going to be annoyed if I ask? Realise that people are a lot nicer than you think they are, I went into it thinking people might not be that kind, but people have been overly kind.
L - It’s such a fine line between constructive critiquing and harsh criticism in a negative way. How do you balance that?
K - Luckily so far, I haven’t encountered anyone who has been super critical of my work in a rude way. But I’m trying to prep myself for when it might happen! So far, people maybe just don’t write back, but I can be quite a defensive person by nature, which I’m trying to be better at. If someone was to criticise my work, I don’t want to be defensive, I want to receive constructive criticism because I want to get better in this journey, and so if someone could see a better way for me to do something, and I can learn. But the mean, rude comments, I don’t know that I’d handle that very well because it’s not well intended. But I want to always be open to criticism, as I feel like everyone should be, so I can grow and that’s how you get better, because you can’t see everything…
L - And you don’t know what you don’t know, right?
K - Exactly. Like my Grandpa, he sees things that I don’t see, like sometimes I’ve been a bit too close with a certain lens and it’s distorted the face, and I don’t see it, but then I look a bit harder and I see it. But it’s also a fine line, that I’m not overly critical of my own work, then I don’t want to show it to anyone! I remember one time I did a shoot and the film had expired and was damaged, and I thought, ‘Well, they’re all damaged and ruined.’ But I sent it to a friend and she loved it, she loved the mood of it. But I did not intend to do that at all! But people loved it.
L - Bit of texture ..
K - Yes, bit of grain never hurt anyone apparently! It created a unique mood, where I looked at it and saw ‘This is wrong’, other people saw ‘This is cool’. I guess all art is subjective, I might not like it but someone else might. I was advancing the film once and it got stuck, and something like five shots took over each other - and it turned out .. interesting - someone else was like ‘This is awesome!’ and reposted it. So cool, alright! But I would hope to inspire people with my film, I want people to be comfortable working with me and see my work and thinking it’s amazing, this is a beautiful portrait or something. I had a girl that I met tell me that she was inspired by my work and that was big time for me! I never really thought of myself as someone who could inspire someone, I just always thought I would be inspired by others. But constructive criticism, yes, going back to the question! It’s always good!
L - I feel like it takes a certain amount of bravery to take constructive criticism on board, and it hurts the pride a little, but it’s better for me in the long run!
K - Yes, and it takes self control as well, like I said before, I can be quite an automatic defensive person. And that’s something I’ve had to work on.
L - If you could have coffee with three people, who would they be?
K - As I was telling you earlier, this was a really hard think for me! I wanted to really think about women who inspire me, Alexandra Nateff, she’s a photographer and the creative director of Unconditional magazine, one of my favourite magazines, so beautiful. She takes all these beautiful portraits of women and she’s just so creative and inspiring to me. She’s been someone who in recent times has inspired me and fuelled my photography because I do a lot of portrait photography. I love the simplicity of her work, to have something so simple but so powerful and impactful. I would love if someone would look at my art, my photography and think ‘Wow it’s so simple but so powerful.’ So I think she would be an interesting person to get to know and to talk to. The Olsen Twins, if I had to pick between the two, Mary-Kate, because I feel like I was more tomboy too when I was growing up. But seeing them peel out of the child-actor to completely shift to designing The Row and Elizabeth and James, I’m completely obsessed with The Row. It’s strong, subtle, it reminds me a little of Celine, old, ‘Phoebe Celine’. They stay out of the limelight and just bring out these inspiring artworks, clothing wise, these incredible collections. I think they would be so inspiring. I would love to see their mindset, see what inspires them. Of course, if I really did sit down to have dinner with these people I would probably freeze!
L - Me too, sometimes it can be intimidating. It’s so interesting with the Olsens, they are the antithesis of fame and attention seeking, oversharing and putting everything out there.
K - Yes, they’re almost like an enigma. They are quiet until they come out and produce this beautiful design. I would love to use their clothes in a shoot one day. I would love to style with their brand. And then the final person was hard! I find recently I’ve been inspired by so many people, Holly Ryan is such a genuinely beautiful person, very kind and very involved in her artwork. Another is Christine Spangsberg, the Dutch artist. I’ve met her and she’s just so down to earth and genuine and kind. It’s funny because I bought a print off her when she did her one and only print release…
L - Was this at Jericos?
K - No, no before she was even signed to Jerico. I’ll always remember that I emailed her to say it’s really beautiful and she emailed back saying ‘I’m going to be in Australia, would you like to have a coffee?’ She got here and had her first exhibition and blew up, so we never got to, but I would love the opportunity to sit down and talk to her, instead of just at her shows. She’s someone who really inspires me as well, even her artwork, she, to me, is the original line artist. I know there’s so many, but she was the first one I came into contact with and thought I love this, it’s amazing.
L - It’s so interesting, I feel like there’s this continuity of people making career out of their creative talents here …
K - Yes, definitely, they all seem to be genuinely good at their crafts, and never get bored or stuck in what they do, they constantly try to inspire people and reach people in different ways. I think those are a good three!
L - So, finally before I let you go, your top three tips for taking the perfect shot!
K - First is to be patient with the shot, patience is the most important thing to have. When you’re looking through the lens, I like to scan the entire frame and take my time to frame up, for example in a portrait shot, to take the time to make sure the space is well filled. Checking the lighting, checking the f-stops and speed and light readings. And finally, checking that what the model, her body language is doing is what you want to say. Patience, lighting and consider the bigger picture are the biggest things for me. Is what you’re seeing the story you want to tell, film is so much more about being more considered.
L - That’s so interesting, before every shot, is this the story I want to tell? I love that because I feel with digital we can get a bit lazy with that and go for quantity over quality sometimes. Asking ‘What’s the bigger picture?’
K - Exactly, ‘What’s the bigger picture?’. I feel like that can sometimes get lost in fashion, obviously I’m still learning, but sometimes I fell like that. I was saying earlier, that I’m so inspired by Platon, he takes the time to get to know his model and feel the emotions are going to contribute to the photograph.
L - I remember reading a quote by Annie Leibovitz that many people misunderstand a photographers job is to make the subject feel comfortable, when actually their job is to make them feel something and be connected.
K - Definitely, you want them to look at the photo and think ‘Wow that’s amazing’. I’ve had some of the girls that I’ve shot look at photos that I’ve taken of other girls and say ‘This so genuinely makes me happy and makes me smile’ or ‘This is so strong or delicate or makes me feel at peace’ for example. That for me is amazing, that’s what I want, to inspire someone, I want to make people feel something from my art.
L - Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me on the record! Can’t wait for our next coffee!
Issue 02 featuring this shoot is released the end of May.
Follow Kaitlyn’s work at @justfilm_