Photographer’s Q&A – Christine Kilpatrick
This week’s Q&A is with Christine Kilpatrick, freelance visual journalist in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her web site is www.christinekilpatrick.com.
A tragic bicycle accident where a car hit and killed an older man cycling to work. The family gathered to find answers. Photo by Christine Kilpatrick.
What were your first steps in the industry?
My first steps in the industry were to assess whether or not I had enough talent to take great news photographs. I chased the news on a freelance basis and bought myself a radio scanner. I was often first on the scene of murders, accidents and assaults. I would submit my photos to the local newspapers and when they started buying them I knew I may have a chance at being a news photographer. I pursed that aspect and made sure I had the proper credentials to be noticed as a serious photographer and not a hobbyist.
Unfortunately, with the big budget cutbacks, newspapers no longer have the budget for freelance photographs in Vancouver.
When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation, and are you where you thought you would be now?
I worked really hard for two years to earn my certificate in Professional Editing and Broadcast Journalism from BCIT. As a mature student who wanted to pursue my dreams, I felt I needed to earn the credentials and the skills to achieve my goals. I really wanted to work in the news industry as an editor or a camera operator for a Vancouver news room. I thought I would be hired right from my internship but this was not the case. I completed two full time internships at Global News and CTV News, both of which were informative and enjoyable. However, I am not where I wanted to be at this point.
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
I think Annie Leibovitz, who shoots most of the Vanity Fair covers. Although she has made the news because of a ton of financial trouble recently, she remains a great photographer.
I also admire stills photographer Kimberly French. She is a movie stills photographer who works on feature films in Vancouver and Calgary. I met her on-set of Brokeback Mountain in Calgary several years ago. She has an exceptional eye for taking beautiful photographs of actors on set at just the right moment. I recently read an interview she gave to Digital Photography Magazine from the UK. I took and used a lot of her advice on photography. She has an abundance of talent and skill and she produces the best stills in the industry. I would like to apprentice with Kimberly French and learn her system of taking great film stills.
I am my own biggest inspiration. I have not met a mature woman in the industry. (When I say mature, I mean in 40ish). It is evident the industry is male dominated. Women in the news and sports photography industry have a harder time proving themselves as capable camera operators or news photographers. I am sure the colleges are filled with female students but there are a few actually working for the big agencies like Reuters and The Canadian Press.
I liked this picture also taken in Whistler Village because the helmet matched the pants. Mountain biking is huge at Whistler Blackcomb and they dress like road warriors. Photo by Christine Kilpatrick.
Do you have a mentor?
No, I don’t have a mentor but I would like one. I feel it would be a huge benefit. There are so many little things that you don’t learn in the classroom. Some things only come with experience. I learn by watching and doing, and I wish could shadow some great shooters to learn their tips and tricks.
I would like to apprentice for a year or so, whatever it takes to get to the level where I can provide photographs to a news agency like Reuters or The Canadian Press.
There are a few really great photographers out there who have been self-taught. I went and got all the credentials that employers asked for in job descriptions and I chased news for two years. I am versed in video production, editing and still photography. I have been a freelance stringer for five years to a major celebrity news magazine but I haven’t gone the route of paparazzi. Some days, I feel like doing the paparazzi thing just for the money but I haven’t. There is a huge stigma attached to paparazzi photography because it is invasive. But those photographers support families, own homes, and pay the bills, with the newest photographs of the “star of the week”.
What was a pivotal point in your career?
I don’t want to come across as a whiner or cry-baby but I have felt like giving up because I haven’t been able to break into the industry after three years. I don’t know if it is because I haven’t graduated from Algonquin, Fanshaw, Humber, Ryerson or Loyalist or (horrors of horrors) I am not a young, fresh graduate.
I attended the NPAC conference last year in Toronto to network, meet editors and show off my portfolio and get advice. I enjoyed the speakers.
I keep plugging away at networking and trying to learn more about photography and keep taking photographs.
Don’t talk or text while driving. This driver lived to drive another day. Photo by Christine Kilpatrick.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I have a tour company called On Location Tours Vancouver. I take fans of the Twilight Saga to all the movie locations around Vancouver. I also offer wine tours and, after the Olympics, Venue Tours.
I was hopeful to get something with the Olympics. I did work for the Olympics in 1988 in Calgary in the media broadcast center. I was a student and was asked to work for ZDF German Television. It was such a great experience, I wanted to be involved with the Olympics in Vancouver, my home town.
How important to you is multimedia?
I think the newspaper, in the format it is in now, is on the way out. I think people will be getting most of the news online. People have a short attention span. Kids would rather watch YouTube than regular television programming. News has to be in short sound bites. It has to be quick, entertaining and easy to access. I think there is a future in news photography but it will be online. Video clips of news have to be presented like a TV commercial. There is a new generation of MTV viewers and to send the message, the media has to grab and hold their attention. Lucky for me, I know how to do some of the technical stuff.
I love taking candid street photography. These two women were mirroring each other and probably were not aware of their pose. I think they were mom and daughter visiting Whistler Village in the Summer of 2010. Photo by Christine Kilpatrick.
How do you ensure you are progressing as a visual journalist?
I am a member of the Langley Photo Club. I read what I can about the industry and I attended the NPAC Conference. I was hoping the conference would come back to Vancouver this year. It was recommended to me that I join the Professional Photographers Association of BC. I take workshops with professional photographers and I take photos almost every day. I have started a “Picture A Day” on my blogspot, www.newsflic.blogspot.com and made a web site, www.christinekilpatrick.com.
I am looking for opportunities to become a stills photographer on indie movies as well.
I look at the NPAC site for news I can use and visit different web sites. I am always looking for what’s new and any media news or trends that I should be aware of.
What are some of the must-see websites you visit?
National Geographic Photographers for inspiration and I look at Fickr for inspiration. I love looking at what other photographers are doing for fun and work. I haven’t found any great sites for guidance information or education.
What is your favourite way to unwind?
I love to travel to the Caribbean. I feel I need to go every year. I take a lot of photographs.
What s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
Don’t give up on your dream.
Walk around your subject. Look for the shot the other guys aren’t getting. Don’t stay in the same spot, don’t shoot from eye level. Take a lot of pictures. Get in there and get the emotion. Be patient. If it is uncomfortable, take the shot. Make sure all your shots are crisp and in focus.