Interview: Melbourne Studio Photographer Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace

 

Melbourne-based studio photographer is a bit of an enigma. He website doesn’t have a bio, his email signature doesn’t show his phone number, and the web in general doesn’t reveal too much about him. Even though it makes my job of introducing him to you guys a little bit difficult, I kind of dig this about him, because he seems to be a man who clearly spends more time perfecting his craft rather than talking about himself. That instantly makes him feel like a bit of a legend. Not that there’s anything wrong with promoting oneself and ones work, but some people nowadays clearly spend more time in the media then at their desk, actually producing stuff, which often drives me mad.

Alas, back to the subject of today’s interview. Haydn has captured the work of many Australian designers and brands, perfecting the art of clean and minimalist studio photography with a twist. I am also drawn to his interior photography prowess, something Haydn is interested in getting into more of. I think you’ll agree with me when I say that he will do just fine in this arena. But that’s enough from me – take it away, Mr Cattach!

 

Ross Gardam / Touch Light / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Ross Gardam / Touch Light / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Ross Gardam / Oak Semi in situ / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Ross Gardam / Oak Semi in situ / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Ross Gardam / Stylecraft / Tailored Evil / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Ross Gardam / Stylecraft / Tailored Evil / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Keith Melbourne / Zenith / Glass Collection / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Keith Melbourne / Zenith / Glass Collection / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Archier / Highline Light / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Archier / Highline Light / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

 

+ Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourself? When did you first decide you wanted to become a photographer and what path led you to where you are today?

Well the starting point is the basics, I guess – I live in Fitzroy and work out of my studio which is located in Cremorne, Melbourne’s most seemingly unknown suburb – it’s basically Richmond. I almost exclusively shoot for design clients focusing on beautiful products and spaces.

I have always been into creativity since I was a kid; I was (and remain) obsessed with cartoons and spent a lot of my time drawing. Art and creativity are big things in my life, but out of high school I followed another passion and took up a science degree. I was pretty underwhelmed by the post uni prospects and was seeking a creative outlet more and more through my work as a chef, which then became my whole life. Food and cooking allowed me to travel the world and it was whilst doing this that I first picked up a camera and thought ‘this is not too bad’. So eventually I went back to university and got my degree from .

I always had these dreams of being a war or nature photographer, immersed deep within the field and living my life outside all the time, I couldn’t really understand the attraction to working within a studio. Then I realised I was completely rubbish at shooting on the go like that and found that I really loved the total control of the scene that you got in the studio. Studio, and particularly product became a zen thing for me, lots of tiny little movements and working in my socks, that seemed to work just fine.

The path to shooting design based imagery was quite fortuitous, you never know who the members of your Japanese pub darts team know and what connections you’ll make!

 

Kate Stokes / Coco Flip / Bucket / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Kate Stokes / Coco Flip / Bucket / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Keith Melbourne / Zenith / Ellis Collection / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Keith Melbourne / Zenith / Ellis Collection / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Keith Melbourne / Stylecraft / Cell Tables / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Keith Melbourne / Stylecraft / Cell Tables / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

 

+ What are you seeking to portray in your work? Is there something that is fundamental to your practice – your philosophy and your process?

My work is all about precision and cleanliness, two traits that are conspicuously absent from the rest of my life. A big part of my process is about creating balance and removing distraction – that balance can come via symmetry or asymmetry provided you can step back and view the scene without feeling agitated by one aspect. Lighting is obviously crucial and it is always tailored to emphasise the design traits of each designer. Over the last few years I have been privileged to learn so much from many designers, and each has their own way of expressing what they want to see, be it a line or a surface or a shape. This need to be able to express their vision has allowed me to really hone my lighting skills and understanding of shape and form.

I really like to layer my lighting, starting with a base exposure and building up to the final image by targeting different areas and angles within the final scene. It’s absolutely the hardest part of photography and I learn an incredible amount from every shoot; whilst I am happy with how I go about my work, I don’t feel like I am even close to the places I think I can ultimately take it. That’s really what keeps it interesting, I’m lucky that every day my job is pretty different and that I have a lot of ambition to fulfil!

Post production is a fundamental part of my process, I have very OCD tendencies when it comes to this! Because I don’t want to have distractions I spend a ridiculous amount of time removing them, no matter how small. My theory is that while you might not notice one tiny speck of dust or imperfection, if you remove enough of them the point of the image is a lot clearer. Its kind of like death by a thousand cuts. Or clicks in my case.

 

Ross Gardam / Diesel Bar & Office / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace

Ross Gardam / Diesel Bar & Office / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace

Ross Gardam / Diesel Bar & Office / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Ross Gardam / Diesel bar combined with retail & offices / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

 

+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other photographers and creatives in general do you admire?

I think its good to be able to be influenced from lots of different directions. I love to get styling direction, especially for stereotypical things from TV shows and cartoons, a lot of the work I did at Uni was heavily influenced by shows that made me laugh – The Simpsons, Family Guy and The League of Gentlemen.

The photographers that most inspired me when I first began were those that treated the everyday as the hero. and are the masters at this and combine it with layered and complex lighting which I love. , and shot the world in such a straight forward ‘this-is-what-i-see’ way that it made people stop to look at the beauty inherent in the everyday.

The biggest influence on my career has been who I have worked with for the last 7 years. I have learnt more from him than anyone else. He has influenced me not just photographically, but also I have learnt how to run a business, talk to clients and complain about bad coffee.

In terms of design photography I, like most people, spend a lot of time trawling through Instagram and Pinterest, they are so immediate and in your face that its great for just staying up to date with trends and seeing design through other peoples eyes. There are lots of other photographers who shoot design/architecture/interiors whose work I love, in particular  , , , and .

 

Keith Melbourne / Zenith / Ellis / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Keith Melbourne / Zenith / Ellis / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Keith Melbourne / Zenith / Ellis Table / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Keith Melbourne / Zenith / Ellis Table / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Ross Gardam / Stylecraft / Asymmetry Table / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Ross Gardam / Stylecraft / Asymmetry Table / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

 

+ What advice would you give to emerging photographers who want to follow your path? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practice?

Be prepared and be thorough. For me visual research is as important as shooting so just sitting and trawling through the things that inspire you can never be underestimated. Plus it’s a great way to tell yourself that you are ‘working’ whilst on the couch with a magazine and a coffee!

The workloads for me are huge, I am not great at the work life balance thing. I have always been about over supply and making sure I have worked the images I shoot to the last detail, I don’t cut corners so there are a lot of late nights spent clicking away. I think for anyone wishing to be a photographer it’s about being able to work like this. It’s an industry where in a lot of ways you have to pay your dues; most of us started assisting painting cycs, making coffees and doing all the day to day stuff. But that’s where you learn how to act on a set, how to walk around, talk to clients, things to do and not to do. You can’t really learn that without getting out there and working with other photographers.

It’s an industry where invariably the answer to a clients request has to be ‘yes I can do that’! Breathe, keep smiling, make another coffee.

 

Ross Gardam / Aura / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Ross Gardam / Aura / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Keith Melbourne / Stylecraft / Blue / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Keith Melbourne / Stylecraft / Blue / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

 

+ What has been your career highlight?

Anytime you see your work on front or back covers or as full page images in the magazines I follow is always super exciting, I think I am still relatively new in my practice so that buzz hasn’t worn off! The highlights for me are definitely certain images, the ones where you look through camera and your heart beats a bit faster because its coming together in such a cool way, or seeing all the hard work in photoshop start to reveal the final image. I really love the image I did for Kate Stokes of the Coco Flip Bucket Table, the overhead image of Keith Melbourne’s Zenith Collection and Ross Gardam’s flying Duet Stools, these images just came together exactly how I wanted, its really satisfying to see what’s in your head come to life!

 

Design Office / Filter by Small Batch / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Design Office / Filter by Small Batch / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Design Office / Filter by Small Batch / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Design Office / Filter by Small Batch / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

 

+ What’s next – can you share with us your vision and some of your goals?

Keep working! I would really like to expand my client range and be able to shoot for more designers, I think as I shoot with more clients it forces me to learn new things both about my practice and design. It gives me more tools with which to pursue the images that are still stuck inside my head.

I would like to shoot more Interiors and Architecture as I think they go hand in hand with products, bringing them all together is something that excites me. Introducing more narrative into my work is also something I would like to pursue, it can be hard getting that across the line when pitching to clients!

Being current and able to reinvent yourself whilst still maintaining your trademark style is the hardest thing for me, so I will always spend a lot of time trying to make sure that I am not becoming too same same in my work.

And because my parents will be reading this I will definitely get a work life balance that is more in favour of life!

 

Thomas Coward / Pynn / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Thomas Coward / Pynn / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Helen Kontouris / Stylecraft / Softscape / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Helen Kontouris / Stylecraft / Softscape / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

 

LET’S GET REAL!

 

+ If I was not a photographer, I would be…

A meteorologist or a scientist. Basically I would just like to be David Attenborough. Or work on Family Guy. Probably that one.

+ Your most treasured belonging?

A big tree trunk vintage chopping board my folks gave me years ago; it’s the start of cooking and food and wine are the best things there are. And the studio coffee machine – its not even mine but my world would end without it.

+ What’s the best mistake you have ever made?

Buying a restaurant when I was 24, it was a nightmare of hard work and stress but looking back I would make the same decision again.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

I’m petrified of ice and frost. I can’t even think about going near my freezer.

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Terrible TV shows like Judge Judy and Border Patrol. Not so bright people doing not so bright things and getting yelled at.

 

Artedomus Thomas / Coward / Artedomus / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Artedomus Thomas / Coward / Artedomus / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Artedomus Thomas / Coward / Artedomus / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Artedomus Thomas / Coward / Artedomus / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

 

Tait / Winter 2014 / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Tait / Winter 2014 / Photo © Haydn Cattach.

Ross Gardam / Stylecraft / Duet Stool / Photo by Haydn Cattach | Yellowtrace
Ross Gardam / Stylecraft / Duet Stool / Photo © Haydn Cattach.


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About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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