Members of the Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club were both entertained and inspired by the young, Irish photographer, Cat Gundry-Beck, speaking on Zoom from her adopted home of Iceland.
Blessed with the Irish gift of the gab and an effervescent personality, Cat described her journey into the world of photography, starting with learning her craft at Norwich University of the Arts. She recalled one very useful exercise which helped her identify her own photography style, whereby she flicked through magazines and collected images that she liked, or found inspiring. She then reviewed what it was about them and discovered a similar colour palette of pale pinks and blues; a sense of minimalism and a dream-like quality. This distinctive style has become her signature.
After graduating, she secured some valuable work experience with renowned professional photographers Olly Burn, Greg Funnell and Rebecca Pierce, giving her a useful insight into the practical side of how photographers work.
Soon after she got a dream job and moved to Tromso, Norway to run tours to see and photograph the Northern Lights. Cat explained, for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t managed to tick this off their bucket list, that this amazing phenomenon is not like it is in the photos. The lights can show up as wispy clouds to the naked eye, whereas a long exposure of around 5 - 20 seconds on the camera can capture the details and wonderful colours.
After a couple of years in Norway, Cat realised that she wanted to move her photography in another direction as her heart was really in advertising. She had been hearing lots of good things about the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, and decided to move there. Her sheer positivity and youthful enthusiasm overcame the practicalities of not having a job to go to, or any accommodation, but she told herself she’d ‘give it two months and see what happens’. She admitted it was tough to start with, but her resilience and determination paid off and she got a job with a tour company to provide photography and video content for advertising. Going into this sector of work allowed her to meet like-minded souls and suddenly she found her tribe.
Cat showed examples of her eye-catching photographs and explained how they help businesses grow when used on their websites and in their social media, marketing and advertising.
However, her most captivating images were linked with her personal interest in portraiture. Cat’s signature style of pastel shades works perfectly with the soft blues and pinks of the Icelandic winter skies, whilst the snowy backdrop provides a minimalist canvas for the subject. Using a Canon R5 with a couple of favoured lenses, Cat prefers a shallow depth of field and then processes her photos in a way that does not document reality, but rather creates an alternative world.
In between making her living as a lifestyle photographer, and indulging her passion for portraiture, Cat also finds time to help and empower others. She is also an advocate for gender equality and has been instrumental in encouraging more female photographers into the business.
In March 2021, Iceland experienced lots of earthquakes and a major volcanic eruption was imminent. In true pro-active style, Cat made a Volcano Action Plan where she put all the measures in place to cover the event, including having a super-jeep at the ready to get to the location. She then made an approach to various news agencies to let them know she was in place and ready to go. Her tenacity paid off and she was commissioned by Reuters. When the first eruption happened on 19 March, she was in a four-seater plane with the only pilot who had a special licence to fly in these circumstances and, as a result, her photographs appeared around the world.