Kat Irlin is a Russian born photographer now based in NYC. She gained prominence in the photography world through her popular instagram, which now has over 460,000 followers.
Were you a photographer before instagram?
What were you before?
Before instagram, I graduated school with a degree in finance. Then I did human resources for 10 years.
What was the big change?
When I joined instagram, I started getting really positive feedback on my work. I have always loved photography but I was never a photographer. I started posting pictures of New York for the most part in the beginning. The feedback had been great and people were saying, ‘oh, you should be doing this full time.’ Kind of thing. So at that point I was over human resources and kind of sitting in one place, and I needed something where I could be running around and getting creative. A year ago, I decided to take the plunge and do photography full time.
"I think the way I see things is kind of interesting because I grew up in St. Petersburg, which is a very beautiful, very European city. As kids we were always in some museum, or watching a play, so I think that made a huge impact on how I see things."
"There are images of New York that sell, the Empire State Building, a skyscraper, a sunset, a vanishing point. These are the images that people are most engaged with and get the most likes."
What’s the major difference for you between shooting with your iphone and a professional camera?
I think it is the thought that you put into it. You can create great images with the iphone. It is more about what you are trying to communicate, or if you are trying to create or portray, or say something with your images. On instagram it is more about posting something pretty, like your coffee.
So when was the shift moving from iphone to regular cameras?
I think it was more actually learning to use a camera. I had never really used a camera, so I think it was more about learning. Right now I shoot with a Fuji XE1, and it shows because you see all these other guys with huge cameras. I mean I have a Nikon D800, but I mostly shoot with this, so you see guys with all big cameras and me with my little camera like snapping in everybody’s way. So yeah, learning to use the camera, and then when I realized I was going to start treating instagram as my portfolio more, versus just a social media platform. So now, mostly what I post is from the camera.
Do you think the instagram following has changed since you became more professional?
I think my following in general appreciates a good image. For the most part I don’t post like HDR or super colorful, mostly black and white, so I think my following is more artsy.
You are some what an ambassador to the city?
I mean, yeah I love New York. New York is my favorite city. It is sort of my muse I guess you could say. It is amazing. The energy, the people. The atmosphere is ever changing depending on the season, or the year, or the day. There is no city like it in the world. It continuously inspires me.
Do you see yourself going towards more dynamic photography or sticking with stills?
Instagram can try and create all these different tools, and videos, but its not going to work on instagram. People do not care about video on instagram. You go through your feed and literally spend a second on each photo. It is much less engagement with video. I think it is always going to be a place for stills.
"I try not to follow other photographers, so I can always come up with my own ideas and creations. There is a very fine line between plagiarizing and being inspired. I see so many posts inspired by @kat_in_nyc but I mean you are just copying my freaking idea. I guess its not an issue, I should be flattered or whatever."
How do you see fashion and social media coming together?
My job as a ‘journalist’ so to say, is to be able to portray the most interesting way, but still applying my aesthetic. I try to make my imagery different from everybody else’s as possible. I try to capture a different light or a different edit, or angle. So I treat those images as I treat everything else, I try to have sort of my stamp on it. So when someone sees an image they know it is mine. Trying to also portray the mood that was there, or what the designers were going for.
Do you see yourself doing other things in the creative world?
Everybody has an iphone and is a photographer. I have a friend who has done journalism in war epicenters, but now with all the smart phones there is so much less need for that. I think the content it moving away from being generated by agencies, to being generated by people. It is moving in a different direction that way. I think for myself I would like to get into creative direction. I have a good visual sense, so do a campaign for a brand or something.
Advice for someone else?
Have your own style. Something people can recognize you for.
interview by: Karin Bar, photography by: Kat Irlin (taken from instagram @kat_in_nyc)