PHOTOS: Brooklyn photographer Katie Killary finds inspiration in everyday life
Katie Killary is a graphic designer, photographer, poet, and overall art enthusiast who lives in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. She is originally from Daytona Beach, Fla. but made her way to NYC in 2006. Since then, she’s been working and photographing the sights and scenes of New York City.
For awhile, the hustle and bustle of the city forced Katie to lose sight of why she moved from Florida, she told Metro. She spent a lot of time trying to balance a full-time job in the corporate world as a graphic designer while keeping up with socializing in NYC’s vibrant party scene.
Now, after settling in the rapidly-changing Bushwick, she spends most of her time exploring the industrial landscape of the area and admiring street art found in the neighborhood.
Metro caught up with the Katie to learn about her experience living and working in New York City.
Metro: Are you a full time photographer, or do you work full time and shoot whenever get the chance?
Killary: I’m a full-time graphic designer by day, and by night, I sleep. Just kidding! Evenings and weekends are when I come out of my corporate shell and pound the pavements for something new to share. Coney Island in the middle of winter? Sure. Governors Island in the summer time? Every single year. Standing in line for three or more hours in the rain to get inside the MoMA Rain Room on a Sunday morning? Absolutely. Touring untapped architectural sites with Open House New York? I can’t wait.
What draws you to Bushwick?
After about five or six years of living in New York, these parts of Brooklyn became my ‘escape.’ I lived in a walk-up on 34th Street, amid the noise and crowds up until recently, then made the move to Bushwick.
I ventured out to Bushwick during a gallery crawl back in 2009. I had no idea where I was. I didn’t know I was in Brooklyn, I didn’t know what train I had taken. I didn’t know a darn thing. I was a little spooked at first. It was so quiet and desolate out there; I vowed not to come back!
But I came back every year for the open studio events and gallery crawls. I had a boyfriend out there and started to consider the neighborhood my second home. When we broke up, I was so crushed — because I missed Bushwick. So I left Midtown and moved out there as soon as my lease was up. The energy of the artists, the happenstance of running into locals and neighbors in a small town setting — it is all heavily present out there, and it inspires me to no measurable degree every single day.
And I’ve learned to hold on tight to the things that inspire me.
How long have you been into photography?
It started in high school when I was known as the the ‘yearbook girl,’ always bugging people to take their pictures for the yearbook. ‘Act natural,’ I would always pester my peers. Sometimes, it was embarrassing and I felt guilty for being such a bother. By senior year, I had no fear and I pushed for every last photo that we could squeeze into that publication.
Did you study or do you consider yourself a self-taught photog?
A little bit of both. I’ve taken workshops with JP Pullos from JP Teaches Photo to learn the basics after buying my first DSLR a few years ago. After several workshops, I volunteered with JP, 100 Cameras , and several other local photographers to put on The Big Picture — a photography education fair that took place in the middle of Times Square back in May 2012. We teamed up with The Times Square Alliance to create interactive booths where visitors and passersby could bring their cameras and be coached through various concepts like exposure, aperture and shutter speed. Teaching other people was a great way to learn for myself.
Do you carry a camera with you all the time?
After dropping my camera during a trip to Ireland, and having to get a new one (thank goodness for insurance), I only carry my camera with me when I know I’ll be shooting a specific event or scenery. I love the ease of simply capturing what I see with my cell phone. It feels more clandestine that way — I can blend in with the crowd as they all do the same.
Do you approach people to ask for photos or do you prefer candid photography?
I love approaching people. It’s all about bringing people together, then engaging and entertaining them, and subsequently coming out of both of your own comfort zones. I’ve found that it pays to meet people who you do not know.
What are some of the things you enjoy photographing?
When I first moved to New York, I was constantly chasing after the famous landmarks that I’d seen in movies and television shows while growing up. It was so magical, and the Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields was my absolute favorite. I would visit it with a Strawberry Surf Rider smoothie from Jamba Juice and play The Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ on my iPod.
But I soon found that the city was different in person — I began to notice the harsh juxtaposition of nature and architecture, the quiet scenes and the straight up filth of the streets. I loved it, though.
I was 19 then, and so very new to New York City. Now, eight years later, I’ve grown infatuated with the industrial landscapes out in Brooklyn — specifically in East Williamsburg and Bushwick. The desolation, the detritus and the development going on in these places is so enchanting and serves as my main inspiration right now.
Where are some of your favorite places to go to take photos?
Currently, I’m running around Bushwick finding little side streets like Vandervoort Place and Ingraham, admiring the graffiti, the factories and the way to the snow falls and clumps all over the place.
Do you have any crazy stories to share from being out making pictures?
I once stood in Times Square for nine hours to get a particular photo. Well, it was New Year’s Eve and I wanted to see the ball drop in person. I was by myself. I was on the cusp of boredom and starting to feel like a loser, but I got that photo. Done.
What is your most memorable moment (or subject) you’ve captured?
Manhattanhenge! Every year I get a group together to capture this sunlight phenomenon either on 42nd St. or out in Long Island City in Grantry Plaza State Park. I remember years ago when only a handful of locals knew what this was. Now the #Manhattanhenge hashtag trends like crazy on Twitter and Instagram. My friend Josef Pinlac also coined #Peoplehenge, wherein photographers capture other photographers in the act of capturing Manhattanhenge, usually in the middle of the street, fearless of the oncoming traffic.
Everyone is into Instagram these days. How do you feel about it?
I’m not going to lie, I love how ‘instant’ Instagram is. I can share a unique setting right away and aim to inspire people to visit these places as well, whether at an artist studio in Bushwick, a cobblestone street in the Village or along the waterfront in DUMBO or Lower Manhattan. I joined the party a little late though, jokingly captioning photos with, ‘The iPhone users call these, ‘insta.grams’ or something like that.’
I’m at @katiecat87 and love connecting with new people on there.
How were you able to get the Twitter handle NYCPhotos, and how did it become so popular?
In July 2008, I joined Twitter with a personal account and found myself often wanting to share photos of New York City. By November 2008, I had created the NYCphotos handle. I followed maybe a hundred people who I knew from my personal account as well as any NYC-based handle, and started to catch on with a lot of international accounts who would @reply or DM me with, ‘I love NYC, I will come back some day!’ Somewhere along the way it reached 10.6 K followers. And I look at every single @reply and every follower to see who they are.
What have you learned from being a photographer and documenting the things you see?
It is important to hold on tight to the things that inspire you, and to stay focused. This city has so much to offer, and it is easy to get caught up. It’s both exhausting and exhilarating; it is a challenge to your bravery to take the pictures you really want to take. I remember when I first moved here and would spend hours in Madison Square Park taking pictures of the Flatiron Building from all angles. People would look at me strange and I couldn’t figure out why. I would stop and stare back at them. They didn’t like it, and eventually I got over it. You’ve got to be fearless!
On Saturday, Katie will join other artists in a group photo exhibition at Morgan Town Bar on Saturday, March 1 from 8 to 10 p.m. in Brooklyn. Visit their event page on Facebook for more information.
To see more of Katie’s photos be sure to check out her site at www.mkillary.com.