Today, we welcome an amazing local photographer, Catherine Pittman Smith. Catherine has a keen eye for beauty and her images capture the uniqueness of her subjects. We especially love her coffee table books which illustrate her client’s stories so beautifully. These books would make an amazing gift for Mother’s Day!
How did you get your start in photography?
Well, of course that’s a story … It started in high school when my family took a trip to Charleston, SC, and I borrowed my father’s camera and never gave it back. I took photography in college and just fell in love with it. I kept my camera with me wherever I traveled in college and post-college, including the UK, Europe, New England, Wyoming and San Francisco. Fast forward to 1999/2000 when my nephews were born–they naturally became the focus of my lens. Somehow friends started calling me to photograph their kids. After being laid off in 2001, I decided that I didn’t want to be put back in a box and stepped out in faith to work for myself as a portrait/fine-art photographer. And in 2003, I set up shop in Crestline at 31 Church Street Studio with another artist, and I’ve been there for 10 years now.
How would you describe your style as a photographer?
Natural, yet intentional. I don’t do contrived well. I consider myself to be an artist, a purist and then a photographer. Photography, for me, is a gift from God. He has given me an eye to see and capture people, places and things in a refreshing and true light. With people, my goal is to reveal their God-given spirit and personality in a simplistic and natural way. Regardless of what or whom I’m shooting, my style is imprinted with texture, substance and a simplicity that reveals a story that is to be told.
Tell us about these “coffee table” books that are so popular with your clients.
Oh my gosh! They are so awesome! I just love doing them. This is art-focused storytelling at its best. I’ve always loved telling a story, and now I am able to blend that love with my photography, making a powerful impact by creatively documenting something significant, meaningful and with purpose. What makes these so great is that they are anything you want them to be. They can include your family and pets, your home, garden or your farm, beach or mountain house–the possibilities are endless. No two are alike, and each one tells its own story, and they grow and take shape as I shoot them. Some that I’ve done include photographing a farm for over a year of the four seasons (we were so excited to get snow in January!). I’m finishing a lake house in Guntersville that’s been in a client’s family for over 60 years. One of the most meaningful jobs I’ve had was to photograph a dying man with his wife, kids and dogs, documenting each of their relationships at his home and yard that he loved so much. I’m even doing a book of a client’s seasonal decorations. You never know what’s coming next.
Aside from photography, what else are you passionate about?
I’m pretty crazy about my daughter, who was a miracle … She’s been a real gift, and it’s fun getting to know her more as she grows and matures, to see what she enjoys, what piques her curiosity and what makes her laugh. I also have chickens and really enjoy collecting the eggs every day–it’s like Christmas morning! My newest passion is Beaufort, SC. I absolutely fell in love with it in 2011 and keep going back. As a matter of fact, I am working on publishing a coffee table book there. That’s the best way to combine business and pleasure!
What books are on your bedside table/eReader?
My Bible, Wash by Birmingham native Margaret Wrinkle (an old high school friend), The Prince of Tides (a re-read) and Boundaries with Kids. In the drawers below are many other books I’ve either started or plan to read. I hope I live a long time.
What are some of your favorite Birmingham restaurants?
I love Chez Fon Fon, Hot & Hot Fish Club and Chez LuLu. Birmingham has such great restaurants, and I don’t get to go out much, so just about anyone of them is a treat for me.
What do you do to recharge your batteries?
Get my hands in the dirt and work in my garden; jump on the trampoline with my little girl; go for a run (I’m working my way up to a 5K); enjoy a glass of wine with friends; and the most necessary recharge is quality prayer time in the morning.
What’s the best piece of advice ever given to you?
“Be true to thine own self.” I just wish I had taken that tidbit of advice earlier in my life, but I finally figured it out. Another is “it’s better to be kind than right.” That one can be a challenge sometimes.
What advice would you give to others?
Don’t let anyone define who you are supposed to be. Be the first to apologize. Don’t ever stop learning. And continually pray and take advantage of spiritual upgrades.
If your house was on fire what’s the one non living thing you would grab?
My Bible and our baby albums. I know that’s two things, but I just retrieved the albums and put them in my bedside dresser so that I can make a quicker escape. Let’s let that count as one.
Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?
Of course not, I’m perfect! Actually, I’m not real crazy about snakes. I’m not sure if this is quirky or not, but I believe that in the time we are graciously given by God, we should create a community of respect, affirmation, encouragement, truth and love. I don’t have time for a bunch of nonsense, like guilt, shame and condemnation. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding God, family & friends!).
My Bible, my iPhone (my life is on it–I wouldn’t know what to do next), and it’s a toss up between my spearmint Chapstick and my heating pad. I can’t stand dry lips and I don’t do cold well.
Thanks for sharing, Catherine. To find out more about Catherine’s photography, check out her website at www.catherinepittmansmith.com.
And a big thanks to Beth Hontzas for todays fabulous photos!