You might not think you know Catrina “Cat” Maxwell, but you loyal StyleBlueprint readers have been looking at her lovely work every Monday for almost three years. Today, we turn the lens on our super talented FACES photographer, who also shoots corporate portraits and headshots for a range of local businesses, non-profit organizations and self-employed individuals, as well as awesome Atlanta events (hello Music Midtown!). Get to know the face behind the FACES as we delve into Cat’s creative process through her company, CatMax Photography, her inspiration and which musicians made her blush behind the camera!
As a trained, professional photographer, what are your thoughts about today’s Instagrammed, selfie culture? Does it help your industry or hurt it?
I have a lot of clients ask me to come out and do portraits/headshots because they want all their employees to have a professional headshot on LinkedIn, social media, their company’s website, etc. Employees are a direct representation of their company and the selfies at the baseball game or at the dance club are not what they want representing their companies.
Regardless of the client or subject, describe your favorite Atlanta shoot.
I enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories, seeing their passions and working together to bring that out in a photo. As far as time of year, fall has always been my favorite time to shoot and late spring is a close second.
You’ve shot almost all of our Atlanta FACES. Any commonalities you’ve noticed with these powerful women?
During my first StyleBlueprint shoot, I think I lost 10 pounds. (FACES profile subject) Kristin Cowart, she was a sweetheart, but I was not sure how it was all going to go down. Walking into a space without ever seeing it before was not something I had been accustomed to in my photography career. I think I seriously sweated more in that hour and a half on that first shoot than I ever have on a shoot before. Now, after almost three years, it doesn’t phase me at all. I actually get excited when I know my day includes a FACES shoot. The StyleBlueprint FACES I have worked with never cease to amaze me — we have such strong women in Atlanta! I love hearing about the paths that brought them to where they are today and capturing that through my images.
You worked in accounting for 10 years before studying full-time to earn your photography degree. Do you utilize any of those skills from your first career, today?
The accounting has definitely helped and I use it every day with CatMax Photography. I also worked on the business team at the Apple Store for three years, and that too helped me with the sales and customer service side of CatMax. I truly believe that there was a reason it took me so long to realize what I wanted to do with my career because I had some things I had to learn before jumping out on my own in the world of self-employment.
You cover a lot of concerts and Atlanta music festivals. Who’s your favorite artist to listen to? Any cool rock ‘n’ roll moments you’ve been privy to?
I could never name just one artist that I am listening to. I’m really all over the place when it comes to music. I am a big Band of Horses fan and excited they will be gracing the stage at Music Midtown this year, along with a lot of other amazing acts. Cool rock n’ roll moments … hmmm, I don’t really get star struck much, but when I photographed Paul McCartney in Piedmont Park I was excited. I mean, he’s one of the Beatles … are you kidding me?! KISS was another one that (had me) shaking with adrenaline after covering their show! They love to ham it up for the cameras. Music is fun and a big part of my passion for photography.
Where’s your favorite place in Atlanta to grab a much-needed cocktail after work (and what’s your go-to drink)?
Not much of a drinker, but I enjoy a good glass of wine. HOBNOB is great, as well, and their Hazelnut Mudslide is perfectly delicious for the summer! If you want to talk about food, True Foods at Lenox is one of my favorites right now, and I love Mexican (Nuevo Laredo is the best) and Ethiopian (Desta is my go-to).
What are some of your survival methods to maintaining sanity while stuck in Atlanta’s hellish traffic?
I generally will stop and eat an early dinner if I am in the city after a shoot and it’s rush hour. If I randomly get stuck in traffic, I will phone a friend (hands-free of course). Otherwise, the radio and Spotify save me!
Tell us the history behind your Duluth home.
The house was first located in Chamblee, where it was originally a training facility during World War I and then converted into an Army hospital during World War II. My grandfather purchased a piece of the hospital in 1954 and had it moved to where it sits today, on Buford Highway in Duluth. My mother and all her siblings were raised in that house. The train that passes by reminds me of staying with my grandmother as a child; the pink honeysuckle bush and rose bushes remind me of my grandfather who planted them; and if I really listen, I can sometimes hear the roosters that once lived next door in the early morning, like I did as a child.
Can you share some photography hacks with StyleBlueprint readers about easy ways to up our social media game?
Two things: Look for good lighting and make sure your subject is sharp.
Atlanta music photographer Frank Mullen, who passed away in 2009, was your beloved mentor and taught you so much about the profession, as well as life itself. What lessons would you like to pass down to the next generation of photographers and creatives?
Frank was AWESOME! I miss his friendship and knowledge so much. He loved what he did and he died doing it. He taught me that no matter how bad life seems, someone is dealing with something even worse and to always keep your head up. There are days I wish I could shoot him an email or give him a call to ask his opinion about this crazy freelance life … He was always willing to help and he truly wanted me to succeed. OK Melanie, now you got me crying, but those are the things that I would want to pass on to the next generation of photographers … Take away the cameras and all the equipment and just be a good person, have empathy, be honest and help people when you can.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There are a couple moments that stand out in my life and both come from my older brother, Byron. I wanted to go to photography school, but the classes were only offered during the day; I would have to quit my accounting job to attend school full-time and live off student loans. My brother said, “You will figure it out. If you want it bad enough, you will figure it out.” That was 15 years ago and I still say that same phrase to myself when things get tough. Also, when I was suddenly single and didn’t have a job, I was at my lowest low. I was on the phone with my brother saying, “What am I going to do now?!” My brother, in the most matter-of-fact voice said, “You are going to do CatMax! Make it happen!” He was a true influence on me as a child and during the toughest times in my life.
What three things can you not live without excluding friends, family and faith?
Do my dogs count as family? They would top the list! Also my camera, music and Coca-Cola Classic.
A special thank you to Catrina Maxwell for letting us turn the tables this week to let all of you StyleBlueprinters know how much we love and value our FACES collaborator.
Photos by Maxwell with CatMax Photography. Check out the site for more information about corporate portrait/headshot opportunities.