ABOVE PHOTO: Katt Wilkins
By Danaé Reid
Katt Wilkins, a renowned photographer from New Jersey, has admitted to having a difficult time adjusting to a world where her passion – photography — is considered one of those things that we “shouldn’t” do, during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a person who struggles with depression, anxiety, and OCD, photography was one of the best ways for her to cope. She has since found creative ways to channel that energy.
SUN: Your job at the hospital has of course persisted, but the thing that you really love, photography, has taken a backseat due to the current pandemic… It seems that your current position is quite perplexing because on one hand, you’re still making money consistently, but on the other, your passion has taken a backseat and I could only imagine how grueling your hours are at the hospital. Can you tell us a bit about that and how you’re feeling as a result?
Katt Wilkins: It’s a really frustrating for me because I’ve always been a photographer with a job, and now I just have a hospital job. I feel like I’ve lost a huge chunk of my identity without photography. It was what keeps me calm and sane, which I could really use during this time. I’m constantly stressed and anxious working at a hospital. I have days where I just get so overwhelmed that I just can’t do anything, especially after a hard shift at work. And then sometimes I have this burst of energy — it’s hard because most days are a combination of both of those extremes.
SUN: A lot of creatives have attested to feeling stifled, and dare I say, hopeless in regards to their craft. How difficult has it been to keep your passion alive in the current state of our world? What measures have you taken to combat these feelings?
Katt Wilkins: The self-portraits help a lot. I’ve also been working on re-editing old work or photos I’ve overlooked or found. Eventually I’m going to redo my website completely and rebrand… I’ve also been chatting with other people about shoots we’re planning for after the quarantine. It’s helping me feel productive and normal.
SUN: You’ve been doing a lot of self-portraits to keep you sane over the past few months, and they all seem to have a certain twinge of vulnerability and maybe – anxiety. Nonetheless, they’re pretty dark. As an accomplished photographer, it seems that the photos you take, especially of yourself, are an extension of your spirit. What are you trying to convey in these photos?
Katt Wilkins: I’m a person with severe anxiety, OCD, and depression. A lot of my self-portraits are essentially describing that. I’m a person who has to be busy or else my brain takes over and I’m helplessly overwhelmed with my thoughts. So I try to capture what it’s like living with these types of problems because sometimes it’s truly hard to describe in words. It’s also been helping a lot with my confidence. I’ve always been like extremely insecure about my appearance and I’m always photographing such beautiful human beings. I’m starting to see myself the way I see the people I photograph.
SUN: FaceTime photoshoots have all but taken over social media as an alternative to creating at a distance. What are your thoughts on the trend? Do you think it will continue beyond the lockdown?
Katt Wilkins: I modeled in my first FaceTime shoot and it was pretty cool. You really have to communicate and work together to pose, position your phones, etc. I think a lot of the communication gets lost when you’re in person. Sometimes you have people that just don’t talk during shoots or expect the photographer or model to come up with everything on their own. This kind of breaks that barrier and encourages teamwork in shooting. I definitely think it’ll stick around for a little… Especially with photographers and models who live far from each other.
SUN: What fears do you harbor about your life and your art post pandemic? How have you confronted those feelings?
Katt Wilkins: I definitely worry things will not go back to normal for a long time. I feel so much for the hair stylists and makeup artists of shoots during this because everything will change. I worry we’ll all never feel “safe” again. I’m trying to educate myself on this virus as much as possible and that helps me confront these fears in a way. The more I know, the better I feel and can rationalize things. It was difficult in the beginning because honestly nobody knew much about this virus, so I stayed away from the news and what not.
SUN: Follow up: What do you hope to see post pandemic? (Can be about your art, your life, the world, etc.)
Katt Wilkins: I plan on changing a lot about my life after quarantine. I have a list of goals to complete before 2020 is over and I’m going to accomplish all of them. It’s mostly about taking control of my life again. Trying to make myself happy and feel the most alive instead of being in constant depressions and ruts. I’ve lived my life being whatever I needed to be for everyone else, and I’m seeing now that I deserve to pursue my own dreams. I’m really hopeful — and I have a really good support system at the moment.
SUN: Last question: Where can people find your art?
Katt Wilkins: Until my website is back up, my work is on my Instagram account, @kattwilkins