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Alum Profile: Katherine Kate Wolkoff

Monday, August 15, 2016

 

Kate Wolkoff ’90 is both an art photographer and a commercial photographer. Her work has been in shows at Sasha Wolf Gallery, Danziger Projects, the New York Photo Festival and Women in Photography. Her photographs are included in the collections of the Addison Gallery of Art, the Norton Museum of Art and the Yale University Library, and have been featured in Aperture, Twice, and Frieze. Her advertising clients include Novartis, Nuepro, Dell, Gold Peak Tea, Steuben Glass, Sharp, Black Rock and Jack Spade. Her editorial work includes assignments for The New York Times Magazine, Real Simple, More, New York, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Time, Bon Appetit, Travel and Leisure, Martha Stewart, Paper, and Monocle, among many others.

Though she did a little photography in high school at Concord Academy and during summers on Block Island, Kate didn’t really discover her passion for the art until her senior year in college at Barnard when she signed up for a photo class. Suddenly, it “opened up a world for me,” she explains. “It was much easier for me to express myself through photography than any other way. It was a natural way for me to look at the world.” Until then, she had been a major in American History, focused on the scholarship in that discipline. 

Following college graduation, Kate spent a year at Maine Photo Workshop, then two years in New York assisting photographers before pursuing an MFA at Yale in photography. At first, she photographed her family, something she continues to do with her brand of what is called “lifestyle photography.” She describes her work as authentic and natural with no artificial lighting. Though she does many kinds of photography, “most of my work is about the natural world at this point, mostly on Block Island and in the Georgia Outer Banks,” places where she spent time growing up. “For me it’s been a journey of making my own work and then people responding to it,” Kate explains. “People love to feel connected to the work. They want the work to have something specific to say about the world around them. My own work is about the ephemeral nature of life.” It is important as an artist to work hard and stay true to what you want to express, Kate believes. 

Kate’s assignments often take her to faraway places. “I love going to exotic places,” she says, “and I also love going to the small places in the United States and meeting people and hearing stories that I otherwise wouldn’t know that are outside my normal life.” 

In addition to her art and commercial work, Kate is also an assistant professor at Parsons School of Design at the New School in New York. 

What nurtured Kate’s creativity and confidence? “Glen Urquhart and the combination of my parents who listened to me and took me seriously and taught me how to think, to observe and analyze.” She credits GUS with being “such a creative place” and feels it is vitally important for children to be where they are encouraged to be excited and curious and want to know more about the world. 

Kate is married to Stephen Hilger, Chair of Photography at Pratt Institute, and they have two sons, Henry, age 6, and Charlie, age 3. She is still close friends with GUS classmate Becca Feldman who lives in Israel with her husband and children.