Person of the Week
Kat King: On Newborns, Newcomers, and New Reach
Catherine King is a professional photographer who uses her skills to help organizations such as the Madison Newcomers, Kisses for Katie, and New Reach. Kat, as she is known to her friends, learned to convey a story and capture emotions, especially through images of newborns and families. (Photo courtesy of Catherine King )
In her photography, Catherine King focuses on newcomers, whether they are infants or adults who have arrived in the community.
A former member of the Madison Newcomers Club, Kat, as she is known to her friends, was attracted to photography and the skill it takes to convey a story through an image. Her specialty is capturing images of newborns and families.
“I joined Madison Newcomers when we moved to Madison 13 years ago,” she explains. “I loved the organization and everything that it provided to new residents.”
It’s easy to understand why Kat feels an affinity for the Madison Newcomers Club.
A native of Moscow, Russia, Kat moved with her family to the United States at the age of 12. She lived a year in New Jersey then moved to Massachusetts where she spent her middle school, high school, and college years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she met her future husband, Jonathan.
The Madison Newcomers Club is a venue for women who are new residents. It helps them make new friends and encourages them to be involved in the civic and social activities in town.
As an immigrant, Kat sees the importance of having an organization with objectives such as those of the Newcomers Club.
At one point, she served on the board and worked on the club’s newsletter, putting together content and advertisements.
Although she is no longer a member of the club, she still donates her time to shooting mini photography sessions for newcomer mothers and their children.
“The [events] that I’ve been hosting the last few years are mommy-and-me mini sessions, where the mom and her child will come in. It’s really just to celebrate moms and concentrate on the bond that the kids have with them. They’re super quick and I just get a few images. My photography style is a mix of both posed and the in-between shots, just showing that love between the mom and her babies,” she explains.
She has been doing the sessions once or twice each year for the last six years. Her photoshoots range from 10 to 22 sessions with mothers and their children, with each session taking at least 10 minutes of her time. Occasionally, she will schedule the photoshoots across two days.
She adds, “I’ll do heavily discounted sessions for them, and then some that are just free. It really depends on what we’re trying to do that year.”
It’s time-consuming, but she finds the work enjoyable.
“I get to meet the most wonderful families,” she says.
Of course, the Newcomers Club is only one of the groups that benefits from her talents.
“Over the years I’ve donated countless sessions to local charities and schools—everything from the PTA to one of my near and dear charities, Kisses from Katie,” she says.
Kisses from Katie is a nonprofit organization founded by Alan and Vickie Manning to honor the life of their daughter, Katie, and to provide resources to critically ill children, their families, and the health care professionals dedicated to caring for them. Katie was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). She underwent multiple surgeries but passed away in November 2008 just before she turned six months.
Since its inception in 2009, Kisses from Katie has grown to offer eight programs at five hospitals in the northeast.
Kat and her husband, Jonathan, have a close connection to the organization—they know the founders well and attended the funeral service for Katie.
Each year, Kisses from Katie also hosts fundraising auctions at which Kat donates her services, including a full family photography session as one of the items for bidding.
“I’ve included different things,” she says. “I think this past year, it was an hour photoshoot and a 16 x 20 canvas sprint.”
Kat also donates her time to New Reach, a service agency in New Haven that provides a full spectrum of housing and assistance to meet the needs of at-risk families, youth, and individuals. The organization aims to have vulnerable families, children, and people in Connecticut find a safe, secure, and affordable home with the services necessary to achieve a productive life.
“I’ve worked with [New Reach] for about five years,” Kat says. “We used to do photoshoots where I would actually go to one of the campuses and the people whose stories are being written for their fundraising, pamphlets, and website. You can actually read those stories online.”
She adds that the families receive their photos for free.
“We even print [the pictures] for them,” she says. “And then they sign off so that the organization is able to use their stories to help raise money to help more people.”
The agency also has an auction event, but instead of adding her service as a bidding item, Kat covers the event and takes pictures for the agency’s website and marketing materials.
Babies and Families
Early on, Kat discovered that a photograph is more than just an image. It’s a snapshot in time that portrays a story and captures an emotion.
So, she was naturally drawn to families and newborn infants as her subjects in photography.
“I’ve always been interested in portraits, even as a young child. When we began our family, my babies became my focus,” she says.
Today, she and Jonathan have two daughters, Addison and Taylor. She admits she spent much time taking pictures of their daughters when they were infants.
She acknowledges, too, that friends benefited from her photography.
“It wasn’t long before I was photographing most of my friends. I absolutely love focusing on families, especially with young children. There is something so raw and real about their emotions,” she says.
She explains how, from an early age, she immersed herself in learning the fundamentals that make for good photography.
“My grandfather was really into technology, radios, and cameras. He and I built my first camera using boxes and mirrors. We spent countless hours in his homemade dark room where I learned everything about film, exposure, focus. I continued to love photography all though my teenage years, annoying my friends by bringing a camera everywhere,” she recalls.
“My interest in newborn photography began when I attended a workshop on posing newborns. I loved how tiny and squishy they looked and became obsessed with learning the ins and outs of safely posing them, getting the lighting just right, and capturing every detail. It’s a challenge for sure, but I love a good challenge,” she explains.
Interestingly, she even developed another useful skill from photographing newborns. Some people started to call her ‘the baby whisperer,’ she says.
“I take great pride in being able to soothe even the most unsettled babies,” she says. “I get to snuggle two-week-old babies, soothe them, and pose them in a way that brings out their most adorable features. These memories are something that I will have forever with my own children and I love being the one to capture them for new parents.”
But perhaps the best lesson she learned came from a friend who critiqued her work when she was just starting out in photography.
She says, “I’ll never forget the sting when one of my closest friends said, ‘You know, these are great but I just don’t feel anything when I look at the photo. Don’t most photographers create feelings with their photos? Some kind of interest or perspective?’”
Though the comment was unexpected, she learned from the criticism and began to train her eye on the artistic side of photography. She learned about lighting, angles, and capturing emotions.
“While most of my photoshoots include some version of everyone looking at the camera, smiling, the rest of the shoot is concentrated on bringing out the family dynamics and showcasing the love,” she says.
“Even my newborn photos show the love of a new parent, the way the tiny bodies fit in their parents’ hands, the sleepy newborn smiles. Because while anyone can snap a picture, it is my goal to showcase the love.”
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