Catherine Powell: Music Photographer
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
I’m a music photographer from New Jersey!
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry? I started when I was 14, so almost 11 years ago. I knew some people at a local, all-ages venue and when I got my first camera, brought it there and started building up my portfolio.
When did you know being in the industry is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”? I think as soon as I started finding my own music via MySpace and going to see live music, I knew I wanted to be in this world but didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. That was sixth or seventh grade. When I started shooting in ninth grade I started to get a more clear picture of what I wanted to do.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
I struggle a lot with accepting success. My mind is always in the future about what more I could be doing, what I want to do, etc., that I often don’t realize how exciting the current moment is. I think that’s fairly common for a lot of industries, but especially the music industry.
What is the best part of your job? Why? Getting paid to travel, because I essentially get to see the world for free.
What camera are you currently using now? Do you switch it up often? I’ve been using the Canon 5D Mark IV for a few years now, and probably won’t switch it out until the Mark V comes out.
What is your favorite type of music to shoot? Country has been very good to me lately, but I love a good, high-production pop show.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry? This is probably incredibly douchey, but no. I think I did things in a very unconventional way, and therefore never found anyone who could guide me at all.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry? Know that you’re going to have to work much harder than men to get the same opportunities, and then very quickly develop a thick skin. I think that can be said about nearly every industry, but the music industry has always been a boys club – especially in the touring world.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position? All the time. When I was in college I would consistently be asked which band member I slept with to get access. I’ve been turned down for tours I knew I was qualified for simply because they decided they wanted a male in the position. I’ve been fired from an artist’s touring team because management thought bringing a woman to another country was “too risky”.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)? I love TV. I watch like, every show. I’m not sure if that counts as a hobby, but that’s what I spend my free time doing.
You’ve toured and photographed some of the biggest artists, what is it like being on such a big tour? It’s such a blast – truly a dream come true to get to do shows in iconic venues.
Who have you toured with? MKTO, MAX, flor, Kacey Musgraves, Dan + Shay, Walker Hayes, Maren Morris, etc.
Favorite place to tour? Venue? I loved touring Europe last year – it was a such a different experience than touring the U.S. As far as venue goes, Red Rocks is pretty special
Tour must-have? All of the chargers, CBD gummies, stack of comics for long drives, earplugs.
What is the best/worst tour memory you have? Best: Doing Wembley Arena with Kacey last fall. It was her first arena headliner in the world and just a really special day for everyone involved. Worst: I had an artist I was working with tear me apart in front of our band and crew one day over something that was out of my control/a misunderstanding.
Who is your all-time favorite artist? Jimmy Eat World
What is something you can't live without? Probably music, which is cheesy as hell.
Go-to Karaoke song? Hard pass on this activity.
Tea or Coffee? Coffee.
Celeb crush? Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans… Basically just all of the Avengers.
First concert you went to? Fall Out Boy, +44, The Academy Is…, Cobra Starship and Paul Wall at PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey.
What’s something that you always have on you? Headphones.
Who is your dream artist or band to tour/work with? Taylor Swift.
What does a typical day at work look like for you? If I’m home, it’s emails, local shows, and maybe a portrait session or two. Changes from day to day. On the road, I wake up insultingly late compared to the rest of the crew, maybe workout if I didn’t drink too much the night before, edit and eat all afternoon, and then from usually 6:00 p.m. onwards it’s meet and greets, pre-show prep, shooting the show, and then editing. Depending on what time I finish I’ll either go straight to bed or out to a bar with the band.
You also started NKD magazine when you were 17, can you explain how you developed that? Did you have any idea it would get as big as it has? It sort of all just happened. My friend, Ariella Mastroianni, and I just had this idea and ran with it. Had absolutely no idea it would grow to what it has become.
What advice would you tell your younger self? Saying “no” to something will not prohibit you from getting other job offers in the future – you don’t have to run yourself into the ground just to prove you can.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Probably still on the road. Hopefully with a dog.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years? Working in the country genre the last few years, I’ve seen what the lack of radio support for women can do to their careers. I’d very much like to see that change and improve, and for labels to fight harder for their female artists. Everyone knows that the radio game is just an ass-kissing competition – if no-name male artists are getting No. 1 songs with ease, so should established female artists.
What are you most proud of? I think keeping NKD alive for as long as I have. We’re ending in October with our 100th issue, but we’re ending on my terms and I’m very proud of that.
What saying do you live by? My friend Kalie and I went into 2019 saying “to what end”. As in, what is your goal by doing this particular thing, and is it worth it?
Any exciting projects you can share for 2019? I’ll be out on tour with Kacey Musgraves and Dan + Shay for most of the year, and releasing the final issue of NKD in October.
Check out her website here.