jake mcdorman

Jake and I met through email. He saw some stuff I shot for a mutual friend of ours and wanted to shoot, so his publicist reached out. I was completely down. His publicist and I came up with a few shoot ideas. And then she put me directly in touch with Jake to go over details. Jake had just wrapped filming American Sniper, so he said he looked like a GI Joe. Everything I’d always seen Jake in was super clean. I loved the idea of doing something different and a little dirty. So, I told him I had a few ideas but it depended on how adventurous he was feeling. We could do, blah blah blah (great ideas, but safe options), OR, “Have you ever heard of the Salton Sea?” I had this whole idea for white t-shirts and jeans and super stripped down edgy adventure shoot. “But it’s about 4 hours away. And it’s going to be 115 degrees so it’s your call.” He didn’t hesitate, “Let’s adventure.”

These are my favorite shoots. No fuss. No people. Just us. Me and a human jumping in my jeep and adventuring somewhere and creating an experience together. There’s nothing like getting to know a person like shaking hands and immediately taking a road trip. Especially to a place like the Salton Sea, which really does feel like you are leaving your world behind. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

We got out to there and were immediately hit with a wave of heat. I mean, you can say, “at least it’s not humid,” but once you pass 115 it doesn’t really matter, does it? We just started laughing because we were obviously crazy. We began exploring the abandoned houses along the shore. The first image below is one of my favorite images ever. There’s so much life in it, but I also know why Jake’s laughing, because it’s so hot that sweat is dripping in both of our eyes and neither of us can see. Not a joke.

There is something beautifully innocent about Jake, to me. Jake’s an artist. Like me. He feels things deeply. And he wants to create and be free. There’s a very sensitive and vulnerable energy around that. An energy that I want to protect and also bring out by creating an environment that’s safe to do so. At one point, Jake was sitting at the edge of this old dock by the water, in pants and a t-shirt, and he just looks at me and says, “This just doesn’t feel right. It might sound really strange, but I think I should just be in my underwear right now.” I laughed. “Wait, have you seen my website?”

So Jake stood there in black boxer briefs and a white t-shirt and he just looked at me from the water, so completely open and vulnerable. It’s one of my favorite moments. No matter where I take people and what I think they might need or want, my shoots always come back to one thing – connection. People stripped to their rawest parts –no glam or clothing to hide behind – and we see each other. 

alison pill

One day I was going through my book of Vanity Fair portraits and there’s one of Katharine Hepburn shot by Cecil Beaton that I just love. And it made me think of Alison. So I asked her if she wanted to get dressed up and do an ode to Hepburn and just play around in fun clothes. She’s a nice friend, so she said yes. 

Some humans are just so special to me. Alison is one of these humans. We met outside of work, and although I know she’s a super accomplished, crazy talented actress and someone whose work I very much admire, she’s my friend and we go hiking in our sweats and hang with her pup and so sometimes I forget that my friend is an actual, legit movie star. It sounds LA dumb cliché, but it’s true. Until this day. 

Alison came out of makeup, all glam and dressed in a beautiful vintage dress and immediately just owned the camera. I remember thinking, “Wow. Right. She does this for a living.” I was in awe of her and her presence. At one point we were shooting in the kitchen, she was in a shirt and tie and nothing else, and I thought, “Here’s my crazy beautiful friend,” she was being sexy and enigmatic and having fun. She was so comfortable and just owning every single frame. I kept grinning from behind my camera because it was so fun to watch. It was so fun. 

Every shoot I do is special for any number of reasons. But I think about this day a lot. Because Alison and I are friends, there is definitely a level of comfort and safety there between us when we shoot. There was a moment, while we were shooting, where something happened…I felt it, there was a shift. You know it as a photographer, you can feel that there are suddenly no more walls left between you and them - they are letting you in, giving you permission to see - it’s one of the most intense, intimate feelings. Alison went to a place and took me with her, and she looked at me, I felt so vulnerable in that moment with her, it was the most intimate thing I’ve experienced at a shoot. I took the picture and then put the camera down and we just sort of nodded and both said, “Yeah.” There wasn’t anything else that needed to be said.


corey fogelmanis

I’ve never seen the show Girl Meets World - I did grow up with Boy Meets World. Duh. We all loved Cory and Topanga guys. I think that’s a great thing for the purposes of my shoot with Corey, that I haven’t seen his show. I was hired to shoot him, and after checking his instagram, I hit his publicist with some thoughts. I saw this kid as a total heartbreaker and wanted to do something edgy in black n whites.

Corey and I met that morning and immediately started talking about Polaroid. He’sa big fan of film and we nerded out over that for a bit. I took Corey DTLA and told him we were going to play with shadows. It should also be said that I took him to one of the locations from Fear the Walking Dead, which it turns out we are both fans of, more nerding out, so the day started out on a good note. When we started, he asked me what he needed to do. “Absolutely nothing.” For some people, that may throw them through a loop, I find, however, usually this is a very freeing thing for most. I don’t need anything from you. Let’s just channel whatever feels authentic right now, in this moment. I love watching people transform. In that moment, in a tunnel in DTLA, I saw this kid. There is so much life and energy and soul in him for such a young guy.

We spent the day running around tunnels, the LA river, climbing on trains and jumping fences – I remember at one point him saying he never gets to do this at a shoot. “Get to do what?” I asked. “Not have to smile, or, just be me.” I knew what he meant. Sometimes you walk into a photo shoot and people have an idea of who you are based on the characters you play, and they may be part of you, but it’s not you and there’s a whole other you people never see. I get to see those sides and I’m very precious about that. There’s a lot of trust there. I just want to see people, whatever they are willing to let me see. So no, you don’t have to do anything, let’s just go play and see what happens.

victoria moroles

My friend, Ashton, is a bad ass publicist, and she reached out to me recently asking if I wanted to shoot a new client of hers, Victoria Moroles from Teen Wolf. Immediately I thought, “Wait, is that the girl?” I watch the show. I’m a sucker for culty stuff (Buffy for life), and there was a new character last season, Hayden, and I remember the first scene with her, I thought, “Whoa, who’s that girl?” There was just something about her. That "thing." She was exactly who Ashton wanted me to shoot, so I didn’t hesitate, “Hell yes, I’m in!”

Victoria walked in the day of our shoot, all warmth and smiles. She’s the girl you want to be best friends with because she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s goofy and self-effacing and has no idea how beautiful she is. These are my favorite humans to shoot. She laid out all the clothes I’d asked her to bring – organized in such a way that would have made Martha Stewart cry with pride and maybe even jealousy, and we starting talking ideas for the day. I pulled a few things out. “We’ll start with these and then we will wet your hair and get sassy.” Smiling, “Wait, I’m getting wet?” “Oh yeah. You’re gonna be wet most of the shoot.” Then I caught sight of the hose in the courtyard. “Actually, Victoria, how do you feel about playing in the ‘rain?’” “I feel awesome about that.”

Most people end up wet at my shoots, it just happens. I love water. I’m not a huge fan of crazy heavy makeup. I want to see people, and so I love the idea of everything being washed away, cleansed, and all that’s left is you. I love seeing someone stripped down to their rawest components, completely unable to hide. It’s also sensual and sexy as hell. Let’s be honest. There really is something about water that is extremely freeing. Watching people give themselves permission to break free and be completely vulnerable and not hide, it’s my favorite thing. Ever. It’s why I do this.

And Victoria didn’t hide. Watching someone completely own their body and self and have fun and trust in an experience and me - that total trust, it’s like breathing to me. Sometimes I do a shoot and I feel like I’m breathing again. Just like when the people I’m shooting don’t realize they are holding their breath, sometimes I don’t realize I’m holding mine. And then you have a shoot where everyone just let’s go. That was this day.

Demian Birchir

Demian is my kind of man. He walked into my apartment all mischievous grinny like, didn’t want any grooming and within minutes of meeting he and I were having philosophical conversations about art and metaphysics and love. Demian is my kind of man. He’s very real and unafraid of being just that. He was also ready for an adventure. I love to adventure. My shoots tend to be adventures, so I knew we were going to have a great time. I felt like he and I needed to have a spontaneous run around Silver Lake and just see what would happen. So that’s what we did. I told him the magazine had wanted us to do one thing, but this felt more right, you know? He completely agreed. So we did what we wanted (sorry magazine). I threw some jamz on, Bowie and Pink Floyd to be exact, and we adventured.

I knew Demian’s work. He’s known for playing intense men, and he does have a gaze that can level you, but I really saw something much more playful in him and I wanted to bring that out. There is something extremely fun about a playful darkness. So we explored that. We had a lot of fun. He’s just plain fun. I’m a fan. And he said he’s gonna teach me how to drink tequila, so, get ready for some table dancing. 

daryl sabara

I love shooting people in the ocean. Much to the panic of some of my makeup artist friends (sorry Leya) who I regularly send into feinting spells as I splash around with 20k in gear in the water, jumping over waves, to get the shot. It’s almost always fine…almost.

I asked Daryl, “Ocean or lake. What feels like home?” He didn’t know why I was asking, he just answered back, “Ocean, definitely ocean.” “Ok, cool. I’m throwing you in the ocean for our shoot.” We drove out to Malibu absurdly early for a Sunday. It was perfectly moody – June gloom was in full effect. We ran around the beach for a little bit, playing on rocks and kicking sand. But I knew the goal was water and that’s where the shots were going to be. Sometimes, for me, the first half of a shoot is about getting someone comfortable with the idea of me having a camera in my hands. Then it’s a part of me and they see right past it and we can really create.

At one point, I put the camera down, “Ready to get wet?” Daryl came alive. He went running into the ocean and never looked back. He was so game for an experience. Something different happens to each person thrown into water in clothes. For Daryl, he became intensely present. He was completely at home in the water and used it. I’ve shot a lot of people in the ocean – it’s a very common reaction to be shocked by the the environment – waves hit you, it’s cold, everything in the water is uncertain. Hilarious faces are pretty common when you’re shooting in an environment like that. But that never happened with Daryl. He became a part of his surroundings and made it work for him. He used that uncertainty and channeled those parts of himself. I love these photos. There’s something dark and playful about them.   

tommy sadoski

Tommy and I knew of each other for a while before we actually met. Then we decided to do a shoot together. He said his hero was Joe Strummer, which lit my brain on fire. How could we not do an ode to 1970’s punk? I borrowed a friends ’68 Camaro told Tommy to bring his black leather jacket and we headed south of DTLA to an old train yard switching station.

It was the most fun day – both of us were channeling our inner punk rock kids. We played in cars and on train tracks and didn’t give a fuck. It’s very freeing to not to. It’s something I usually try and bring out of people in every shoot, I want people to feel free, but there was an added element of leather and Social D and dirt to this shoot that was so fun. There was something pure about what we were doing. Tommy wasn’t playing a punk for the purposes of our shoot. He was letting me see that 17 year old punk kid he had been growing up in Texas, giving me permission to shoot that guy.

We were almost done shooting, when I realized I had an old American flag in my car. It was my grandfathers from WWII. Obviously we had to shoot with that. Tommy flung the flag over his shoulders and started walking down the train tracks. We were shooting about 3 minutes when Tommy looks at me and said, “Cop.” I was thinking we were all like, “Yeah, Damn the Man!” So into the shot. But, “No, really Catie, cop.” I looked over and there was an officer, PISSED, who just yells at us to get the hell over there. Apparently we broke like 7 different laws – they actually stopped train traffic for us. And here I thought those tracks were abandoned. Oops. But I was standing there, completely convinced that was it, my ass is going to jail. I’ve never been more convinced in my life I was going to have to make that call to my Dad, who I think, honestly, would be torn between pride, because his daughter might be a badass? (daughter crosses fingers) And disapproval because, irresponsible and, “how much money is this going to cost me?”

But as I stood there, scared because I honestly didn’t have any money for bail, I took in the scene. Here Tommy and I stood in these rail yards, that could exists in any time, Tommy, dressed like a total punk, with a beat up old American Flag over his shoulder, and a cop who is about to arrest us. The picture was so on point. And I honestly weighed my options – if I slowly backed up and fired one single shot to capture this, what are the odds I WON’T end up in jail? Zero. I should have done it. Maybe I could have done my time on Orange is the New Black.