An Interview with Photographer Kate Bellm at her Studio in Deia, Mallorca
Photographer Kate Bellm is based between Mexico and Mallorca where she lives off-grid in the mountains. We were introduced by Lucinda Bellm, founder of Lamb Arts, during her psychedelic Night Sky Rising exhibition. The space's walls were lined with hypnotic landscapes and empowering nudes entwined with Kate's keepsakes as if you'd wandered into her studio. Of course, her photographs are wildly beautiful, but it's her surreal manipulation of colour and texture that makes you feel as if you're walking in a dream.
Over the past few years, Kate has shot for magazines like GQ, Vogue and Wonderland as well as brands like Gucci, Adidas and Audi. She's also exhibited as far afield as Bali, Los Angeles and Paris. Not only does the photographer's skill lie in the handling of a camera, but also in her ability to put her subjects at ease. Kate builds intoxicating narratives by taking her models - often friends and creatives she's inspired by - on illicit adventures; sending them up mountains, through fields of wildflowers and into unseen depths of the ocean.
Combine that with Kate's innovative handling of unprocessed film using organic techniques such as lens filters, light leaks or even droplets of seawater and you've got something truly unique. Inevitably, allusions might be drawn to the photographs of Nan Goldin or Bettina Rheims in the way that Kate captures the freedom and spirit of her generation. However, the entirely natural, playful settings of her work give it a more refreshing, uplifting voice. She's full of surprises and we like that a lot. Follow @katebellm.
Was there a moment when you decided to be a photographer?
Since I was a young teenager, I've been taking photos and calling myself a photographer as a result. I knew it was all I ever wanted to do. I would find girls at my school or friends from my village and shoot them in their bedrooms with my cousins doing their hair and make-up.
Can you tell us about the spaces you live and work in?
I live in a self-built, off-the-grid house in the Tramuntana mountains of Mallorca with my baby and husband. We've built a skatepark in our backyard and now we're working on building a photography and art studio on our land so that I can work from there and fly around the world for whatever jobs I have.
Do you have a routine or follow any rituals when you’re working?
Not really, I go with the flow and work with the vibe of the girls or people I'm shooting to get them feeling comfortable and free in front of the camera.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
Personality, confidence and no make-up as well as owning your flaws.
How does your choice to live within nature impact your work?
So much. It has taught me patience, but I also understand the changing beauty of all the seasons and what looks most beautiful and when so that I can capture nature or friends within it during the perfect season and time of the day. The cycle of nature has helped me to realise that we humans are also existing in a constant cycle of life and so no matter what feeling we have it will always pass and change.
How important are the individual stories of your subjects?
I meet most of my subjects the same day and so I find out their story while I shoot them, but a lot of my favourite models that I use regularly have also become by best friends. We have a deep connection as well as a level of trust with each other that makes it possible to get shots that are more risqué or adventurous. Without the courage of my models most of my shots would not happen. Especially when the girls are running naked up a mountain or diving deep to the bottom of the ocean for my photographs.
Can you tell us about the process of capturing your photographs?
I like it to feel free and natural. Usually we take a road trip or go on a crazy long swim and just enjoy our day so that shooting pictures is just part of the whole process of the trip. I want everyone to have fun.
What inspires you about working between Mallorca and Mexico?
Both places are full of amazing nature to work with and my main base is my European community, but my husband is Mexican so when we are there, I get to delve into his crazy community of artists, surfers, skaters and designers who are all so inspiring too. It's so refreshing, because they're part of this powerful wave of inspiration coming out of Latin America - untouched by ego or the success game.
Which photographer of the past would you most like to work with?
Do you have a favourite photograph, which inspires you?
Not one in particular but I love the general feeling I get from all of Larry Clarke's photographs as a whole body of work as well as his experience of this group of people he photographed so intimately.
Do you work in a community or independently?
I work both ways. Very often alone and just with the model or sometimes I include my whole community of friends to help me achieve a project. They might help; create sets, find locations, take me to places they know I would be inspired by, make and lend clothes, find props or cook delicious meals for the crew. Of course my closest friends are constantly modelling for me and helping make all these images possible. Without my friends and support of my community, I would not be where I am.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Buying film and developing film.
Has social media had a positive impact on your career?
Yes, it really helps as you can live or work in the middle of nowhere and still inspire people. You can get jobs or sell artwork from the top of a mountain in Mallorca surrounded by sheep.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Meditation and mindfulness so they can live in this new world with less pressure and anxiety. Also I think an education within nature is so key for their happiness and helps them to grow up slower and enjoy their childhood more.
When you travel, do you make and receive studio visits?
Yes, we visit friends who make art all over the world and from there meet other friends who are also creative and inspiring.
What advice can you give photographers following in your steps?
Shoot what you love and don't get your head caught up in the game. Just follow your own path and it will be the right one.
Do you love what you do? If so, why?
I live and breath what I do. It makes me feel high when I take a good photograph and I take photographs ever single day. It makes me so so happy to be a photographer.
Written by Flora Alexander Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste