Creative Lives Podcast — Make yourself known: Photographer Cait Oppermann

Posted 13 September 2018 Interview by Marianne Hanoun

When Lecture in Progress launched back in April 2017, American photographer Cait Oppermann shared some stellar advice on starting out for emerging creatives. So when we heard she was back in London, we jumped at the chance to find out more about the twists and turns of her own career. Listening to between six and eight podcasts herself a day, we sat down to record her very own journey, from shooting sports, self-promotion and why she is ‘obsessed’ with her own productivity.

Interview by Marianne Hanoun

Cait Oppermann

Job Title

Photographer

Selected Clients

Airbnb, Nike, Bloomberg Businessweek, WIRED, TIME, The New Yorker

Representation
Education

BFA Photography and Art History, Pratt Institute, New York (2007–2012)

Website
Social Media

A graduate of Pratt Institute’s photography course in Brooklyn, New York, Cait’s work has taken her all over the world. Working across editorial and commercial work, these days she counts the likes of Nike, Wired and TIME magazine as clients. 

Cait’s photographs, rich with colour and intrigue, showcase a range of subjects, including sports stars, athletes and strange subcultures. And in the past, Cait has photographed everything from the world’s most expensive cars and the Westminster Dog Show (“so much fun, and so weird”) to Nike’s attempt to break the two-hour marathon record in Kenya and later, Milan.

But on top of this, Cait also avidly pursues a healthy roster of personal work. In fact, it was a personal project documenting the US Women’s National football team in 2015 that helped land her more sports-related commercial projects. Because of this, Cait feels it’s key to create the kind of work you want to be commissioned for: “If you want to get hired to shoot something, start shooting it yourself. Don’t wait around for that thing to come to you.”

“​Make yourself available to the world. No one is going to come to you if you don't make yourself known.”

Growing up with a love of sports, it’s perhaps not surprising that Cait would go on to turn her lens towards athletes and training grounds: “I’m so interested in athletes and how their body is their work,” she affirms. Photos of locker room floors and sweat-lined temples and chins top up a portfolio that rigorously documents the realities of sporting life. “Authenticity is really important,” Cait explains, “When I first started shooting, I would just ask people to do things [...] It's so important to talk with your subjects, even before the camera comes out.”

None of this came easy, however, and Cait has seen her process – and confidence – evolve over time. Recounting an early commission to photograph a young, millennial republican for Bloomberg Businessweek, Cait explains how being forced to find a new location proved to be a pivotal lesson. Walking into a nearby Hilton Hotel in New York, “we just looked like we knew what we were doing. If you do something with confidence, people really believe you. I've really tried to live that way in how I work; if you need to get something done, you do whatever it takes – ethically – to get it done.”

US Open Tennis Championships, 2016

When asked to describe what she does, Cait says, “I guess it’s pretty straightforward...” but the path to getting there wasn't quite so linear. Initially enrolling at Pratt to study graphic design, Cait made the difficult decision to take a year off, during which she realised photography was the correct calling for her: “Looking back at that decision, I felt like a failure. I felt awful about leaving school. But I'm so, so happy that I did that [...] it solidified what was important to me.”

Looking back on her initial years starting out, Cait shares some advice on self-promotion, telling us how she reached out to industry by sending out photographic postcards to magazines, before encouraging emerging creatives to remain open and humble as their careers develop: “Make yourself available to the world. No one is going to come to you if you don't make yourself known.”

Set Piece – the US Women’s National football team, 2015

Eliud Kipchoge, Eldoret, in Kenya for Nike, 2018

Nike, 2017

Posted 13 September 2018 Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Collection: Creative Lives Podcast
Disciplines: Photography
Mentions: Cait Oppermann, Nike
Learn More Sign In

Lecture in Progress relies on the support of partners and professional members to provide the ongoing insight and advice to the next generation. To help support sign up now or find out more. 

scroll to top arrow-up
share

Become a Member

Lecture in Progress is now free to access. Become a member and receive a number of additional benefits.

Student Member

Free

Alongside a wealth of behind-the-scenes advice and insight into the creative industries, join now to get exclusive access to offers and promotions. You’ll benefit from:


  • Student offers and promotions
  • Two weekly newsletters
  • Bookmark content
  • Shape the future of Lecture in Progress

Professional Member

£35/per year

By becoming a professional member, you’ll be helping us in our aim to support the next generation of creatives. You’ll also get the chance to shape the future of Lecture in Progress, and benefit from:


  • Professional offers and promotions
  • The biannual Lecture in Progress newspaper, delivered to your door
  • Insight reports into creative education and industry
  • Two weekly newsletters
  • Bookmark content
  • Shape the future of Lecture in Progress

Lecture in Progress is made possible with the support of the following brand partners