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Meet Kat Alyst

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kat Alyst.

Hi Kat, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I came to Austin the day after art school, mainly on a whim, and without the intention to live there. Before realizing it, Austin soon became my home for the coming years. I worked first as a graphic designer for my main source of creativity and income but always wanted to do more than self-portrait work with photos. I wanted to create narratives on a larger scale but was always too nervous about making a move. Also, I was not around a group of people who supported my dreams at the time. Mainly, my issue was being in a highly abusive and toxic relationship. It had been going on five years before finally breaking out of it, but then I jumped all in and pursued what became my photography adventure. The relationship had kept me consumed with trying to please this person, and I wasted an immense amount of energy trying to fix it or catch my then partner in lies constantly. After processing the last few years, something just came over me. Time felt expedited and like I was on this immediate fast track, I never felt before. I impulse bought my dream camera on a credit card and went all in. I have only taken my own self-portraits and portraits with my best friend. I suddenly found myself networking every night until the early morning hours with musicians and artists of all kinds. I started taking their portraits and truly finding my voice in live events and these beautiful people on these gorgeous locations or mini sets I would build at their homes or mine. About six months into this new lifestyle, I started working with non-profits and building my clients’ network. My first job with The Austin Music Foundation was amazing.

Shortly after, I reached out to The Austin Chronicle and just asked if they needed anyone to do any upcoming work, and I think it was just magical timing because they said yes, and the first job I shot made the cover. I was overwhelmed at how right everything felt and pursued my path to be open and hopeful for opportunities that may arrive. Many of my new friends became some of my closest friends, and they were beyond talented. They became my muses for sure, and I found myself shooting up to six times every weekend on average. I started meeting people who wanted to go on photo trips, so we would cram trips to Marfa and White Sands into a weekend and go to work Monday in a daze. After three years of this long but short road, I suddenly followed my heart to New Orleans. I got rid of everything that I owned except for my camera, laptop, parrots (Gigi and Ollie), and a couple of boxes of items and left.

Again, following intuition, I manifested a dream to work in the fashion industry and with a magazine publication of some sort. A month of being there, I walked into an art gallery that also operated as a publication newly on newsstands. I signed a contract to work there for one year, and after it was done, I found myself missing Austin. Much of my home base, friends, and clients were there, so I went back to visit. My best friend lived in a house with our friends from college, so eventually, I found myself sleeping on their couch, leaving many of my belongings in their garage, and starting to travel. I completely lived off of gig work for the first time, something I had always wanted to do, and began working out of Los Angeles. I did pretty much anything photo or graphic design related, but always found myself in between work, coming back to Austin over and over again. So long story short, pre-Covid, I used Austin as my home base and would work in LA, only to come back to Austin for the last couple of years.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
It has been continuous work in different ways. When certain aspects have been accomplished, there has always been work to practice to keep up. In the beginning, it had enough money to get the basic things I wanted to start with, so that took a while. After getting a foundation with the gear preferred, I had to figure out who to shoot. So then I had to build my portfolio. As that progressed, I wanted to try new things. In between really focusing on photography, I had to identify who I was as a photographer… What was my style, my voice, and who am I at all? During my photography journey, I found myself literally homeless on the streets in New Orleans, all while juggling a new opportunity in my career to work alongside world-renowned photographers. I faced sexual harassment and was too scared to tell, so I would sometimes quit jobs or avoid taking jobs again to avoid awkward situations better too and finding my voice in photography soon correlated with finding my voice as a female. I had been quiet with my camera and quiet with my female experience. I am proud to say I’m finally in a confident headspace on both fronts and am not in fear of new challenges or chances to take up for myself and others.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
Whether I’m collaborating with creative minds or creating from a solo perspective, my work is focused more on creating a moment than capturing one. I enjoy blurring the lines between surrealism and fashion, with nostalgic excerpts in each piece. My signature is to create colorful images washed over apathetic or seldom times nonsensical expressions. With each image, I focus on creating a storyline of hidden narratives of subjects who seem to be waiting for something that has yet to come. My new work has not been featured anywhere yet, but it will be much louder and expressive and no longer hiding pieces of itself on display.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
I wish I knew that I didn’t need a perfect setup. Though I could not afford everything I wanted, I would make due, but internally hate something immediately because it wasn’t shot with that perfect strobe light or light ratio in mind. I think I focused on the wrong things there instead of enjoying being able to remain creative and adaptable to achieve the visual ideas in mind. So if you’re starting, don’t be so hard on yourself and jump in and have fun. You’ll get the gear you want one day. Money comes and goes. Just remember why you started and live your truth. 🙂

Contact Info:

Image Credits
01-Kat Alyst 02-Jackson Montgomery/Lars Matilda 03-Honey LaFlare/Kill Nigel/Renowned LA 04-Lars Matilda/DASHE/Brigitte Bandit/Tiki/Norman Ba$e 05-Lars Matilda/Tate Gibson/Happy Daze Shop/Black Willow Chain Co 06-Sara Minshew 07-Vivien James 08-Sloane Lenz/Felix Lenz/Catherine Lenz

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  1. Kendra Miller

    December 9, 2020 at 12:31 am


  2. Jb powell

    April 22, 2021 at 1:34 am

    I love her

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