sweet artists // Gerald Ratt

He waved at me from the small table, stuck beside the line of a way-too-busy Starbucks. I looked around in dismay. This wasn’t the cozy and intimate place I had in mind. All I could hear behind me was the steam pressure of espresso brewing, the clanging of the cups against the steel counter, and the rambling orders of half-caf, triple shot, no foam, extra pump of syrup coffee.

“What the hell is half-caf?” I thought as I took a deep breath, ready to start being bossy and suggest that we move.

“I don’t think this place is gonna work,” he said, reading my mind. I suggested a quieter place in the Arts building and he gathered his items, moving in graceful arches. Everything had a place and he did it so efficiently. I was vaguely jealous and even more impressed. He stood and I looked up.

And up.

So tall.

My heart started beating, the nervousness building up again.

There’s something intimidating about a model turned photographer. Especially when they’re actually good on both sides of the camera.

His name is Gerald Ratt, of Gerald Ratt Photography. He’s Cree, from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, located in North-East Saskatchewan. He’s young and ambitious, a winning combination.

I first heard of him way back when he was taking pretty pictures with his $90 camera. Since then, he has moved on to a more professional camera and with that came a more professional approach to his work. His work has gone from interesting to compelling, in just a few short years.

I sat down with him earlier this month to discuss cameras, aboriginal identity in the fashion world and what makes a pretty picture.

When did you start Gerald Ratt Photography? I just took it seriously a year and a half ago. I say seriously because I have a better quality camera now, and when I started it was just a $90 camera that I used.

If you don’t mind my asking, what’s your starting rate for a Fashion/Portraiture session, like you do? It would be $80-$120. But sometime I don’t get a lot of people out looking for photo sessions, and I enjoy taking photos so I would contact people who I wanna work with and say “Hey, I have this idea. Do you want to collaborate on it?” So I try to keep myself busy that way, and inspired.

Are you specializing just in fashion? No, but it’s something that I enjoy. I wanna start breaking into newborn photography, wedding photography but specifically, fashion photography is what I enjoy doing. It’s where my creativity is, where I’m most inspired.

Your models are gorgeous. Gorgeous people. Would you ever work with someone who’s not six feet tall and 120 pounds? Yes. That’s something I want to start doing. I wanna to be able to showcase women of all sizes, of all ages. I want to specifically work with First Nation women and showcase their beauty. I think a lot of First Nation women are struggling with their self-confidence and I want to be able to help them and show them that they are beautiful women.

Speaking of First Nations, you’re Cree from La Ronge. Did you grow up there? Yep, I did. Well, I grew up in La Ronge, in Prince Albert, in Big River, Choiceland, and then I moved to Saskatoon in 2001.

How does being First Nation affect your photography? Or does it? I don’t think it really does but I really want to use my photography as an avenue to showcase my culture.  And to showcase my culture in a way, like where I did a fashion shoot, like a Fashion Medicine Wheel shoot. I wanted to blend in my culture with my shoot and that’s something that I want to do in future shoots.

With that fashion Medicine Wheel shoot, which I loved, how did that come about – to go from idea to actual session? Probably two weeks. I had the idea. I was thinking of incorporating something significant from my culture into my shoot, so basically just thought about the medicine wheel and the colours and I contacted four girls that I knew and they agreed. I thought it would be hard to get four girls together in two weeks but it all came together.

Do you prefer working with Aboriginal artists, like makeup artists and hair stylists? Yes, right now I do. We don’t have enough of it in our community and I want to be able to work with as many First Nation models, designers, hair and makeup artists as possible and help them build their portfolios.

What are you shooting with now? I use a Nikon D3000 and I’ve had that camera for 2 years.

And what lenses do you have? I have two lenses. I don’t know their sizes. Well, I just… I don’t see myself as a photographer. I’m more of a visionary artist.

But you are [an artist]. No, I’m a visionary artist, trying to be a photographer.

I like that. I have images in my head before they’re on my camera so I’m just basically learning to be a photographer. I don’t know… I don’t have the relationship that I should have with my camera… but it works the way I want it to work.

What do you prefer: studio or natural, outdoor lighting? Outdoor. I prefer natural light over artificial just because I’m not an expert at lighting yet. I do wanna play with lighting and have that effect in my images. So that’s another challenge I’m going to take.

What other First Nation photographers, or other photographers in general, inspire you? Tyson Anderson Photography. Just because he’s really focused on fashion photography so I really enjoy his stuff. Blaire Russell Photography. His stuff is amazing. I love his stuff.

Do you think you’ll ever make a living being a fashion photographer or are you gonna shy away from it? I want it to be a part of me right now, while I work professionally with my other job, but I would take the opportunity, if given, to do it full-time. So we’ll see what happens. Right now, I just see it more as a hobby.

That’s so funny. I’ve seen your work from Rosie with the long hair to now, and the amount that you’ve grown is ridiculous.  So it’s funny to hear you say it’s a hobby. It’s like, “No, it’s not a hobby! It’s your passion, damn it!” Yeah, it is my passion. If I had to pick one, I would pick photography. It’s hard in Saskatoon, I think. We don’t have enough fashion shows or anything related to fashion, so it’s kinda hard. It’s something I wanna try to work on, to showcase the fashion that we do have in the city. And if I could, I would work for a fashion magazine.

How was your City Perks show? It was… I was really nervous. But the outcome was nice. I got a lot of feedback. And it’s good for me to hear that because I doubt myself a lot. It’s good to hear people say I’m improving. That’s basically what I want to do, is improve. And I’m improving every day, with every shoot, so it’s nice to hear that people see that.

What are your goals for 2012? Well, once it warms up I want to do as much outdoor photography as I can. I’m doing two weddings in the summer. I’m a little nervous. I’m gonna do my best. Just basically, this year I want to establish a better relationship with my camera. I wanna play with lighting in an indoor studio. I’m working on another exhibition. It will be at Positive Passions and I’m working with the director of PP. Right now, she wants me to do an exhibition on celebrating the beauty in women. That would probably be indoor studio photography. It’s gonna be a little different for me, since I’m used to doing all my photography outdoors. I’ll take on the challenge and see where it goes?

And your big fashion show…? It may be pushed into the first weekend in May. I’m working with one of my friends from Reach Promotions. She promotes a lot of local bands, like artists, so I’m working with her on a fashion show.The show is called Feed Me Fashion. It’s for raising money for the food bank and we’re trying to raise awareness about the issue of poverty as well as promote local talent in our city.

Is it just Aboriginal or is it for everyone? It’s for everyone. We want to collaborate with everyone.

Any words of advice for people starting out? Surround yourself with positive people who would motivate and push you in the right direction. For myself, I have those people who tell me I’m good. You need those people to tell you. I doubt myself. I need those people. And don’t give up.

Contact Information:

Gerald Ratt, Gerald Ratt Photography



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welcome tho.

Welcome to the blog, showcasing the latest sessions and adventures. In case you missed it, I'm Tenille, Dene photog, living in Treaty Six, YXE. Feel free to lose a couple hours creeping around, and drop a line if you have any questions.