Cat Vinton – An Interview With A Photographic Nomad

« From Animals to Fashion – An Interview with Photographer Nicky Jenner |  Fine Art Photographer Spotlight: Joseph Szymanski »

You have reached the archive of articles posted on my personal blog. This blog is no longer updated, but you can read my latest articles at my new website The Creative Photographer and find my photography ebooks at my new store.

Thanks for reading! Andrew.

Cat Vinton won the 2007 Travel Photographer of the Year Competition with her amazing photos of the nomadic tribes the Sami and the Mongols in Norway and Mongolia. Her interest in foreign cultures started when she spent the first two years of her photography career in Laos, before moving to London. I asked her about Laos and her photographic projects ‘Nomadic Souls’ and ‘Red Shoes’.

Photo of the Sami in Norway by Cat Vinton



How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look/atmosphere/feel do you try and create in your photos?

My passion is shooting ‘real people’ in ‘their’ environment. i like to try to spend time with people and my aim always is to try to show the energy of that person in my images. Remote communities of free-spirited people particularly fascinate me and have and will continue to take me to some of the most isolated and challenging locations in the world.

Your work is an interesting mix of documentary, photojournalism, architectural, fine art and fashion photography.  How difficult is it to switch from the mindset of shooting in one to the other? How do your different photographic styles inform each other?

I definitely shoot a ‘mix’ of subject.. and it seems a lot of people struggle with that element! But basically I love capturing ‘people and places’ and that in itself is an interesting mix. I love to document a way of life and to interpret my own ideas/visions on that environment or the people of that environment. I always try to link a person with a place, even if the place I am shooting has no person in it or the person isn’t in a place.

Name three photographers you like and why. Who inspires you?

Eve Arnold – ‘In China’ Arnold is a photographer who i hugely admire. I share her strong will and sense of adventure. Both her and her images have inspired me, they are very ‘real and powerful’

“What do you hang on the walls of your mind?” –  Eve Arnold.

Izima Kaoru – The ‘Kimura Yoshino wears Alexander McQueen ‘ series.  Kaoru inspires me with the way he uses architecture and fashion and narrative. I think his images are so beautiful.

Christopher Bucklow – ‘Guests‘ Bucklow shares the soul of his guests.

“All powerful, inescapable astral strangers/ Deigning to let shine far off in time/ Something supernaturally sublime”  – Paul Valery, ‘La Jjeune Parque’.

So many people and places inspire me – I try to embrace everything!

How did you get started as a professional photographer?  Tell us about your early years in the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao. Why did you set up there and how difficult was it to find freelance work in your early days? How did you then make the transition to working in London?

After graduating in ’97, I left the UK to work in the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao, a place and an experience that fuelled my curiosity to see, capture and share the diversity of the world. I had originally gone to Vietnam for 6 weeks and week one I’d seen images of Lao, a country I knew nothing about and decided i needed to see before returning home.

This I did and didn’t return home for 2 years! I was lucky to be there in the early days – right time – right place and got involved in the child labour issues and equal opportunities for boys and girls in rural Lao. Documenting these issues for the United Nations Unicef and Redd Barna. It was the most incredible 2 years – I learnt, saw, lived and captured, through young innocent eyes. This time I will treasure forever! Coming back to London was quite tough but I was on cloud nine and i managed to get some assisting work and went from there.

What obstacles and difficulties did you face when you started your photography business? How did you overcome them and how did you market yourself? How did you achieve success in so many diverse fields?

I guess I started my career as a photographer, as I do everything. It seemed the right time to start shooting for myself and I threw myself into my ideas and making them happen, trying to get enough commercial work to finance my projects, it’s very tough to make it work and I still struggle with the balance!

I am only now trying to develop a business plan and ‘brand’ and this i hope will help me move forward. I have always had the passion, the ideas and the drive but I don’t plan and forecast and I’m learning that it’s crucial in our world, to succeed.

Travel Photographer of the Year

You won the 2007 Travel Photographer of the Year Competition. What did winning mean to you and how has it helped your photography career? What doors has winning opened for you?

I was completely over whelmed at winning this title and being the first girl was a big triumph too. 51 countries and 13,000 entries and I won, it still feels amazing. It certainly has given me huge confidence in my work and it has pushed me the next level. People are so much more receptive to you when you have a title and it certainly has started to open doors.  My prize is the most amazing opportunity and will hopefully help me keep opening doors and opportunities! I get to spend time with the Dalai Lama. I am so excited.

What advice would you give someone entering the Travel Photographer of the Year Competition? What does it take to succeed?

if you have an idea and if you can find a way (any way) to fund it – go for it. You have to be passionate about the images you select and its important to tell your story, editing and leaving out the weak images is really important. Be ambitious and embrace every opportunity.

Nomadic Souls

Tell us a little about your Nomadic Souls project? How did you get interested in photographing the lives of the world’s nomadic peoples?

I am in search of the last truly nomadic people of the world, as their survival is questionable. I imagine myself akin to ‘the tented races’,  I have a fascination with movement and far horizons. Nomadic life is a life of freedom and self-respect, of honour and influence spiced with danger, all of which I crave.

Which nomadic peoples have you worked with so far in your project?

The Sami, an indigenous people of the arctic, roam Sápmi, a vast land which encompasses parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

The Mongols, an ancient tribal peoples who roam the great central Asian plains and mountain ranges that cover present day Mongolia.

What have you learned on a photographic and business level from these experiences? What have you learned on a personal level? How have these experiences affected you and changed your outlook on life?

Shooting in -15 degrees and whirling snow was definitely a huge challenge as was shooting in +40 degreesand whirling dust! I learnt so much on both experiencees particularly that you need ‘time’ with people to capture their energy…. to see their soul.

“If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.” – Eve Arnold

I have learnt a lot about ‘life’ too from my experiences…

“Seven children, full of enthusiasm and a passion for life, showed me the ways of the Gobi… their laughter, smiles, generosity, openness, and enormous hospitality, will stay with me forever. I will treasure every special moment I have spent with these people who have touched my heart.” – Cat Vinton (diary entry from Mongolia)

Red Shoes

Tell us a little about your Red Shoes project? Where did the idea come from?

This idea is based on the film the Wizard of Oz and Dorothy’s adventure on the yellow brick road.

I am asking 12 people from 12 countries to wear Dorothy’s red shoes and ‘make a wish’ to be anywhere in the world.  It’s a project that has been on going for nearly 2 years; I still have another 6 countries to take the red shoes, before concluding this body of work in an exhibition and perhaps as a book.

My hope is for the Dalai Lama to wear the red shoes……

Where is your photography going? What future photographic project or projects are you excited about?

My next trip (from my prize) is in northern India, I’d like to work on a project with a stylist friend Kate, as we did together in Norway, taking London couture fashion pieces and styling a beautiful girl amongst the Tibetan way of life in exile.

We’ll focus on the Tibetan style and present a western fashion shoot in an eastern style/influence.

I would like to continue this project in Tibet on my next search for nomadic souls, as soon as it is possible to regain entry to Tibet under the chinese rule.

I hope to work on 3 projects during my time in the Tibetan exile and spend up to a month there.


Cat’s website:

Purchase prints from:

Contact Details

Tel: +44 (0) 7989 55 44 20

Cat’s Email: catvinton [at] mac [dot] com

Photo Gallery

Photo of the Sami in Norway by Cat Vinton


Photo of the Sami in Norway by Cat Vinton


Photo of the Sami in Norway by Cat Vinton


Photo of the Mongols in Mongolia by Cat Vinton


Photo of the Mongols in Mongolia by Cat Vinton


Photo of the Mongols in Mongolia by Cat Vinton


Photo of the Mongols in Mongolia by Cat Vinton


Photo of Red Shoes in Shanghai by Cat Vinton

Red Shoe Project, Shanghai

Photo of Red Shoes in Shanghai by Cat Vinton

Red Shoe Project, Shanghai

All photos Copyright © Cat Vinton. Please contact the author for permission to use in any way.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments are closed.

« From Animals to Fashion – An Interview with Photographer Nicky Jenner |  Fine Art Photographer Spotlight: Joseph Szymanski »

Sign up for the free Mastering Lightroom email course