Representing the creative future

Katie Burnett on multidisciplinarity and her new book “Cabin Fever”

The established stylist experimented with photography during lockdown and proves that creatives should never stop trying new things

She might be known within the industry as a stylist, or the fashion director of Centrefold magazine, but Katie Burnett proves to be a creative at large. Her work and aesthetic are characterised by layers, movements, and shapes; the body isn’t static and neither is she. An active image-maker, the established creative used the quarantine as a space for experimentation, placing herself in the role of the stylist, the set designer, the photographer, and the model. Collecting the black and white images she produced in isolation, Burnett is publishing her first photo book “Cabin Fever”. Potatoes, ravioli, bathtubs and plants become a playground, and the possibilities seem endless. In a world resurrecting from isolation, Burnett explores life’s artistic parallels: individual VS teamwork, order VS chaos.

The launch of her book at 0fr. in Paris tonight felt like the perfect opportunity to sit down with Katie Burnett and talk about print, the digital, and what it means to be multi-disciplinary in fashion.

You are a stylist, a photographer, a creative director and much more…. Each of those is one full-time job by itself. A lot of people would burn out, handling only one. How do you handle all those caps at once?

I am a creative person in general and they really all mould into each other. Working on my book and self-portraits has really given me a new gaze at styling. I always loved layers, shape, and movement but I noticed that in my own photography I like it much more stripped back and with more of a focus on composition rather than styling. As much as I love fashion, for me, the best images and the most iconic ones are usually quite simple and more about the connection with the subject.

“You can’t do everything yourself. ” – Katie Burnett

Do you have a favourite field? How do you think one is feeding into the other one?

My main focus is still styling. I love every aspect of it! With photography… I’m not crazy fond of delivering high res files yet! And for sure do not have a photographer’s brain on file organization. The nice thing about working on my own images over quarantine was the freedom to not really have the need to communicate with photographers via other image references. I love to research and look at images, I could do it for days on end but over lockdown when I started to shoot I really did not look into image references. It was more grabbing things from around the house and trying out what works. A lot of times I would have nothing specific in mind and the image would almost make itself. So for me, I felt this way of working helped me creating something a bit more original.

Would you recommend one creative mind to diversify its activity? Niche VS Broad in terms of skill set, in our globalised world, what are your thoughts?

I am a Leo and always want to do it all, which is not always the best. You can’t do everything yourself. This is something I have also been really trying to work on in the past year. Teamwork is such a lovely part of this industry. Working with others and everyone being elevated by each other’s creativity is so important! It’s nice to work on a project yourself but I also draw so much creative energy from others around me.

With so many different skill sets, how do you choose people you work with? What is important for you when working with someone? What would be the reason why you approach someone who does something you would be able to do yourself?

For me when working with a photographer it’s all about collaboration. I love to really work on building out the concept and idea. When I work with a photographer I try to have a rule of working with people whose work I love and who are nice! I don’t have time for any divas.

What is the next skill you would like to learn? Why?

I recently started to play with video for Calvin Klein and Vyro and was quite in love with the whole filming and editing process. Even started to work on some video retouching, tedious but fun!

“It’s nice to have a recognizable aesthetic but to also push and challenge yourself to try new things.” – Katie Burnett

What is your opinion of structure VS chaos in a creative process? Where do you stand?

Chaos mainly but of course everyone needs a bit of structure and stability to even themselves out. For me, structure comes from Yoga or a physical daily routine to help stay balanced.

Your work is always fresh and creative. How important is it for you to reset each time? Is having a recognisable aesthetic something you work for or do you let it happen?

I have always had people tell me I had a very distinct style. I am always very consistent with what I like and if I like something then I don’t my mind. It’s nice to have a recognizable aesthetic but to also push and challenge yourself to try new things.

This new project of yours is individual, how did you find working on your own as opposed to teamwork?

You really hone in on your aesthetic and don’t need to visually communicate with others so I think this can be helpful for a bit more originality.

What are the pros and cons of working in a team?

Teamwork allows you to be lifted by others and really push ideas further.

How much do you think creative people work out of necessity VS pleasure? Is it possible to be creative while not enjoying the work process? In a word, is it possible to be creative, if forced?

I have to say it’s quite rare that I dislike any of my jobs! I always feel grateful to be doing what I love for a job! Not everyone gets to do that.

“I started to take pictures shooting potatoes for a month as a joke really! Something to do in lockdown. I didn’t have any pressure to please a client or publication, it was just myself.” – Katie Burnett

“Cabin Fever” is full of energy, in a stopped time period. Is fever referencing adrenaline, or was it a painful emotion that helped you create? Where was the adrenaline from?

Definitely no pain! It was fun. I started to take pictures shooting potatoes for a month as a joke really! Something to do in lockdown. I didn’t have any pressure to please a client or publication, it was just myself.

Photography is a new skill to your arc; who taught you? Those pictures are beautiful and very technical. Did you teach yourself? How much do you recommend young creative to prioritize self-teaching over mentoring?

I took a few film classes in high school but was a bit too impatient in the darkroom. It was something I picked up myself over the last year! My little sister is a forensic photographer so she’s always a great one to help out if I need help!

What is the mistake you don’t regret having made in your creative career? 

For me, moving from Missouri to London in my teens was such a random thing but then really the best thing I ever did. When I was in high school I used to just want to be a housewife like my mom. Now, I could not be further off from that!


If in Paris don’t miss the book signing tonight!

CABIN FEVER. Book Signing  

 Ofr. Paris 

Saturday June 19th , 6-8 pm 

20 Rue Dupetit-Thouars, 75003 Paris