Women’s Wear Daily
04.19.2014
fashion
fashion

Model Call: Cate Underwood

At 23 years old, the Kiev native has mastered the professional slash — as in, model/photographer/DJ.

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Cate Underwood Model Call WWD 2013

Cate Underwood

Photo By Courtesy of New York Model Management

Cate Underwood

Photo By Courtesy of New York Model Management

Cate Underwood

Photo By Courtesy of New York Model Management

At 23 years old, Cate Underwood has mastered the professional slash — as in, model/photographer/DJ. After several years as a successful photographer in Ukraine, the Kiev native now divides her time in front of and behind the camera, all while keeping her DJ-ing “hobby” alive and well.


Underwood made the move to Bushwick, Brooklyn, just three months ago, and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. “When I came to New York during the summer, I started to work a lot and was quite busy,” Underwood says. “I was on this wave and didn’t want to lose it. I want to work as much as I can.”


Most recently, the New York Model Management-repped model has appeared in the pages of Vogue Russia and published her own “photo diary” for V Magazine during New York Fashion Week. WWD sat down with the multitalented model to talk about her new life in front of the lens.

 

WWD: How did you get started modeling?
Cate Underwood:
I started as a photographer. I was shooting model tests in Ukraine, and a French agent was sending me the girls. I went to Paris for vacation about three years ago, and we decided to have lunch because basically we had been working together for a year and never met. So we met and he said, “Are you serious — what are you doing behind the lens?” So literally the next day, I was meeting with the biggest agencies in Paris.

WWD: Were you apprehensive about switching roles?
C.U.:
When I was 16 or 17, I had a few agents try to sign me, but I used to play tennis professionally. I wasn’t that excited about the idea of modeling.

WWD: How long did you play tennis?
C.U.:
Professionally, for seven years. I was playing for a German club, so I was based in Germany. I stopped due to family reasons. It was really hard, because I was playing tennis for so long and it was a huge sense of my life for so long. When I stopped, I couldn’t even watch tennis on TV. But then I started to do photography.

WWD: How did you start with photography?
C.U.:
Just by shooting people in the street. It basically started like that, and I just had my pictures posted on the Internet. Someone asked if I wanted to shoot fashion, and I was already interested. I mean, I was shooting my friends in my clothes and stuff like that. So I started to shoot editorials for some magazines in Ukraine.

WWD: Is it hard to be a photographer in front of the camera?
C.U.:
Honestly, it helps me in both ways. As a photographer, it helps me to see how other people work. On the model side, it’s good for me to be a photographer because I know what photographers need. The hardest thing is you’re thinking twice — as a model and as a photographer. It’s not just model work for me. I imagine myself shooting myself, basically.

WWD: Do you ever find yourself trying to jump in and give the photographer advice?
C.U.:
Oh, no. I can divide it, professionally. If I’m the model, I’m the model. If I’m the photographer, I’m the photographer.  When I’m the photographer, I have control, and when I’m the model, I’m the instrument. As a photographer, I’m used to working on the result, and I really care about that when I’m working as a model as well. I really care about the process and I’m interested in a good result. It’s not like, “This is a job and now I can go home.” I know how it is when your model doesn’t want to work.

WWD: Have you been busy since moving to New York this summer?
C.U.:
When you come to a new city, it’s not that easy to find a team. And I don’t really want to do a million pictures, which nobody will need. I prefer to do one shoot in one month, but it will be something that will be well-done and well-organized.

WWD: What is the last big project that you worked on?
C.U.:
I was asked to do a self-portrait editorial by Veoir Magazine. They just launched and the editor in chief is Williams Lords, who is a really good photographer. He wanted to shoot me as a model for the issue, but I couldn’t make it because I was out of the city. So he said, “You have one week to shoot yourself. Do a self-portrait.”

WWD: How did you conceptualize the shoot?
C.U.:
My boyfriend was teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design, and I thought, “I want to go see what he’s doing.” So basically, that’s how the location came up. He showed me pictures of a couple of classrooms there and I was really inspired. I basically did everything by myself — styling, makeup, hair.

WWD: Tell me about how you teamed up with V Magazine during New York Fashion Week.
C.U.:
They came to me and asked to help, basically, introduce V Magazine during fashion week and cover events in a photo diary. I had worked with them for one small editorial when I first came to New York. I had Kiss makeup, so you couldn’t see my face. I’m not sure how they remembered me.…

WWD: How did you decide to take on this project, rather than walk in shows?
C.U.:
I think for me, as a photographer, this was really important for my career. I don’t want to be just a model. I really need to express myself. And this was really amazing — it wasn’t even a job. I would just go around to the events after the shows. The idea of this diary was to show how it was from my point of view.

WWD: What were some of the highlights of your week?
C.U.:
I was busy every day — it was really hectic. It wasn’t until afterward that I realized how amazing it all was. One of my favorite pictures is this old couple at an art gallery in Chelsea. I captured them from behind, and they are just looking at a piece, standing together so close. Those moments are most exciting to me.

 

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