Partying for the Animals

September 21, 2017

Toronto-based photographer, Katherine Holland, brings her love of photography and animals together for one wild first show.

After many years in the business, Katherine Holland decided it was time for her first photography show, and she had an idea that was a little out of the ordinary. While Holland usually shoots editorial, lifestyle and fine art for clients, this time she wanted to do something for herself. A natural-born storyteller, who originally started her career in radio broadcasting and television, she concepted a show called “Party Animals” where she photographed exotic animals as if they were stereotypical guests at an ’80s house party. Fittingly, she plans to donate 30% of the profits from the art sold to World Wildlife Fund Canada.

We chatted with Holland to learn about the inspiration behind her wild idea, how she photographed her unusual subjects without ever leaving Toronto and the importance of having a space to share her work with her community.

Tell us about the inspiration behind “Party Animals.”

I realized I had been working for 10 years and it had all been assignment-driven. I try to be as creative as possible but realistically in order to make your client happy you have to compromise. You start to lose the fuel for your fire because a lot of that can feel repetitive and you need a good outlet for things that have been sitting on your brain for a while. “Party Animals” was one of those things. I’ve wanted to shoot with animals for a long time and I wanted it to be fun. I felt like there were a lot of really dramatic shoots of animals with selective lighting out there and I didn’t want to contribute to that. I wanted to keep it light, fun, and celebratory. I realized that the only way this was going to happen was if I did it myself.

Describe the concept.

I photographed animals in a party environment and as soon as I started shooting them I realized you could see the different characters that are present at a house party, so then that’s what it became: individual guests at a party. Once I started giving them names like “the chaperone” or “the plus one” it became so much more fun, so I tried not to give the animals personalities before we photographed them—instead they would start to embody a character that would reveal itself.

How did you source the animals?

Through different organizations around Toronto that provide animals for film and TV. Most are rescued pets. For example, one organization had three skunks because people got skunks, had them de-scented and then realized they didn’t want a skunk as a pet. It was nice that we had access to them but unfortunate how they got there.

What were the shoot locations?

We set up at the various rescue locations because we didn’t want the animals to have to move around. We wanted them to feel like they were doing it in their own spaces so that they could be the most natural and comfortable.

What was the funniest moment?

When we were shooting the baby goats, we had to take a lot of pauses because they would run up and kiss my face. It was the best.

Why did you decide to add a charitable element?

I felt like the animals were so gracious in allowing me to photograph them that it just made sense, and you can’t spend time with them and not want to help them out. I chose WWF Canada because I’ve worked with them before and knew I loved everyone there. And on top of that it was an organization that all of the animal groups could get behind.

What was it like putting together an art show when space is a challenge to obtain?

Because it’s my first art show I had a unique challenge. I wanted to feel like I could do this myself before I go and pitch galleries separately. When it’s your first show any gallery is going to feel like they’re taking a gamble on you, so if I approach the fine art world with a show that I already have the foundation for, I have an advantage. I was really grateful for thisopenspace because I was able to tour spaces beforehand with the team and was told about limitations and what would work best. It was awesome to have a resource like this because I would have never found the space otherwise. It’s literally perfect for what I need—the location, accessibility, the people that own the space are wonderful, and it’s beautiful.

Rapid Fire:

Photography subject: person or animal?

Person, I shoot 99% people and this is now 1% animal

Morning light or golden hour?

Morning light

Favourite part of Toronto?

Kensington Market

Drake or Bieber?

OMG, Drake

If you could be any kind of animal what would you be?


Go-to camera?

Hasselblad 503

Most underrated aspect of Toronto?

The food—I love Hibiscus Restaurant in Kensington Market

Join Holland at The Narwhal Contemporary – September 23rd to September 28th from 12PM to 7PM to see “Party Animals” for yourself! Follow @thekittyholland to watch as Katherine tells her story from studio to on-site. Photography by Vanessa Heins

Get inspired by Katherine’s space

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