Why I Love What I Do–A Brief History

I grew up in a family with six siblings who had the insight to buy me a camera for HS graduation. I loved taking pictures but had no inclination that I would be a professional photographer one day. I was underwhelmed by the look of professional portraiture that was popular at that time–it seemed stiff and lifeless to me. After college, I worked with homeless teenagers in NYC which had its rewards but left me craving nature and solitude. So shortly thereafter I rode my bicycle from Montana to Alaska, carrying everything I needed with me and pitching a tent every night.

Northern Exposure

Summer comes to an end in Alaska in a way that is haunting and abrupt as the tourists leave and the darkness and cold set in. It was in the last week of the trip that I stopped using my camera as a point and shoot to capture postcard-style snapshots, and started using it to capture internal truths—not just what I was seeing but what I was feeling. This was the beginning of my journey into the art of photography, and I took what I consider to be my first photograph. I returned and settled down in my home state of Massachusetts where I now live with my husband and three children.


I started my training in the technical aspects of photography in 2000 with black and white film. I have long since switched to digital but retain a classical approach where I strive for a perfect capture through lighting and technique. I have spent years studying and learning to master light (a journey that will never end) and in my studio work with natural light from 2 walls of windows to blocking them out and working in a black box only putting light where I want it.  I use natural light, strobes, continuous light and I love working with color, gobos and atmospheric effects. 

Over the years I rose to many challenges and gained experience in photojournalism, portraiture, architecture and event photography, but I became increasingly aware of how much I enjoy photographing people—their relationships, their moods. I particularly enjoy narrowing in on one person at a time. It is fascinating to me that a person’s face can be completely transformed by a passing thought. While beautiful lighting and composition are the foundation of all photographs, it is expression and emotion that give them life. With the technical aspects second nature, I am free to engage with people on a deeply personal level, put them at ease in front of the camera, and draw out natural expressions. This defines my work.


In addition to my professional work, I also work on developing my artistic vision which lately has been bringing me back to old cameras and film. A common theme that runs through my work is Time and how we perceive it—a dancer whose expression and motion are frozen in a split second capturing what is not perceptible to the naked eye, and the night sky in which we see light from distant stars as they shone before the dawn of humanity.

Headshot and Personal Branding Photographer

In recent years I have worked on location in Northern Iraq documenting a small town and their recent struggles with ISIS.  Here is a portrait of a Chaldean priest in his church after it had been reclaimed. ISIS took over the town of Batnaya and used the church as a training ground almost destroying it.


I am thankful that I am able to express myself through photography and for how it changes the way I see—people, light and a thousand little things that most people don’t notice. There are always new sources of inspiration and more techniques to master. It’s a journey that will never end as long as I can hold a camera. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I am grateful for my teachers who have been invaluable to me along the way. They have included Peter Faulkner and Kirk Jalbert (b&w processing, zone system), Kevin Focht (fashion and studio), Scott Stulberg (headshots and natural light), Richard Radstone (studio lighting), Pierre Chiha (portraiture), Sue Bryce (contemporary portraiture) and Peter Hurley, headshots (SHABANG!) and Lois Greenfield (Dance).

Kathryn Costello

Photographer since 2000, many international awards, portrait studio in MA, on location around the US doing branding photography, editorial assignments in Northern Iraq.  Clients include: Scott Hamilton Cares Foundation, ARCH International.

Copyright © , Kathryn Costello, All Rights Reserved.

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