We had the good fortune of connecting with Katy Tartakoff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katy, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I’d say the most important factor behind my success is the relationships my clients and I have built together. I’ve had my portrait business for over 45 years and am now on my third generation of children. People become like family to me. I get to know them as we work together and we keep in touch over the years. People know I want them to love their photos – not just like them, but love them. If they aren’t happy with their photos, we work together until they are. Having professional photos made is an investment and there are many photographers to choose from. It is always an honor to be chosen and I don’t take this lightly. The majority of people coming in say, “I don’t usually like photos of myself.” I talk with them, ask questions and find out what they’re hoping for. I then love them up, work my magic and show them how beautiful they are.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Have you ever done something you get so enmeshed in, the rest of the world goes away? The experience of being in the present moment is an elusive gift. When we are in that present moment, there is a magical quality of energy and connection. When I mix those with light, love and focus – beautiful, heartfelt photos are created. I’ve been told my portraits capture the essence of the human spirit. Emotion, relationship, feelings, inner beauty all show up in the photos in a way most people aren’t able to capture. I believe this is a gift I came into the world with and am grateful for every day. In the case of my fine art outdoor photos, a painterly, enlivening feel comes to life bringing people into their own fantastical world of seeing and feeling.. I am most proud and excited that with incredible support from family, friends, clients and some amazing teachers, I get to photograph everything from birth to death and everything in between. I have had the honor of working globally, traveling to many parts of the world photographing the sacred journey of people healing into wellness or into death; women leaders and activists working on advancing women’s rights and global peace initiatives; families with children living with all sorts of different abilities, such as CF, MD, Autism, Blindess,..; business photos for solopreneurs all the way to international corporations; all the way to forty five years of documenting families near and far for up to five generations of women. Getting to where I am today is due to what my siblings and I joke about is because “I am a Tartakoff!” We are stubborn, determined, hard workers to a fault, and don’t give up unless it’s no longer a healthy choice for one reason or another. It hasn’t been easy by any means – not from the start and not now. I continuously overcome the challenges because I believe in every ounce of my being I am doing what I am meant to do while here on this earth. I care about people. I care about humanity. I’ve learned through the years that not everyone is comfortable seeing hard things like little bald heads, children bent over in wheelchairs using communication systems, children whose eyes do not see, women in children in Africa fighting for their lives and dying from AIDS, sadness on families faces when things have been hard… I’ve also learned that people are curious and when given a safe space to look and ask questions, they do want to learn about our Sisters and Brothers in our own back yard as well as from all over the world. When photographs are hung on a wall, either as their own piece of art or combined with a story, they become an invitation for a safe conversation. One is able to look at the photo and ask hard questions or talk about their life story. Rather than staring at a person directly and asking about their life, we can look at the family photo or the photo of a person holding a sign at a rally and open the door to a meaningful conversation. I want people to know I may not understand your world or your beliefs. I may not be able to relate personally to what you and your family or culture have gone through and are going through. I am here to love you up, make photos of you and your family that show you how beautiful you are whatever you are going through, and I will be present with you whatever is going on in your life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If we weren’t living in a time of Covid and I had unlimited funds, here is what I would do if one of my best friends came to visit for a week. After I picked them up from the airport, I’d stop by my photo studio in Northfield and show them my studio and a bunch of my portraits as well as my Fine Art photography. For dinner I’d take them to the Cherry Creek Grill. Assuming it was artichoke season, I’d order one or two of their grilled artichokes (to live for!!), their famous cornbread along with macho salad and a bottle of Prisoner to commemorate being with my bestie. In the morning I would take them to The Rocky Mountain Arsenal for sunrise to see the Bison and whatever other animals and birds (eagles, hawks, blue heron, white pelicans) we’d see along with the peaceful beauty of the place. We’d then go to La Filette Bakery on 8th Ave. for their almond croissants and coffee. We’d then go for a nice walk around Washington Park and then find a bench to sit, hang out and visit. For dinner, LaCueva – it’s been a go to with a group of friends for years and years. The next day we’d drive up to Hanging Lake and hike up to photograph the gorgeous Lake and water falls. I started going there in the 70’s and it’s still just as enchanting. (I’m not sure about the fire damage from this summer.) On the way back to Denver, we’d go to Frisco to the pizza place in town and get some pizza and salad. The next day we’d stop at Spinelli’s Market in Park Hill, pick up some lunch, drive out to Painted Mine mid to late-day and hike around. Then we’d take the back roads and head to a place in the middle of nowhere to enjoy the open farm land, watch the sunset and photograph the Milky Way. The next morning we’d go photograph the sunrise and the moonset at City Park and walk around for a couple of hours. For lunch we’d go to Watercourse for a nice gluten free, vegan meal. Yummy. Later we’d go for a walk around Westerly Creek and look for birds, hear the sound of water flowing and enjoy the peaceful feel. We’d then walk over to The Stanley and have some delicious Sushi. Somewhere in those days we might go to The Denver Art Museum and then walk around Larimer Square. For the last couple of days we’d drive up to Ridgeway, Ouray and Telluride and stay in a beautiful AirBnB overlooking the valley where you can see the Magnificent Milky Way in all her glory.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to give a shout out to Mary Ann Bash. “Each One Teach One: No More Gap (EOTO) is a program designed from the ground up by Mary Ann Bash, a long time veteran teacher of Denver Public Schools and strident advocate for the capacity of all children (and families) to learn and succeed. The program is designed to address three fundamental gaps that are known, from the research literature, to stifle the realization of the potential of these students: the language development and word learning gap, the parent/family education gap, and the parent engagement gap.” Mary Ann came to me many moons ago to have portraits made of her family when her children were growing up. Over the years Mary Ann has come back to document her extended family including her sister and brother in law, her niece and great niece, her children’s spouses and now her grandchildren. In addition, Mary Ann asked me to photograph Marie L. Greenwood starting when she was 90 years old all the way through a year ago, a week prior to Mrs. Greenwoods 107th birthday. Marie L. Greenwood Academy, part of Denver Public Schools, is named after Mrs. Greenwood. It is the school which houses Mary Ann’s Each One Teach One: No More Gap Program. Several months ago, Mary Ann approached me about a new project she wanted to do. We have partnered together to create an educational exhibit called: “See Me, Hear Me! There are approximately 360 families who have participated in Each One Teach One over the years from all different countries and cultures. We are photographing the families and asking them to write their stories to go with the photos. See Me, Hear Me! is an opportunity for people to get to know one another, to embrace their history, to celebrate their similarities and their differences and to honor their heritage. Mary Ann works tirelessly keeping in touch with the families, assisting them in writing their stories, following up to make sure they are coming in for their photo sessions, seeing how they are doing…. Thus far we have 15 framed pieces with the photos and stories. They are incredible. In my eyes, Mary Ann Bash is what I call a Shero!
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