Q&A with Ottawa photographer Kathy Roussel

This Is A Standoff, Ottawa 2010

Kathy Roussel was born in Riviere-Du-Loup, Quebec, but being raised by a military family fostered her moves across the country throughout her childhood. She eventually settled in North Bay, Ontario where her parents still reside, until her move to Ottawa in 2006. After studying for three years at Carleton University, Kathy enrolled at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa, where she is currently in her second year of studies.

Kathy Roussel

When did your passion for photography begin?

I have always been passionate about photography in general, but I didn’t start getting seriously passionate about the idea of myself as a photographer until late in high school. In my final year or two, I attended as many local music shows as I could and that’s when I really discovered that there was more to photography in me than being interested in other people’s images.


Craig Cardiff; Singer/Songwriter, Ottawa 2010

Being in that environment and beginning to photograph live bands made me see that I wanted to blend my passions of photography and music together to create great images myself. I would buy various music magazines and just think that if I worked hard enough, one day that could be my photographs in there.

Music-related photography is not my only interest, but it’s definitely what got the ball rolling. I wish I still had all the band T-shirts I had collected.

What brought you to SPAO? How has the school changed your photography, if at all?

Despite my great interest in photography, after high school I decided to enroll at Carleton University, where my goal was to become a journalist (ideally music-related). I ended up not making it past the first year of journalism, but I stuck the university life out for another two years in a different program because I felt it was important, even if only for myself, to get a degree.

Eric Stone; Bassist (Today I Caught The Plague), Ottawa 2011

At the beginning of my third year, I made the decision that I wanted to pursue my dream of photography full time — my original plan was to apply to a few colleges, and go from there, until an at-the-time acquaintance told me about SPAO and the unique program that it offered.

The school has definitely changed the way I approach photography. The instructors there have taught me the importance of slowing down and shooting with intent, and over the last two years they have truly guided me into creating a body of work which I am proud of. At SPAO you are aided and guided by the amazing teachers and professionals who are there to help you grow — and being only just over twenty students in the entire school, we get a ton of one on one instruction. I now view photography in a whole new way, and how I approach it has definitely changed.

Dan Mangan; Singer/Songwriter, Ottawa 2010

Your love of portraiture is quite evident from your portfolio. What attracts you to that style?

I find portraiture fascinating. The camera has this ability to connect people, to create a relationship between a photographer and a subject even with a short amount of time. Most often, my subjects are able to give me a good amount of time to shoot them, but I have photographed a few people whom I only had ten to twenty minutes with — a short amount of time connect with a subject and get a great image.

Either way, it’s always a thrill, and that connection is something that I am so interested in. The connection is different with each sitter, and after each shoot I have an image to always remember that connection by – an image that was created by our experience. I just find that idea so interesting.

You’ve done a lot of work photographing musicians . . . but not necessarily on stage. How do you capture their essence away from their natural “scene”?

Depending on the band or singer/songwriter, it can sometimes involve some research, most of which will consist of spending a lot of time listening to the band to get a feel for them. Their sound will be the main influence on how I will approach the shoot with regard to setting, posing, lighting, etc.

As much as I also enjoy live music photography, you really do not get the same experience that you do when taking an artist’s portrait. I always feel privileged after a band or an artist has given me the chance to photograph them. I really value the time they give me. I have photographed a small number of bands/artists who were only in town for one day, and they gave me that time. I am so thankful for that.

Hunter City Madness, Ottawa 2010


Who is the most interesting local talent you’ve shot to date?

I’m not entirely sure I could just pick one. But for the sake of continuing with this thread on musicians, I was beyond honoured to get the chance to photograph local band Today I Caught The Plague last fall. 

Today I Caught The Plague, Ottawa 2010


They are largely influenced by hardcore and metal, but I had never heard a sound quite like theirs. I had also never met them prior to photographing them, but they are honestly six of the most incredibly kind dudes I have ever met — I can never say enough good about them. They are actually in the studio right now recording and I’m really looking forward to hearing the final mixes.

I have also photographed two of the band’s six members — drummer Mike Ieradi and bassist Eric Stone — as single portraits, and it’s always an amazing experience. They are down for whatever I have planned and really understand my process, so it’s really nice. I’m really hoping I get more opportunities to photograph them in the future. 

Dinosaur Bones, Ottawa 2011


Where’s your favourite place to shoot in Ottawa?

I have to admit — this past year I did not do much work outside of SPAO’s studio, so that would be my answer. I have really grown to enjoy the connection you can develop with a person in that kind of environment and I was really lucky to be able to take advantage of that space while I was given the opportunity to use it. I’m hoping that this summer I’ll get the chance to use photography to explore the city further, and possibly find some new favourite places to shoot.
Beyond the camera, how else do you enjoy exploring the city?
I love going out for tea with friends — Bridgehead or Ideal Coffee is often where I end up. But I love being introduced to new coffee or tea shops. I also try and explore as much of Ottawa’s music scene as I can.
This city holds some great local bands, and we have some awesome venues (whether it be smaller cafes like Raw Sugar Cafe on Somerset or something bigger like the downtown located Mavericks or Ritual). We are quite lucky.

Thanks Kathy!