One of Katherine’s favorite commissions to date – Ang house by Chenchow Little published in Habitus magazine.

Left – Ang house by  Chenchow Little . Right – Skylight house also by  Chenchow Little.

Skylight house by  Chenchow Little which I blogged about back here.

I received a little e-mail from Katherine Lu the other day telling me how much she enjoyed the blog (thank you KL) and also kindly correcting my crediting error in my recent post on Skylight House. I went on to fix this oversight immediately, but more importantly – her e-mail reminded me of how much I actually liked what she did so I dedided it was time for a snappy little interview. So here we are!

I first came across Katherine’s work after I interviewed Facet Studio late last year (their portfolio was shot almost entirely by this young lady). I was struck by the clarity and crispness of her images, beautiful composition and her understanding of built space, so it came as no surprise to learn that Katherine studied Interior Design before deciding to turn her talents towards pursuing photography full time.

Please join me in thanking Katherine for her time and for sharing her work and her story on yellowtrace.

x dana


The lovely lady herself – Ms Katherine Lu.

Hello Katherine, welcome to yellowtrace and thank you for taking the time to e-chat. Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourself?

Thanks for having me. I’m based in Sydney and have been working as an architectural photographer for about 3 years.

What made you decide to become a photographer, and what was your first photography assignment?

I was studying Interior Design at UTS and while in my 4th year, I came to terms with wanting to photograph interiors rather than designing it. Perhaps the turning point was in one of our projects which involved taking site photos – I realised that I was enjoying that process more than the project itself. Luckily rather than trying to keep me on track, my tutor at the time saw this in me, encouraged me to pursue it and gave me my first job of photographing students and architectural models.

Interior by Anthony Gill Architects.

Left – Interior by Anthony Gill Architects. Right – image from Katherine’s private collection.

What you are seeking to portray in your work? What is fundamental to your practice – your philosophy and your process?

Obviously I want to portray the building in a good light but as well as that, I also want to portray it accurately, in context with its environment and how people interact with it. My philosophy is that architecture is not purely for aesthetics – there’s always a human narrative.

Photography is a very competitive business and it can be very difficult for photographers to get a ‘break’ and start earning a living from their passion. How did you approach this challenge and what advice can you give to other fledging photographers? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting out?

It’s tough! I was lucky enough to meet a lot of architectural photographers whose work I really like and the advice I got from them was this: stick to it and you will get there. A lot of people give up along the way since being able to earn a living from photography takes a long time. Years. This is something that photography courses don’t warn you about! With architecture in particular, a lot of submissions don’t get built and if someone doesn’t have work for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t like your work, it’s just not the right time for it. So never take it personally.

Sneakerology by Facet Studio

Streetology  by Facet Studio. [Read my interview with Facet Studio right here.]

What are some of your main sources of inspiration? Are there any specific references you are drawn to regularly – books, websites/ blogs etc?

Whenever I see or hear about great architecture it makes me want to be there to experience it myself. This is also the main reason why I try to travel every year- so that I can be exposed to the different types of architecture in the world and challenge myself with whatever equipment and light that’s available to me, to come up with the best shot possible. I am always reading up on sites like ArchDaily and Dezeen to keep up with whats being built internationally and what other architectural photographers are doing.

Who or what are some of your influences? What other photographers, artists and creatives in general do you admire?

My biggest influence in the industry would be John Gollings. He was patient and generous enough to take me on as a photographer’s assistant some years ago and he’s absolutely open with his wealth of knowledge. He’s always been a mentor and I admire the fact that the man never tires, is constantly trying new things and is still able to come up with some of the most amazing photographs to represent a building in its entirety.

I also really admire the work of Josef Koudelka and Hiroshi Sugimoto. I was fortunate enough to hear Sugimoto’s opening address for the Sydney Biennale and his humility and continual innovation really made an impact on me.

Freshwater house by Chenchow Little

S House by Facet Studio. [Read my interview with Facet Studio right here.]

What are some of your methods to staying motivated, focused, and expressive?

I’m part of a younger generation of photographers working in such a competitive industry and its not easy, but I live in a time and place where I’m able to make a living doing what I love, and it’s important for me to not take these opportunities for granted. Knowing that this is what I want to do for the lifespan of a career is a great reminder for me to stay on top of things.

As I mentioned before, travelling and being able to visit builings I’ve only seen in books in person is one the best challenges for me to push and mould the way I photograph. When I was in Japan this year I was determined to visit as many of my favourite Tadao Ando buildings as I could so that I could have my own collection of images to refer to and satisfy that curiosity of what it means and feels like to physically stand in that space.

Tadao Ando building from Katherine’s personal collection.

What are you most proud of professionally? And what has been your favourite shoot/ project so far?

Most probably Ang house by Chenchow Little. It was such a smooth shoot -sunny day, extremely patient kid who was happy to be in the shots and a great lunch at the end of it with the backdrop of a beautiful house. The photos were published in Habitus and were great coverage for my work at the time. It’s always exciting to see that the images have come together really well and fit seamlessly within the narrative of the article.

Ang house by Chenchow Little.

Is there something professionally you would like to try that you haven’t done yet? What would be your dream creative project or a collaboration?

To do a road trip around Australia and photograph every Chinese restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Somehow, no matter how small the town, there’s always one.

What are you working on at the moment?

Obsessing over the Bureau of Meterology hoping that it clears up next week for a shoot of a house. So much of photography is under mother nature’s control that a lot of the time I find myself just staring into the sky waiting for the right moment!

What’s next – can you share with us your vision and some of your goals?

I’d like to keep meeting and working with a wider variety of architects to understand their individual styles and motivations and tackle the unique challenges of how to convey that in an image.

SS House & Art Studio by Marra + Yeh Architects.

Let’s Get Personal.

What are the qualities you most like about yourself?

An open mind and critical thinking skills.

Apart from your work, what other interests or hobbies do you have?

Science podcasts, browsing through second hand bookshops and travelling to parts of the world that I’ve never been to get me out of my comfort zone.

Images from Katherine’s private collection.

What is your most treasured belonging?

Photographs of my grandmother who’s passed away. Memories become fuzzy but having physical photographs of her gives me something concrete to hold onto. Unlike a lot of architectural images that can beautify and exaggerate a building, the photographs of her are always of exactly who she was.

What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

That I’m not a morning person. Ironic since I chose to pursue architectural photography which relies on the magical dawn and dusk hours.

Beautiful photographs from Morocco from Katherine’s private collection.

It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Cheesy 80s action movies.

In ten years I’d like to be…

Still working in the industry but have accumulated enough insight and knowledge to be able to pass it on to someone who wants to pursue this as a career.

Images from Katherine’s private collection.

[All images © Katherine Lu.]

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

2 Responses

  1. Avatar

    Lovely interview. I went to Uni with Katherine and love her warm and calm nature. When I look at the images she captures, I can really see a clarity and simplicity, that is so lovely in her style but also reflective in the buildings she photographs. Very Zen. She does them true justice.

    I wish her all the success in her chosen path. Beautiful work Katherine.

  2. Interview | Craig & Karl.

    […] Project 72 DP –  an immersive mural created for the underground carpark of an award-winning residence in Sydney’s Darling Point by architects Marsh Cashman Koolloos (MCK). Mural installation by Edward Woodley. Photography by Katherine Lu. (Btw, you can read my interview with Katherine here.) […]


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