Women in Music: Catherine Powell, Photographer and Founder of NKD Mag

Catherine Powell, Founder of NKD MAG

At just 22 years old, Catherine Powell has launched her own photography business, a magazine by the name of NKD Mag, and has worked with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. As past of our Women in Music series this month, we’ve interviewed Catherine about how she got her start, the current state of music editorial, and where she sees her business going. Check out what she had to say below.

You began shooting concerts early in high school. Was that your first dive into the music industry? What instilled this passion and how did you go about getting your first gig?

Prior to picking up a camera, I had been attending concerts fairly regularly for a little over a year – most of them being at School of Rock in New Jersey. The first time I showed up there with my DSLR, the wonderful humans in charge (shout out to Heath Miller and Anthony LaSala) let me shoot that night, and pretty much any night after that. This was for sure my first official dive into the music industry.

The interest/passion really just came from the fact that I didn’t feel like I fit in in my town, and I connected to what these rock bands were singing about. This was all during the peak of the Jonas Brothers’ careers, and I was drifting more towards Jimmy Eat World and Fall Out Boy.

When and how did NKD Mag come to life?

NKD was founded during my junior year of high school in a fifth-floor, walk-up apartment in Washington Heights after coming down from a sugar high while Justin Bieber’s My World was playing in the background. I grew up as a Warped Tour kid who drooled over each and every issue of Alternative Press, and then around 2010/2011 I started becoming more and more interested in pop music, ABC Family/The CW shows, etc. There was no publication out there at the time – or now, really – that I could look to for interesting pieces about everything I was interested in. That’s where the idea for NKD stemmed from.

Can you describe a little more about what music editorial is exactly?

I don’t think there’s a concrete answer to this, anymore. What I can say is the music editorial that NKD embraces is rooted in stories. Our interviews do not highlight gossip or tabloid stories like a lot of music publications seem to be doing now. We still talk about music and musicians for what they are.

How has music editorial evolved from when you first started? How do you see it changing in the future?

Kind of piggybacking off the last question, it seems to be more rooted in headlines and click-bate stories than thoughtful, interesting pieces. Which is definitely a shame because there is so much happening in the music world right now that is a lot more thought-provoking than what model an ex-boyband member is dating.

What does NKD Mag look for in artists to feature and how do you differentiate yourself from other music publications?

I think we differentiate ourselves by not just focusing on music. At this point, we’re roughly 50/50 in terms of how many musicians and actors we feature, and now we’re branching into featuring social stars. In terms of what we look for, I can selfishly base a lot of it off my personal interests, but I also do make a point to keep up with who people are talking about and getting excited about. My neighbor is 17 and she keeps me in the loop on who is gaining the attention of teenage girls.

You’ve worked with numerous artists, celebrities, and industry professionals over the course of your career. Do you have any standout stories you can share?

Getting to shoot a cover story with Jimmy Eat World, and photographing Justin Bieber live for the first time are massive highlights for me, but I genuinely have never had a more rewarding experience than this recent tour with MAX. We’ve been friends for years, and done countless work together, but going on the road with him has been a completely different experience. I have never worked with an artist who has trusted me so much with his vision, and allowed me to be as creative as I want when shooting. He’s weeks away from releasing his debut full-length, and if everything works out like it’s supposed to, these are going to be the photos that people look back on 10 years from now. To know that he believes in me enough to let me have the visual voice over this era of his life is the biggest honor and compliment.

You’re only 22 years old and have accomplished so much already. Where do you see yourself and NKD Mag in five years?

I plan on sticking with Max for as long as he lets me, whether that’d be another two years or another 10 years. As for NKD, I would like to continue it as long as it continues to grow and stay relevant. It really is my baby and I’m so proud of what we’ve done together in the last five years.

Any advice you have to offer people aspiring to work in music? Whether it is with a magazine, photography or another field?

I think there’s a huge emphasis on women in music right now and it’s a great time for women to make the jump into the music industry. In terms of starting your own magazine, I don’t recommend it unless you can commit 100% – because it literally takes up all of my time. Photography wise, just shoot. You can never take too many photos so just take a lot of them, get your name out there and then keep taking a lot of photos.

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