Photographer Kat Alves is having a moment. The Nevada City-based 36-year-old once dreamed of a career shooting light-filled modernist buildings by notable architects. Today, she is a sought-after architectural photographer with an impressive portfolio. Alves’ shots of a chic San Francisco loft recently appeared in Dwell magazine (a professional coup), and she has photographed spaces for Sacramento’s A-list architecture and design firms, including Popp Littrell, Vrilakas Architects and Amy Aswell Interior Design.
“It’s a strange little niche market I fell into that’s exactly my combination of skills and passion,” says Alves, who set aside photography for a time to pursue an education in interior design. Eventually she figured out how to merge photography with design, shooting real estate while living in Boston. “It wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but it gave me skills and confidence,” explains Alves. “It was like my paid internship.”
After moving back to California in 2012, she made the leap from fast-as-you-can-shoot-’em jobs for real estate agents to carefully rendered artistic images for architects and designers.
“I wanted to showcase great design and make it look amazing,” says Alves, who’s drawn to spaces that are “bright and fresh with clean lines.” Her job, as she sees it, is to “bring a perspective that maybe the architect knows but the average viewer might not see.”
Natural light acts like a silent partner, illuminating spaces and drawing the viewer into the photograph. “My goal is always to try to emulate the look of natural light if I can’t get the real thing,” says Alves. Every space she shoots is different: a spectacular hillside residence, a high-end shoe store, a trendy restaurant. But there’s a quality to the light that is consistent throughout her work.
Lately, Alves’ favorite shoots have been of smaller homes embellished with quirky items. “I’ve been really enjoying that because it’s less staged,” she says. “It’s more personal. It’s beautiful to see how the authentic style of the homeowner can come together.”
Another job perk? Joining a creative community whose work she admires. “I’ve been enjoying being a part of the interesting up-and-coming design teams in Sacramento,” says Alves. “I’ve been really inspired by all the people making beautiful things.”