Photographer Kate Ballis sees the world in vivid colour


The 2018 MECCA Beauty Election is underway and if you haven’t voted yet, what are you doing? The visual inspiration for this year’s election was eighties beauty pageants and the campaign features the hyper-real and head-turning work of Melbourne-based photographer, Kate Ballis.

The bold and beautiful image comes from her Infra Realism series, which was shot on location in Palm Springs, California, using an infrared camera to reveal surreal colours in the landscapes. “The neon pinks and purples are an unexpected interpretation of the Palm Springs landscape and this ties beautifully to the retro styling of our campaign,” says Paul Troon, Head of Design at MECCA. We caught up with the emerging artist and certified beauty lover (she’s a MECCA Beauty Loop Level 3 member, after all) to learn more about her career and find out exactly who she’s voting for in this year’s MECCA Beauty Election.

TMM: How did you vault from a career in law to art?
KB: “From being a creative child endlessly drawing and making art, I ended up following the studious path of completing an arts/law degree and becoming a lawyer. I was fortunate to work in media and entertainment law and spent a lot of my four-year career working on art fraud cases, studying artist's oeuvres and brushstrokes to distinguish real from fakes. While I was at the law firm, I built up a photography business on the side. On a trip to London in 2013, I met photographer Miles Aldridge and he offered me an assistant role. It was just the push I needed to throw myself all-in to a creative career. Since then, I’ve built up my fine art and commercial practices and have never looked back.”

Your work focuses on landscapes and travel. What is it about these subjects that you find appealing?
“In my personal work, I love to make otherworldly landscapes look even more surreal and that involves travelling beyond Melbourne. My commercial work focuses on people and I love building a connection with the subject and conveying their true story. For a new series that I’m working on this year, I am exploring my heritage via mythological lands relating to where my parents are born. The Lost City of Atlantis for Crete, and Avalon for Somerset, and there are lots of powerful goddess women in those stories, so this might be my chance to merge these two themes: travel and people.”

From Guatemala to Puglia, you’ve taken photographs across the world. What drew you to Palm Springs for this particular series?
“I was first drawn to Palm Springs in 2013 because of my love for the photographs of Slim Aarons and William Eggleston. It was a dream! I’ve returned about eight times since then, photographing it in many different ways, and it’s become a ‘second home’ for me and my partner Tom Blachford. I keep travelling the world, but always try to create a series based in Palm Springs as an excuse to revisit.”

Can you explain the technique involved in creating these vivid photographs?
“The photographs are shot using a converted digital infrared camera with filters on the lenses. I then subvert a technique that infrared photographs often use to make photos more realistic, in order to make them more surreal. Healthy plants emit infrared light, and through my viewfinder I can see a glowing world that makes plants pop out from their surrounds.”

Your Infra Realism images feature on our Beauty Election campaign this year, so can you tell us some of the favourites you’re voting for?
“I’m really excited that my Infra Realism images will be on the Beauty Election campaign. My favourite MECCA products that I’ll be voting for are Kevyn Aucoin mascara, M.A.C Eyeshadow x 9 Burgundy—I love this palette and have already finished some of the colours, Darphin Hydraskin for moisturiser and Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil for hair. My “Haul of Fame” product will always be Portrait of a Lady by Frédéric Malle.”

Is your makeup routine as colourful as your artwork?
“I really do love colour and love to wear it! But when it comes to my beauty routine it’s more skin-focused with a multi-step regime and then I add a bit of concealer, a subtle bronzer and blush, eyeshadow and lip gloss. That said, when I wear lipstick I wear super bold reds, just like my Infra Realism skies! I dyed my hair red for my last show which was fun, but it’s too high maintenance!”

What would be your go-to beauty look for Palm Springs?
SPF first! The sun in Palm Springs is super harsh and it’s a dry desert so really good moisturisers. For makeup, I opt for a coral blush like Ambient Lighting Blush in Dim Infusion, a beautiful bronzer to compensate for my intentional lack of tan, and an orange-toned lipstick such as NARS Audacious in Lana to make everything pop!”

What destination do you hope to visit next?
“I’m heading to Crete and Santorini to shoot my next series, then straight to LA for my show at Garis & Hahn gallery, which opens July 21. Russia, Galapagos, and the UK are also high on my travel wish list.

What’s on your packing list for photographic adventures?
“A full Nikon kit, a full Infrared kit with lots of filters, and hard drives. In terms of beauty, it’s SPF, moisturising masks for the plane and harsh conditions, Bumble and bumble shampoo and conditioner so I don’t have to use hotel shampoos that contain sulfates, and a curated selection of key makeup items to feel put together.”

As told by Romy Erdos
July 2018


viewing of products