Image: Kat Wilkie

Image: Kat Wilkie

New Photographers: Q&A with Kat Wilkie


Melbourne-based photographer Kat Wilkie completed a Bachelor of Arts (Photography) at RMIT School of Art and was nominated for New Photographers by Rebecca Najdowski. Here Kat tells us about her interest in camera-less photography and bringing attention to the climate crisis in her work.

Hello Kat, please start by telling us how you would describe your practice.

At the moment, my practice is a combination of both analogue and digital alternative photographic processes. I predominantly make work around the global crisis that is climate change. It’s something that I believe to be a real issue and needs action immediately. A few processes that I have used to produce work include lumen prints, chemigrams, repurposing satellite imagery, scanning objects and recently have been experimenting with AR. I’m so intrigued by any camera-less process.

What will you be exhibiting as part of PHOTO 2021’s New Photographers exhibition at SEVENTH Gallery?

I will be exhibiting Day Zero. ‘Day Zero’ is the day where towns run out of water. When the towns no longer have water to sustain itself. The work explores the degradation of the Australian landscape from one of our country’s most significant threats: drought.


Found images from Google Earth expose the declining health of the waterways of the Murray-Darling Basin over the past decades, which are printed on to large fabrics. In juxtaposition, intimate lumen prints are created at the physical locations following the waterways of the Murray-Darling Basin.


More than just a comment on the current ecological state, Day Zero is recognising the political stance our government has, with mismanagement of water and irrigation being favoured for corporate gain on commercial farms and not of those living in rural communities where day zero is a reality.

What inspired this project?

The constant frustration at the lack of climate action the Australian government takes. I feel like that sentence is definitely thrown around a lot, but I guess it just proves how fed up people are. I needed a way to express what I was feeling and try to make work that spoke to the fragility of the land that we live on.

Image: Kat Wilkie, [Day Zero], 2019

Image: Kat Wilkie, Day Zero, 2019

Can you tell us about the process of making this work?

The lumen prints were created by taking photo paper into the physical world and exposing them to the sun and elements of the locations affected by drought. Some were made by submerging them along the banks of the muddied waters of the Murray, or covering them in the red dirt of dried river beds in far west New South Wales. The lumen prints are a direct and current impact of the state that our climate is in.


The large fabric prints are satellite images from Google Earth that have been collated together to show the degradation of the waterways over the past 30 years. The aerial images show not only the changing of the land from an aerial perspective, but also the technology improving over the years. The idea behind printing them on fabric is to juxtapose the rigid photographs and to present them on a free flowing fabric, as if to represent the fluidity of water.

You were nominated and selected for PHOTO 2021’s New Photographers exhibition at SEVENTH Gallery. What does it mean to you to participate in this program?

I’m really grateful to have been selected to show this work. To me it means that my work is being listened to and taken seriously. I’m able to broaden my audience and hopefully spread the awareness of climate issues within Australia.

How did your studies at RMIT help shape your practice?

It wasn’t until my third year at uni, when I was taught by lecturers who encourage mistakes, imperfections and experimentation, that I started to develop a certain practice that felt right. I’d spent my previous years trying to find a niche of photography that I felt comfortable in, but I always felt my work fell short. At the beginning of my third year at RMIT, I got placed into an ‘Alternative Photo Process’ class, by default. Not knowing what to expect I didn’t think too much about this class, it was just an elective. However by the second class I found myself fully immersed in all of the different processes. This class really opened up my perspective to alternative processes and it’s become something I absolutely love.

Image: Kat Wilkie, [Lumen Prints (99)], 2019

Image: Kat Wilkie, Lumen Prints (99), 2019

What do you hope audiences take from your work?

I really hope that whoever comes and sees my work stops to think about their connection with nature. I want them not to be bombarded with the devastation of bushfires, drought and rising sea levels, as climate change is generally portrayed. There’s a visual fatigue in the way climate change is being represented. A lot of us look at the images that came out of the 2020 bushfires and just feel hopeless. What are we to do when we see our home on fire, people running out of water and animals being pushed to extinction? Looking at climate change as a big overarching problem is so overwhelming. Rather than getting this climate anxiety and not doing anything at all, I think humanity needs to slow down. If everyone starts making small changes in their day to day life then maybe we can fight the beast that is climate change.

If your work at PHOTO 2021 was a song, what would it be?

Holyfields – Bon Iver

Which other artists or exhibitions are you looking forward to seeing at PHOTO 2021?

There’s definitely a lot I want to see but I’ll keep it short! I’ve been following James Tylor’s work for a while so I’m excited to see some of his work in person. I’m also interested in seeing works from; Peta Clancy, Guy Grabowsky, Kate Golding, Emma Phillips and Rosa Menkman.

And finally, what advice would you give to your 15 year old self?

Loosen up, do what makes you happy.

Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March