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Catherine Couturier, raised in Crockett, Texas, got into trouble when she was seven years old. When she came across one of Lewis Hine’s photographs, Girls Spooling, in her social studies textbook, she was moved to tear the page out and take it home. So was born her love for photography.

Couturier went on to study art history at Trinity University in San Antonio, and spent her junior year abroad at Parsons in Paris, France, where she met her husband. The Couturiers eventually moved to Houston, Texas and Catherine started working at the John Cleary Gallery.

After John’s untimely death in 2008, Catherine accepted the torch and rebranded the gallery under her name. It is now the only AIPAD member gallery in Houston and one of only four in the state of Texas.

“John used to say what makes a photograph great are two things, drama and mystery.”

Couturier continues the tradition of showing great photography under Cleary’s influence but adds her additional interests in alternative and modern processes and contemporary art. She says that as collectors are getting younger and technology more advanced, digital photography is more widely accepted as collectible fine art.

Catherine Couturier in her Gallery, Photograph by Amy V. Cooper

Catherine Couturier in her Gallery, Photograph by Amy V. Cooper

“John used to say what makes a photograph great are two things, drama and mystery.” Catherine says, adding that for her, “there has to be something that you don’t see, something special coming from the eye of the artist.”

Some of Catherine’s favorite photographs that she owns are Twilight Swim by Maggie Taylor, one of her favorite photographers, and Broken Plate, Paris by André Kertész.

Who are some of your favorite Texas Photographers?

Libbie J. Masterson. Libbie is such an all around talent. She paints, she photographs, she’s a jewelry designer, she creates outdoor installations (like her recent lotus exhibit for the Asia Society in Hermann Park), and does set design both here and in New York. Libbie is also the curator of the Houston Center for Photography. I’ve known her for years and have always loved her work, so it was a no-brainer for me when she was looking for a new gallery.”

When asked about Texas photography, Couturier wishes there was a better visual identity for the state beyond Big Bend, border towns and cowboys. “I think with more photographers moving here we will get a better photographic representation of what it means to live in Texas.”

 

What is your advice for photographers wanting to catch the attention of galleries in Texas (and beyond)?

If you want your art to be your job, treat it like a job.

“I have two main pieces of advice. Number one: if you want your art to be your job, treat it like a job. Be professional. Be polite. Be on time. Treat your interactions with gallery owners, potential collectors, and fellow artists the same way you would a job interview. Number two: most galleries list their submission guidelines on their websites (we do here.) Follow them, and, just as importantly, peruse their websites to see if your work is a good fit before contacting them. I get so many submissions from painters who haven’t bothered to look at my website at all, which is very obviously all photography. Don’t just spam all the galleries as it wastes everyone’s time and your resources.”

What are your favorite places to see photography in Texas?

“In Houston, there are the three big ones, of course: The Museum of Fine Arts, HCP (Houston Center for Photography), and Fotofest. In Austin, the Harry Ransom Center has a phenomenal collection, including the archives of our artist, Elliott Erwitt, and the first permanent photograph, created in 1826 or 1827 by Niépce.”

Any thoughts on the future of the fine art photography in Texas?

“The fine art photography market is only on the way up in Texas. When I first began selling photographs in 1999, I had to answer a lot of very basic questions that I don’t have to answer as often anymore. The overall level of knowledge and appreciation of photography has grown exponentially.”

Describe the perfect night out in Houston.

“Ooh, the perfect night out in Houston! I made a joke recently that, were I single, my idea of a great first date would be for a guy to pick me up and take me to buy a book before going to dinner. That way, I’d have something to read in case the date was a dud. But really, the perfect night out in Houston for me would be to go walk through the Menil and Rothko Chapel, maybe have a beer at The Hay Merchant, then go to dinner at Kata Robata or Oxheart. Oh! Or go see a play at the Alley Theatre. Or go down a pontoon boat in the bayou and see the Waugh Bridge bats. Or go to a Dynamos game with my husband and son. Or go to a midnight show at River Oaks Theatre. There are just too many great things to do in Houston these days!”

Couturier attends two to six photography fairs every year and finds most of her artists through word of mouth and the occasional submission. She is also an advisor to the Houston Center for Photography. If you get the chance to meet Catherine, don’t miss it, she can tell you a lot about photography and her passion is contagious.

Catherine's son Andre's height marked on the wall at the Catherine Couturier Gallery, Photograph by Amy V. Cooper

Catherine’s son Andre’s height marked on the wall at the Catherine Couturier Gallery, Photograph by Amy V. Cooper

Andre, her son, 7, grew up in the gallery and really enjoys visiting museums and art exhibitions with his mom. No word yet on if he has torn anything out of her many photography books.

Visit the Catherine Couturier Gallery website here: http://www.catherinecouturier.com/.

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One Response to “Catherine Couturier”

  1. You are fantastic. Great interview and pics.

    Reply

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