Photos by Kate Rentz.
“Over the last few days, I’ve noticed an increase of followers and I think it’s mostly because Instagram’s algorithm decided to share an image of myself without makeup on,” Kate Rentz quips under a photo of herself, draped in a black jacket, standing serenely in the desert sun. At first pass, it’s just an eye-catching self-portrait. But dig deeper through the archives of Kate’s work and you’ll find it’s emblematic of her unique take on landscape photography.
“Growing up in a small Midwestern village, I wasn’t aware I struggled with a mental disorder,” says Kate. “I didn’t know how to deal with or process the feelings and thoughts I was experiencing, so I began using nature as a form of medicine. Now, having gone to therapy and having learned so much, I look back and see just how vital my decision was for my mental health.”
The LA-based photographer and director has been increasingly open on social media about her journey with both Lyme Disease and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, using her platform to pose thoughtful questions and explore the ways mental health and nature intersect in both her personal life and through her art.
“Now that I’m aware of the role that nature plays in my life, I’m actively intentional about how much time I spend outside,” says Kate. “I make it a priority in my life.”
Here, Kate takes Teva Women’s boots into the desert to celebrate the power that landscape photography has to express and explore our human emotions. We caught up with the artist to talk about the solo hikes and female creatives who inspire her work.
Kate explores feelings of calmness, confusion, loneliness and anger by thoughtfully placing her subjects within a landscape. Here, her subjects scramble across rock wearing styles from Teva Women’s boot collection.
These solo trips with Maggie are my favorite. I really enjoy spending time outdoors with others, but it’s the solo trip that feeds my soul. I recently had a few things come up in my life that I felt I needed to process and reflect on. Somehow, my body knew my mind needed to rest but that other parts of me needed to be physically active! As a result, I spent most of my time hiking with Maggie by my side. On the trail, my thoughts were completely quieted, which is usually so rare for me and only happens when I’m in nature.
“I wanted to add some depth and a sense of surrealism to make the environment feel a little more dream-like,” says Kate. “In some of the images, I’ve layered the product or a person on top of a landscape. I liked the contrast of subject matter, but also how complimentary the colors were in those images.”
The other day you lamented on Instagram about the lack of female landscape artists getting much-deserved attention. Who are some of your favorite female artists?
I love the work of Renée Ackermaan, Maya Beano, Laura Hendricks, Morgan Erpicum, to name just a few. I really love how their landscape work leaves space for the viewer to take away whatever they want or need from the image. I love images that aren’t too “in your face” about how you should think or feel.
“I met these women through friends of friends in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. All three women are insanely talented. Andrea is a painter, Anjelica a fashion designer, and Omotola a musician. It’s really cool to be surrounded by such talent,” says Kate. Pictured here are the Teva Women’s Arrowood 2 Mid WP in Midnight Navy, an adventure-seeking, waterproof sneakerboot.
What type of landscapes are you drawn to as an artist?
Typically, I’m drawn towards landscapes that feel vast, desolate, and mysterious. I love spaces that make you feel like you’re completely alone and completely surrounded by something greater than you. I’m interested in creating images that evoke complex emotions that contrast against one another. For instance, experiencing a sense of beauty and connection, while experiencing a sense of fear and loneliness at the same time. I love putting single or multiple subjects into a landscape to convey the contrasting emotions one may feel while in nature.
Using double exposures and layered landscapes, Kate is able to capture the conflicting emotions someone may have in the wilderness within a single frame. Styled with the Teva Women’s Arrowood 2 Mid WP in Desert Sand.
Your use of color is so beautiful.
Using color, by way of wardrobe or natural elements, helps me set the mood and emotion of the image. In stark landscapes, I might use bright colors in contrast with the lonely landscape (like I chose to do in these images for Teva), but in a forest, where there’s a lot of life, I like putting my subject in black or white pieces to make the image feel more empty or lonely.
How do you use composition to evoke emotion in your work?
By putting my subjects in specific locations within the frame, I try to show how one might feel in that environment. If the subject is just a tiny dot in the frame, they feel alone within the great power of nature. In contrast, when the subject is interacting with the environment around them, nature is a source of connection and healing. I love this idea of nature being a catalyst for growth, both for individuals and for groups of people. I think that’s the underlying theme in the images I create because it feels very personal to my own life journey and is something that I hope others can experience as well.
What’s your favorite place in the world to photograph?
I actually really love photographing the desert. Give me some desolate mountains and some endless sand dunes and I’m set! The light that happens there is beautiful. I was recently in the mountains of Northern Italy and had a very intense and spiritual experience with that landscape — it was life changing. The contrast of the green-scape with the heavy, dense clouds was out of this world. I’d love to go to Iceland or Northern Scotland. Actually, I’m down to go anywhere. Send me off, I’ll capture it!
What are your tips for finding a voice as a landscape photographer?
I believe you should focus on what you see and experience in a landscape. I love mystery in a landscape and I’m drawn to that. It’s what evokes emotion in me and I want to celebrate the beauty I see. Pay attention to the light in a landscape and the lines and shapes you notice in it. What part of that inspires you most? Figure that out and then capture it — we all have a unique story to tell.