Cirina Catania

Scheduled to teach:

Cirina Catania ( ( is an award-winning photojournalist, cinematographer and field production expert. Co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, Cirina is a PGA mentoring producer and member of the WGA and IATSE Local 600. She is a veteran filmmaker and road warrior who has chased lightning in the Southwest and written about Orphan Elephants for National Geographic, navigated mountain tops and Kava ceremonies with muddy water in Fiji, shot avalanche control footage with the National Ski Patrol, traveled South Africa with Danny Glover for the United Nations Development Program, filmed with the U.S. Navy on ships deploying to war, climbed mountains to get that last sunset shot for the Discovery Channel, kept her fingers and batteries warm while filming John Malkovich and Gerard Depardieu in sub-zero weather on the Charles River in Prague and shot survival footage with a raging fever deep in the Peruvian Amazon. She writes and directs TV series such as “Southern Steel,” “Untold Stories for the ER, ” “Worst Case Scenario,” “Merge” and for clients such as Chivas Regal and MSN. She post supervised the award-winning “Mi3 Collector’s Edition DVD” series. In the distant past Cirina was VP Worldwide Marketing at United Artists and VP Publicity at MGM/UA. She doesn’t keep track, but understands that her work has garnered awards from PDN/Photoserve, the U.S. Military, CES and the Television Academy. Cirina produces the popular weekly one-hour live tech podcast, The Digital Production BuZZ ( with fans in 195 countries, and is a Tech Evangelist for Blackmagic Design ( and Lumberjack System (

Cirina Catania Portfolio

Julia Dean Interviews Cirina Catania

LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Cirina Catania ten questions about her background, career in and beliefs about photography …

Julia Dean:  What kind of photographer are you?

Cirina Catania:  I’m a teller of tales, a wandering adventurer who sees the world through the lens of my camera. People and their lives fascinate me. Stories hidden from the surface made visible are mysteries solved, yielding joy, sadness, wonder and inspiration. A landscape may be beautiful, but it is a still-life until it is populated with human energy. Light reveals. The lens preserves moments that may otherwise be lost.

JD:  How long have you been photographing?

CC:  I got my first camera in elementary school. It was a Brownie Instamatic and I lived with it. At thirteen, I was invited to participate in the Young Musicians Festival in Leysin, Switzerland. The towering snow-glazed mountains and the people who lived there drew me to them and I photographed whenever I got a chance. From then on, photography became my life’s journal. 

JD:  Where did you get your training?

CC:  I had the good fortune to be raised as an Army brat, mostly in France and Germany. The military had photo labs that were available to us and I worked alongside of combat photographers who mentored me and taught me about using the cameras, developing the negatives and printing my images. I spent every waking hour, when I wasn’t in school, exploring, taking pictures and then running back to the lab to play with what I had found, manipulating the results in every way possible. It was my art. My voice. I grew up in the fantasy world of photography.

JD:  When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

CC:  The moment I took my first photo, even as a very young child, I realized that I was better at communicating through imagery than I was in the “real” world. I came from a home where individuality was not encouraged and I found solace in the images of people and places I discovered through the lens.

JD:  Did you ever come close to giving up?

CC:  Never. I will never give up. There have been times in my life when making a living as a “creative” was challenging, but I don’t measure success by the financial yardstick. I left an incredibly high-paying job in the studio system to become freelance so I could choose my own destiny. It has been the best decision I ever made. I am successful in so many ways and I am a happier person than I’ve ever been. Incidentally, yes, I make a good living at it!

JD:  Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

CC:  Relationship? The kind of work that I do as a still photographer and as a cinematographer involves a lot of traveling. At one point, I put everything I owned in storage, left LA behind and traveled non-stop from one assignment to another for three years. I now have stopping places in LA, Berlin and D.C. where I can crash in between adventures, so I at least know where my extra clothes are hanging. Has the fact that I am not in a traditional, permanent relationship been a “sacrifice?” Sometimes I think that it might be and other times, I say, “nope!” I certainly have wonderful friends all over the world. I have two amazing daughters and three grandchildren from my early marriage with my childhood sweetheart. I feel blessed. Perhaps, sacrificing in one side of my life is what gave me so many other joys! And I will always have my work. One day, the universe might fly in a guy who can keep up with me! Until that day comes, I keep having adventures and documenting my very lucky life.

JD:  What have you gained by being a photographer?

CC:  Not everyone can say that they love what they do. I can. The joy that comes from indulging my creativity and telling stories with pictures and words is indescribable to those who have another dharma. I do not search for “self.” Life and beauty comes to me every day. That is who I am.

JD:  What classes do you teach at LACP?

CC:  I am a new instructor and will likely concentrate on field production, story-building, video production, new technologies, workflow issues, how-to use new equipment – what would you like to learn? 

JD:  What do you love most about teaching?

CC:  When I look across the room and see that our common sharing has given someone a burst of energy and renewed confidence in their work, my heart is happy! To work with a person who is open to new ideas and to see their life and career grow over the years is the biggest blessing any mentor can receive.

JD:  What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

CC:  Search inside yourself and ask, “Will it bring me joy?” If the answer is yes, then just do it. Don’t let anyone ever tell you no. Shoot every day. Give yourself assignments and go out and accomplish them. Learn from others by taking classes and observing and learn from yourself. Be your own gentle critic. Be aware of your strengths and play to them. I wish you much success.