We recently caught up with Mr. James himself to learn more about this rare breed of half naked, free spirited young ladies who can be seen around Montauk posing as mermaids for this guy.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is James Katsipis, I’m 31 years old. I was born and raised in Montauk, NY and I started photography when I was about 17 shooting all my boys surfing at Terrrace going through rolls and rolls of film.
How did The Mermaids of Montauk project begin?
I’ve always had a passion for fashion and beauty, but I was so locked into the surfing scene, it’s hard to stray away. I wanted to take a break and try something a little different. I love shooting (surfing) in water, so I combined my two loves of water and portraiture. Model, Amanda Beckwith and I were just goofing around under this great dock in Montauk last summer, swimming and taking pictures with my camera and we walked away with some incredible images. I sat on the images for months, it being too cold to shootmore in water girls out here in the winter. When the summer came back around I wanted to recreate and expand on the look with other girls and scenes. I started a Facebook page, Instagram account and email exclusively for The Mermaids of Montauk and when I put out the call for more Mermaids to shoot with, my inbox just flooded. I was shooting a new girl almost everyday. It was insane. (laughs)
Where do you draw inspiration from in your work?
Honestly, when we shoot I just throw Lana on my Nixon blaster and it just sets the mood right then and there and I never know what is going to happen on any shoot. Sometimes I get these “visions” in my head of girls posing in like sick locations and it just seems so mystical and I’ll just grab a girl and go and make it come to life. We just all jump in my truck and find some hidden treasures along the way. And tons of the best mistakes happen that way. I love all the mistakes and they end up being the raddest shots. I love the grittiness of them and the water droplets on all the photos. I’m so used to training myself to keep my housing clear of water spots. It goes against everything we surf photogs know. I welcome them for this shoot, it makes the viewer really feel the images.
Who are the Mermaids of Montauk?
The Mermaids of Montauk are just regular girls who want to explore a different side of themselves and try something new. I think a lot of them want to let loose and try something that they maybe would not normally do. With an exception of a few, none of the girls are professional models. No training. I literally have to direct the whole session and mold them for each look.
Who are your main influences for your portrait work?
Growing up in Montauk, I’ve had some of the best artists in the world in my backyard to sit and chat with and just be a total sponge to everything they were telling me. I try to take pieces of everything I’ve learned from all of them and make it into a style of my own. I grew up idolizing Walter Iooss. I love his dramatic lighting techniques. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with him a handful of times. Prob one of the highlights of my life.
What is your preferred subject matter: surfers or babes?
Don’t make me choose! Such a tough one. How about babes who surf!
Do you have any future plans to show your work?
I had a show over the summer at The Montauk Beach House. It was amazing. Such a great time. People freaked out at the images. I have a book I am working on at the moment and am planning on releasing it this coming summer of 2015. I’ll also do a little book tour and another show to go along with it.
Check out all The Mermaids of Montauk on Instagram: @mermaidsofmontauk