Most people in my industry might say that the best thing about car culture are the experiences that can be had. Press drives, car reveals, getting special access at motorsport events are all awesome but personally one of my favorite things about car culture are the people you meet.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of really cool, genuine, and unique people throughout my career and Caitlin Ting is definitely one of those people.
If the name sounds familiar to you, it might be because you’ve seen her byline on Super Street Magazine’s website, watched her stream on her partnered Twitch channel, or caught some of her work on Instagram. She’s even shot photos for this site once or twice before.
I first met Caitlin through my friend and colleague Drew Fishbein when they were both running OMGDrift. Since then Caitlin’s photography career has grown exponentially and I got to watch it all happen first hand.
With Women’s History Month just passing I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about some of the Women I’ve met in the car culture/industry and doing my part to help amplify their voices and their work. Caitlin is the perfect person to start with.
I think there is a lot to take from her journey, thoughts, and the experiences she’s had on her path to becoming a well-respected photographer.
She was nice enough to let me ask her about it all and we covered a lot of topics like navigating a space that can be unfriendly to women, her pink drift car, and her insistence that a hot dog is a sandwich (it’s not Caitlin! Okay?!).
Andrew Beckford: Alright, let’s start at the beginning. You’ve been shooting motorsports, cars, and people for a while now but how did it all start? How did you get introduced to photography?
Caitlin Ting: I had always been drawn to photography since I was young. I grew up with an appreciation for it in part from my father, who always had some sort of camera in his hands and also in part due to my interest in studying history. However, growing up I never learned how to use a camera beyond a little point and shoot digital camera I used to take photos for my MySpace and Photobucket accounts with, heavy on the MySpace angles of course.
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I attribute the beginnings of my photography career entirely to my ex-boyfriend Drew Fishbein, the owner and creator of OMGDrift. In 2013, Drew introduced me to drifting because he was always shooting events for OMGDrift, and on a complete whim in 2014, he took it upon himself to put a camera in my hands and take me on track at a random track day in February. The way he tells it, he felt bad for me always sitting on the sidelines and watching him shoot, so he thought it would be fun for both of us to just see what I could do. The rest, as they say, is history. I loved it, I had no idea what I was doing, but he showed me how to pan at 1/80th and I even caught a fireball that day. The absolute feeling of successfully capturing a moment was a feeling I had to chase, I was immediately sucked in.
Andrew: What is it about photography that satisfies you and keeps you drawn to it?
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Caitlin: I love capturing moments. I’m a very nostalgic person, and photos are like a moment trapped in time forever, like something trapped in amber. When I look at a photo I took, I can remember how I felt at the time, I can remember what was happening, I can remember what the atmosphere felt like, I can remember it all. Which, to be honest, is sometimes not the best feeling when those feelings are tied to something painful, but I love it nonetheless. I love when I feel particularly proud of a photo as well, nothing beats successfully nailing a shot, when it turns out even better than you imagined it would. And finally, when the person I captured is thankful for my work, I’m completely satisfied. I love making other people happy, and I love when photos I took contributed to that.
Andrew: As mentioned before, you shoot motorsports, feature cars, models, and the occasional shot of the moon. What is your favorite subject to shoot and why?
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Caitlin: I like to try my hand at basically anything with photography, but lately I’ve been very fond of taking photos of people. They don’t necessarily have to be portrait photos, where we’re setting up a particular shot and posing, I think my favorite part is actually what I can capture in candids. I love when I’m shooting a competition, like Formula Drift or Klutch Kickers, and I get photos of the drivers in their element or photos of the drivers at the end of the round, when they find out who won. I love being able to feel the energy from that moment, you don’t always have to see their smile or their eyes, sometimes it’s just in the body language. But I love going back and really feeling what they felt in those photos, I think that makes me the most satisfied. It’s kind of funny to reflect on now, because when I was first starting out, I really disliked taking photos of people. I’ve always been shy, and taking photos of people meant I had to interact with them, which terrified me. However, as I progressed, my attitudes towards capturing people changed. The fear and anxiety is still there though, in all honesty, but I try my best to push it aside as best I can and just focus on what I’m shooting.
Andrew: In addition to being a photographer, you’ve been streaming quite a bit as well. You even stream your photo editing sessions on Twitch, which is something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do before you started doing it. How did you get the idea to incorporate your photo work into your Twitch streams?
Caitlin: Streaming editing isn’t an entirely new idea, but it was definitely less common when I started doing it, at least in my line of work. In general, the reason I started streaming on Twitch was because I was alone and I was lonely, but I was always on my PC. I never really stuck to one thing that I would stream, because I thought it would be fun for me to just showcase whatever I was doing. This led me to streaming myself actually shooting at events and then bringing everyone along to see what it was like for me to go through the photos they saw me take. It was incredibly nerve-wracking at first, because I always felt like I was an inferior photographer due to being self-taught, and that made me feel self-conscious about people seeing what my editing process was like. The more I streamed photo edits though, the more I enjoyed sharing that part of me, and it led me to meet a lot of other photographers that worked in fields outside of motorsports.
Andrew: We’ve shot a lot of events together, car shows, Formula Drift, etc. I’m not as traveled as you are but when I am at events, I notice that you’re one of only about a handful of female photographers in the media pits with a bunch of dudes.
How has it been for you to navigate a male dominated space? Unfortunately, it seems to be the norm that women in motorsports, the automotive industry, or just about any male dominated industry have at least one story of casual sexism, overt sexism, or even worse.
Has it been the same for you? Or has your experience been more positive? A mix of both?
Caitlin: When I first started out, I didn’t really think about it as being a male dominated space, I just saw it as something I enjoyed doing, I didn’t really notice the disparity or even really think about myself as one of a handful of women. However, I quickly learned that there were people willing to let gender play a role in their perception of me. There have been people that made comments attributing my gender to the reason I would get hired or the reason that people liked my work, because to them, my work was unremarkable and not worth others’ approval. Unfortunately, those kinds of remarks happened quite a few times, especially in my first few years.
I distinctly remember one event that I shot with Drew around 2015 or 2016, when he had stepped back from being behind the camera and taken up running OMGDrift’s social media accounts, where a man was shooting on track and I later found out he had his wife there as his assistant. I was holding a bunch of gear and actively shooting, Drew was holding his phone and getting a quick iPhone video. The man approached, acknowledged, and only spoke to Drew, before pointing to me and asking if I was his assistant. That moment stuck out to me because the whole encounter just felt off, I’ve never been an assistant and I’ve never thought that I gave the appearance of being one. I’ve been belittled and harassed to the point of hiding in the media center at an event due to my gender, and there have been numerous times that I have been met with inquiries about my work and asked out on dates in the same message, which in my opinion, is unprofessional and inappropriate.
I don’t like to give much credence to my being a woman in a male dominated arena, I still think of it as something that I am passionate about and I just happen to be a woman, but I do wish that I wasn’t looked at as just a woman, that people would see my merit in my work. And in all honesty, these negative experiences are far outweighed by entirely positive experiences, because I just love shooting, and I love shooting motorsports.
Andrew: In your opinion, what can men do to make car culture in general less toxic for women?
Caitlin: I don’t want to say that car culture is intrinsically toxic for women, because there are so many people that I know that are incredibly accepting and don’t let gender be the defining factor in the way they view or talk about others. But over the years, I have heard of certain things that I think can inhibit women or make them wary of being involved in the car scene. First, there’s this idea that a woman can’t be interested in cars if her boyfriend was the one that introduced her if they break up. That her involvement in the car scene should be over, because she was only introduced to it via her ex-boyfriend, and lord help her if she dates another guy from the car scene. There are people that are so quick to tear that woman down, and I’ve never understood why.
Second, there’s the idea of a “real car girl” versus a, for lack of better phrase, “fake car girl.” I’ve seen it all too often, women are judged and peppered with questions over how much they actually know about cars or motorsports, purely on the basis of being a woman. In reality, I think we all have different levels of knowledge when it comes to cars or motorsports, regardless of our gender, and to call out women specifically as “real” or “fake” car girls is just plain wrong. I think a great way to encourage more women to be involved in the car scene is by just accepting them and not put so much weight on gender, because our interests don’t dictate our gender and vice versa.
Andrew: What advice would you give to women who are looking to get involved in photography, motorsports, or streaming right now when things are still fairly hostile?
Caitlin: I think the best advice I can give is to just follow your heart and your passion. I know it sounds like a copout to say to ignore the haters, but the people that want to tear you down because of your gender should have little bearing on what you are setting out to do. I believe that people can be educated and can learn to be more open and accepting, and I do think that there are a lot more of those kinds of people in the car industry than not. I know that it can be discouraging when you see others treat women negatively or when you yourself are treated negatively, but if you love what your doing, keep going for it.
Andrew: Anyone who follows you on IG or Twitter knows that you have a pink E36 BMW drift car sitting in your garage (covered in boxes BTW). Do you have any aspirations to go pro? Or is your E36 for fun (and shelf space)?
Caitlin: It makes a great shelf! But in all seriousness, I got the E36 with the intentions of learning how to drift and practicing with it. One of the main reasons I wanted to learn how to drift and why I decided to get my own car was actually because I have always had a huge fear of driving in general. It’s something that I have been working on for the last four years, and I saw getting on track as a way to overcome that fear. Ever since I was introduced to drifting, I always enjoyed going for rides, but was too scared to be behind the wheel myself. I hope to one day be able to drive with my friends, but the end goal really is to just learn and have fun. I don’t think I would ever want to compete in it, I’m a competitive person but competition isn’t fun for me personally, because I get entirely too wrapped up in it. I wouldn’t say I’m a very good loser, if I’m being honest!
Andrew: Time for the obligatory “where do you want your career to be 5 years from now?” question.
Caitlin: That’s a great question! I guess I just hope to still be doing what I’m doing, as long as I still love it. I’ve never been one to plan out my future, I like to take things as they come and feel a sense of fulfillment and purpose. If that means I’m still shooting motorsports and streaming, I’d love that! And if it means I’m doing something else, I’m sure I’ll love it too.
Andrew: Last one. Is a hot dog a sandwich and why are you wrong about it?
Caitlin: A hotdog IS a sandwich and I am definitely right about it! I know that it has been officially deemed to be not a sandwich, but in my eyes, it’s substance between bread, akin to a sub sandwich…so, it’s a sandwich.
While she might be totally wrong about hot dogs, Caitlin is a genuinely awesome person who has put out a lot of positivity even in situations where negativity gets thrown back at her.
She’s an inspiring individual and hopefully learning more about her journey might inspire you too! I want to give a big thanks to Caitlin for taking the time for this interview.