Nuevo Culture

With 80 Pages of Striking Self-Portraits, Cabin Fever Is a Peek Into One Stylist’s Life in Lockdown

“In the beginning, I was really just goofing around,” stylist Katie Burnett recalls of the striking, surrealist self-portraits that she started shooting last March. In the early days of quarantine, she suddenly found herself isolated in her Brooklyn apartment, away from the sets that she’d grown accustomed to during her six-year career. Those impromptu photoshoot sessions became a creative outlet: “I realized I loved making pictures,” she says. Soon, in lieu of the Centrefold and Vogue Italia spreads that once occupied her Instagram feed, she began posting the black-and-white snaps—much to her followers’ delight. “I was shocked by the number of people who were responding and saying that they were inspired by or looked forward to my portraits, so I just kept going with it,” she says. Now, that body of work can be found beyond the screen, too, thanks to her new book, Cabin Fever.

“One day, I was on a call with my friend [the photographer] Paul Kookier when I said, ‘I have cabin fever.’ Paul said, ‘That has to be the name of your book!’” Burnett remembers. It was a lightbulb moment, and she quickly set to work on editing down thousands of images, many of which employ the everyday objects that she happened to have lying around her home: ramen, rubber bands, letter-shaped magnets… (Even her cats make an appearance.) 

But her favorite prop to experiment with was her own figure. “The more comfortable I got with myself, the more body-focused [the images] became,” Burnett, a former dancer, says, adding that she became “addicted” to capturing herself—often under her kitchen counter, where she gets the best light—and challenged herself to find new ways to heighten the potential for photographic deception. In one image shot in her backyard, she hangs over the camera, a ponytail of hair concealing her face, while plastic googly eyes stare down into the frame. In another, she sits nude, her limbs, seemingly multiplied, twisting around her. “Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself; I look like a beast-man!” she says with a laugh. “It’s interesting to see yourself in so many different ways.”

Designed by Jurgen Maelfeyt and published by Art Paper Editions, the resulting 80-page photographic display—complete with a pull-out, two-in-one poster—is available in a limited edition of 500. (Anyone who finds themselves in Paris this weekend will be in luck: Burnett is signing copies at Ofr on the 18th.) “In a weird way this has felt like my best year ever,” muses Burnett, who has recently shot covers for M Le Monde and campaigns for the likes of Burberry, Helmut Lang, and Calvin Klein—the last of which was in collaboration with Bella Hadid. The next milestone to check off? An exhibit, perhaps. “There’s so much more to show than what’s in the book.”