Chris is an award-winning Auckland based photographer - he travels widely for his work and has recently been to Mali and Niger in Africa as part of a project for World Vision. His work varies from landscapes to people and advertising utilizing minimal colours, lens flare and shallow depth of field techniques.
Where are you based?
I'm based out of Auckland New Zealand. I work quite a bit in Sydney and every now and then I'm lucky enough to get a commission from the US or Europe
How long have you been a photographer?
I have been shooting for about 13 years now
Tell us a little about your style of photography.
There are 2 ways I love to shoot.
Landscapes I like to be very simple and paired back. I look for things that are out of context or slightly odd. The process is measured and I take my time looking for the right composition, light and moment. I like scenes and colour palettes to be minimal.
The other style is a lot looser and more in 'the moment'. I've always loved backlighting and the feel it creates. I love lens flare & shallow depth of field.
I like things to look cinematic. These sorts of images I tend to work a little like a director or DOP on a film / TVC shoot. I set the scene and let it play out in front of me. I work by moving around and capturing genuine moments. I really don't like the feeling of a contrived image. A set up image with forced moments or actions. One of the real challenges with an advertising shoot is trying to retain the reality and naturalness of a scene.
What gear do you use?
Really depends on the job. Personally I like to mix it up. Every job I do is different and so are the requirements, medium format to 35mm, Strobe to HMI to daylight. I tend to hire what I need specific to each job. So I don't own much of my own gear. Never have and never will.
All I have is a 35mm digital system and a 67 medium format film system.
I tend to shoot a lot on a standard lens - 50mm or the medium format equivalent. I like that it's as the eye sees the world. I generally don't like zoom lens. I'd always get a fixed lens. They are faster and better quality. They also force you to be more considerate and thoughtful with composition. You have to move to find your frame.
Do you have a favourite lens? - If yes what is it and why?
I've always loved the Canon EF50mm f1.2 beautiful quality. I thought it was a lens that captured the feel of film better than any other on a digital camera.
What is/has been your greatest challenge as a photographer?
Getting work is a constant challenge. And the emotional roller coaster that goes along with that.
Staying true to the creative voice and vision that is uniquely mine. It is very easy to compromise and end up with a body of work that is contrived. The pressure comes from around us. We feel like we have to show work that people will like, or work that was done for an advert.
What do you feel has been your greatest photographic achievement to date?
I've had a few that I'm really proud of. Exhibiting in New York was a huge highlight. Getting into Lurzer's Archive Top 200 Advertising photographers this last year. And most recently having a solo exhibition in partnership with World Vision bringing awareness to the famine situation in North West Africa. That in particular was very fulfilling. The whole process of travelling up there, experiencing their hardships and seeing the result of that on their lands and families. Then putting the show together. And watching peoples reactions and interactions with the work and what I was trying to say.
If not a photographer, where would you see yourself?
Pilot or Architect
If the chance arose, who or what would you most like to photograph?
What tips or advice do you have for budding photographers?
That's a tough question. It's an extremely rewarding job when things are good. I love it. But you have to be at the top of your game and very good to be a success. In todays world there are less budgets and less need for photographers. The market is also saturated with people coming out of University and Polytech's.
So somehow you have to really stand apart. You have to have something that people want. Something that is different. In my opinion the only way to do that is to create a body of work that is a reflection of who you are and how you see the world. You need to have your own voice. There is no point trying to be someone else. Copy them by all means if you love what they do. Just make sure you do it better.
Experience counts for a lot. Like any artist, good photographers get better as they get older. They have more experience and are less encumbered by technique. The process is much more natural because of their experience.
Be patient. Be diligent. Be hungry. Be active. Set goals. Be prepared for a lot of rejection.
Don't give up!!
Has the advent of digital been beneficial or detrimental to professional photographers?
The reality is digital is where it's at. You have to move with what's happening otherwise you get left behind. I think it's been very beneficial. People can experiment more and create images that once we only could dream of creating. This is been pushed too far in a lot of peoples work. It's been taken to the extreme. Personally I can't stand overworked images. For me it's about keeping the look of the pictures natural and real. For advertising work I love it.
For a lot of personal work I love it. I can shoot as much as I want. It's immediate. But I still love inherent qualities about film. Analogue imperfection. There are often beautiful accidents that happen with film. It used to be very exciting going to lab to see what you had. The whole experience of a light and proof sheets was a little slice of magic.
Are you a fan of using flash in your work?
Yeah for sure, but not for every image. I like to mix my lighting up quite a bit. So sometimes flash is perfect. Other times I'd rather use HMI's. But I'm currently shooting a style that uses a little bit of not so subtle flash. Although you'd not really pick it.
Flash is a fantastic tool for lighting. It's powerful, fast, and effective. It's relatively easy to transport.
It does have a different feel to daylight. The light wave is much more pronounced. Sometimes this is great other times it's not.
In your opinion, what makes a good photographer?
Someone who has a strong and unique eye. A strong sense of photographic style. They're not trying to be a bit of everything to please everyone. Their work comes from who they are and what they are drawn too. It reflects the world as they see it.
You can pick a great photographers work without even seeing the credits. Their work is recognizable.
People who create images that stand the test of time. The great photographers through the ages have work that is still great.
What do you do to get away from the grind/to de-stress when things get too hectic?
It's not always that easy. Generally when things are hectic you have to be very present and involved. When the works on it's on. The key is to be relaxed in the down times and enjoy them. So if I'm not working I try and go surfing, hang out and not get stressed about not working!
What or who motivates you to keep doing what you do?
I love it and feel that I'm one of the lucky ones.
Standing on a mountain top in the South Island... Standing in the desert in Egypt... Standing in a cherry picker over a freeway. Every day is different, different locations, different people, different briefs, different challenges.
The work motivates me to keep going. The job satisfaction I get from the whole process. There is a reality too. This is how I make my living and feed my family. So there is the necessity of having to work. The good thing is I really do enjoy it.
Visit Chris's website