Christopher Thompson - The Picture Lounge
Christopher Thompson is an escaped Aucklander, who now lives in beautiful Wanaka. He created The Picture Lounge gallery, where selected photographers can display their fine art photography.
Where are you based?
I am an escaped Aucklander, who for the last three years has happily made home and life in beautiful Wanaka, Central Otago.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
Failing miserably at painting! Seriously though - growing up (and before I got to explore the country for myself), my visual conscience of the NZ landscape was formed through the paintings of Grahame Sydney and the photographs of Craig Potton and Andris Apse. So from a young age I always tried to capture the landscape through art, but it wasn't until digital photography came of age, and a camera started to accompany me on my backcountry excursions, that I finally found a way to do justice to what I was witnessing!
How would you describe your style of photography?
All over the place! Well, maybe that's not fair - but I think it's always easier for others to see and describe your 'style' than it is for yourself. I guess I would say that I try to find the art in the landscape, rather than just a pictorial recording of the scene - often in a fairly minimalist way, attempting to capture a sense of mood, and most often through some sort of weather event - as these moments will never be repeated exactly as thus again. You won't find too many blue-sky days in my portfolio of work, but that isn't to say that clear skies can't be beautiful too!
What motivates or inspires you to keep doing what you do?
The millions of beautiful moments that present themselves in nature every day, the desire to share with others what I am lucky enough to see, learning more about the craft and the landscape, and of course the work of other - far better photographers! One of the greatest motivating rewards is seeing other people find an emotional connection to an image I have taken, whether that be through its sense of place, the story it is telling, or the emotion it attempts to convey, these are all things that inspired me to capture the image in the first instance, so seeing others take enjoyment from something that was a deeply personal moment is intrinsically very satisfying.
What gear do you use?
Canon, Manfrotto, f-Stop, Lee, and now Sigma too! I learned through Canon - from my first digital Camera - a Canon Powershot G2 (back in 2006) slowly graduating up through their cameras to now be shooting on the 5D III, however I dream of getting to a point where I can invest in a Phase One or similar!
If you had to choose only one lens, what would it be and why?
That would almost be a photographic nightmare scenario - wouldn't it? Practically speaking - I would have to say my Canon 17-40mm f4 L, as every landscaper needs a good wide lens! Emotionally speaking - I would have to say my Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art lens, this recent purchase is surprising me with its versatility - I bought it primarily for portraiture, but it's doing some beautiful work with landscapes too!
In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?
Emotional resonance - without a doubt. It usually needs all the right elements in the first instance, obvious things like composition and sound technical competence (what is that?), but a photograph needs to grab you, this can be a subtle thing or something more obvious. Personally I like one thing to take my attention and lead me into the photograph, but if it can then hold me with a sense of mood and surprise me with other discoveries within the same image, then it's all the better for it. In a landscape sense - the best images can make us feel the wind, or feel the warmth of the sun on our faces, they put us right there in the landscape with the photographer and share the feeling that he or she enjoyed when taking it. Fundamentally, if a photograph can move us in some way - then we are onto a winner!
Why did you decide to create the Picture Lounge gallery?
For some reason - traditionally NZ has been a bit slow in accepting photography as 'fine art', and many of our very talented photographers have struggled to get their work into galleries, so I decided the best solution was to create a gallery specialising in such work. Whilst most photographers will have a web presence, experiencing images beautifully printed and framed properly, in a retail environment is a far more intimate experience and form of exposure for the work.
What photographers' images are currently represented at your gallery?
The gallery currently features the work of; Craig Potton, Martin Hill, Mike Langford, Jackie Ranken, Paul Gummer, Adam Buckle, Helmut Hirler, Richard Sidey, Camilla Rutherford (nee Stoddart), Gilbert van Reenen, Jason Law, and mine!
How do you decide which photographer's work to display?
We are a little different to most galleries in that we don't hold exhibitions, but display a constantly changing set of works from our featured photographers. It is presently quite a small space, and being in a resort town, there is mostly a particular type of work that our customers are likely to respond to, so we have to be very strict in deciding what to display. We have evolved a list of people whose work we would like to represent (and always keep an eye out for exceptional talent), nearly all those we approached have been very interested in being involved, so generally submissions are by invitation only - at present most are full-time professional photographers arguably at the top of their game. It might sound a bit harsh, but for a gallery to be a viable business, the work has to be of a saleable quality, just like any other retail product.
We see vineyard photography is your personal passion, what inspired this?
What can be better than having the opportunity to combine your passions! Vineyards just seem to be inherently beautiful; they provide a uniquely graphical visual dynamic that it is a pure joy to photograph. That and... ok... a love of the product they ultimately put in a bottle! Effectively it's still landscape photography, with a very a specific purpose (to promote the vineyard), that has the added benefit of being chargeable work! I honed my skills photographing vineyards, being in a commercial situation this meant I had to learn to work very quickly, make the most of whatever the environment threw at me, whilst also portraying the beauty in a marketable sense.
You also run a graphic design business; hook. Do you often incorporate photography into your graphic design work?
Absolutely - I can't have one without the other! I'm very lucky in that I get to wear two hats, primarily as a designer, but also as photographer. Photography has always been intrinsic to my design sensibilities, long before I ever picked up a camera. I knew the value of strong imagery in design. Now, with mostly specialising in wine brand creation, design and marketing - I get the best of both worlds - it's all about utilising your passions and finding a way to earn a living from them!
What do you enjoy doing to take a break from photography?
Funnily enough, my only day off is usually spent taking photos - so I'm not too sure how to answer that question! Umm, leisure for me involves hiking, or kayaking, mountain biking and the like, all pursuits that get me outdoors - where I want to be, so if I am under an open sky, regardless of what I'm doing - I'll pretty much always still have the camera with me!
What tips or advice do you have for budding photographers?
Just the obvious stuff that I guess we hear again and again. Learn 'the rules' first - so you know how and when to break them. We are so lucky in this digital realm, because we can instantly see the results of our image making on the back of the camera, so this can make learning so much faster, if you haven't got a good image here, you will struggle to make anything better of it in post, so if it ain't great, don't accept the average result - experiment further, try again. Be super critical of your own work, question what you are doing and why. If you find yourself not achieving the results you want, do something else, you absolutely have to find your talents and your passions, and play to those. With 'everyone' being a photographer, if you really do want to make a career out of it - you will have to be an artist as well, and that means finding a unique voice or proposition. Perhaps easier said than done, but if your work is good - people will respond to it, firstly friends and family, but ultimately complete strangers, and that's hopefully when the magic begins...
Check out the The Picture Lounge for more of Christophers' an other photographers' images. You also find The Picture Lounge on Facebook.