Tessa Chrisp

Published 1/1/0001

Cathay Pacific 2011 Travel Photographer of the Year Tessa Chrisp shoots the breeze with Progear.
Where are you based?
On the West Coast - Piha.

How long have you been a photographer?
At 7 years old apparently I told one of my parents' friends I would be a photographer, very presumptuous of me! The friend told me much later when I got serious and was studying photography at (what is now Massey University, was Wellington Polytechnic). I've been photographing since studying, but a substantial change in direction was about 7 years ago.
Tell us a little about your style of photography.
Definitely influenced by natural light, clean compositions, captivating warmth and honesty. My work is lifestyle, profiles, architectural and travel based.  At the recent Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards I was awarded 'Photographer of the Year'. The Judge's comment was.. "a clean style and sensitivity toward her subjects set her portfolio apart as truly professional".
What have been a few interesting recent jobs you've worked on?
I was commissioned by a magazine to shoot a lifestyle feature over in the Coromandel recently. I don't know what it was but the light, the atmosphere, the waves gently folding one at a time on the shore; the old bach sitting right on the dunes, full of eclectic family bits, dinky drift wood and shell sculptures everywhere, a 70s suite in the living area. It all merged intoxicatingly and took me to a place far away from everything, even though I was chasing my subjects, the day, the light, always on the go, never stopping - it dawned on me that it felt like a holiday.

What originally attracted you to photography?
Perhaps it was the alluring mystery of my father's rural darkroom - he was a hobbyist photographer and had a dark room tucked away in an old back shed. Every now and then I was allowed inside when the red light was on to watch the tray and through the processing fluid the bit of paper magically, slowly unveiling life!

What is/has been your greatest challenge as a photographer?
Probably the change into digital, the ever changing technology and relearning. I started to get RSI from hours in post production.  I'd greatly receive more help in this area!
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
My assignment commissioned by NZ Life & Leisure magazine to Jerusalem and the 'Sisters of Compassion' is still one of my favourites. Jerusalem is a sacred, spiritual place locked into a timeless capsule, a place full of mana, honesty and simplicity. To me it is the epitome of New Zealand, the way we were, the way we should be, honest and full of integrity.

If not a photographer, where would you see yourself?
Perhaps as an art director. I painted for 10 years, my photography always supporting me and also did installation sculptural work; exhibiting twice in the NZ International Arts Festival at the Dowse Museum 'Shapeshifter' exhibition, that was a highlight, another winning the People's Choice award in a light themed sculptural trail called 'Gleem', and my work becoming part of the prestigious James Wallace Art Collection.  Who knows I may dedicate some more time to it.

If the chance arose, who or what would you most like to photograph?
An assignment documenting a place and its people, filled with integrity and sensitivity to the subjects, for a lengthy time with a decent budget would be a dream!

What tips or advice do you have for budding photographers?
Understand your style and what you are interested in.

Has the advent of digital been beneficial or detrimental to professional photographers?
If you didn't have a darkroom, you relied on the labs. It is my opinion that digitally photographers have gained more control in the processing and quality of their images. On the flip side it means more time in post production.
Can you see clients moving from stills to video, with the advent of HD video capabilities in digital SLRs?
Yes, the demand of the market, the advent of 'devises' and how we view media will sway it. But personally I would still far rather pick up my magazine or newspaper while having a cup of tea in a bach, caravan or tent than pick up the ipad or iphone to read my magazine, call me old fashioned!
Are you a fan of using a flash in photography?
Not as much as natural light - I spent years working in studios. I am just so taken by natural light, its warmth and the way it changes dramatically effecting your subjects and the way you shoot..
What do you do to get away from the grind/to de-stress when things get too hectic?
I go to the North Island's deepest Lake,  surrounded by native bush and no baches. It sits 600 metres above sea level, can change to a tumultuous sea at the drop of a hat. I go and camp there with some of my family where no one can access except by boat. The place is extremely spiritual, full of historical bloodshed and warfare. It's got a presence, not just a beauty and it totally revitalises me. Otherwise a little bach right by the sea, one wave at a time is all I need.

Tessa's website


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