I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing people and I absolutely love what I do. Here’s a little interview I did with Junnktank Magazine that I thought explains more about what I do and why I do it. This relates to the portrait work I do, shooting with people and getting to know them.
Q Chris, putting your vision out there takes a fair amount of confidence. It’s not always easy. Where do you draw your confidence from, has it always come naturally to you, and what are some of the things you do when you get in a rut and your confidence wanes?
A. That’s true, it’s not easy, with so many images uploaded these days it easy to start comparing yourself to other photographers and creatives. I wasn’t very confident when I first started, I’ve been shooting for many years but really focused on it the last 2-3 years. I think like with most things, confidence grows over time, the more you do something the more confident you get with it, you’ve just got to take that first step and put yourself out there. Not everyone is going to like what you do and the main thing is to not let that get to you. If you’re a photographer, shoot for you, shoot what you love to shoot, if you’re shooting stuff because you think others will like it, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. If you’re a model, model as much as you can, step outside your comfort zone and try new things. Confidence can be a tricky one with many aspects of life affecting it. I draw most of my confidence from learning, learn as much as you can, shoot as much as you can, over and over again. If I’m in a rut or just not motivated to do anything, I surround myself with other creatives that will give you the push you need to get back into gear or just have those people around and they’ll naturally create an environment that lifts you up. Sometimes when you think too hard about something or try and force something, it doesn’t always have the desired outcome. The other thing I do is study other photographers, models, creatives, the hard part with that is not comparing yourself to others but learning what they do and adapting it to work for you. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask to work with people you admire, ask to shoot brands that you like, the worst thing that can happen is they say no but if you don’t ask you’ll never know and there’s nothing better for that boost of confidence than when you get a yes response. I did this exact thing last year and ended up becoming an Olympus Visionary, so keep pushing yourself.
Q While not your only focus, women do play an important role in your work. What was it about women that initially drew you in and encouraged you to focus on them in your art?
A. My favourite images are the ones that make you feel something, moody, emotive, vulnerable images that you connect with. For me, photography is a release, a creative outlet where I can explore my own feelings and thoughts through my images. I found that women are amazing at conveying mood in images, they can have a softness and vulnerability to them while being strong and powerful at the same time. As I shot with more and more models, my motivation started to change from not just be an outlet for me but an outlet for them also, giving them an opportunity to express themselves and create something really meaningful together, which in turn lead to them being more confident in themselves. I love empowering women and while a lot of my work involves nudity, there’s no sexual element to it (or at least there’s not from my point of view) Naked doesn’t always mean sexual and there’s a distinct line between creating something natural and artistic and something that just objectifies and sexualises women.
Q Communication can be just as important as your technical skills as a photographer – the ability to convey your ideas clearly is key. Can you take us through that process of finding your voice? How do you approach it so you get the absolute best out of your subjects?
A. Absolutely! Communication is everything, especially when working with models. Trust is the other key factor. I treat and approach models how I would anyone else in my life. I’m open and honest with what I’m trying to achieve and sometimes that’s not every models taste which is completely fine, I’d rather work with someone who wants the same outcome and is open to ideas rather than someone who is reluctant or uncomfortable with a concept. Never surprise models with random ideas during a shoot, for example you’re shooting some fashion and then you try and get the models to shoot nude. I’ve heard so many horror stories from models and I just don’t understand why a photographer would want to make a model uncomfortable when shooting, that’s never going to have a great outcome. I get the best out of my subjects by creating an environment that they feel comfortable and happy in, free from judgement, where they can be themselves without worry. I try and make them laugh and I’ll alway shoot with music playing. Talk to them, let them know about the light, the framing, show them the images during the shoot, the more you make them feel part of it, the more they will open up and relax. Never ever criticise them for anything they might do while shooting, this only creates doubt in their mind and it snowballs from there. If I’m shooting and something isn’t working the way I’d like, I just change it up, change angles, change outfits, just change something to get the model to adjust, don’t tell them they’re doing something wrong.
Q You mentioned the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone, in terms of fashion and wardrobe, do you find you gravitate to certain looks and styles over others? Which ones have proven to have the greatest learning curve?
A. When I first started, I wanted to shoot everything, all styles, working with anyone who would give me the opportunity to push myself and try new things. Over time you naturally find your style and work out what you like to shoot. I definitely prefer to shoot a more natural style, and really love stripping people back to almost nothing. you can see a change come over people when they don’t have anything to hide behind and it’s a good challenge to help them build confidence and start to feel comfortable in just their skin. I’d like to push myself to learn and develop more high end fashion content but it feels so unnatural and posed that I avoid it most of the time and the post work is so much more involved, it’s completely opposite to my natural editing style.
Q What are some of the qualities you look for in a model or a potential collaborative partner? Do you go by certain aesthetics and criteria or do you approach things on a more case by case basis?
A. It’s more a case by case basis for sure. I don’t really look for any particular aesthetic qualities, if I seek a model out, I’ll generally have a look at their previous work and get a feel for what they like to shoot and how they convey emotion and mood in images. My ideal model is someone who wants the same outcome as I do, they’re open minded and willing to push themselves to create something special. Most people can get a feel for my style when they see my work, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea which I can totally appreciate, so I quickly discover what they are comfortable with. If models contact me then I know that they must like some of my work so we’ll discuss concepts and what they’re happy shooting and take it from there.
Q Please complete the following sentence. One of the most challenging aspects of my work but one that I am truly grateful for is: (and why)
A. Empowering people and helping them build confidence in themselves. I recently shot with a good friend of mine who is a brilliant photographer and let’s me shoot her sometimes. She said something to me after I sent her some images that has stuck with me since. She said I capture something in people that they need to see in themselves. I was so grateful for what she said and there’s really no better feeling than seeing and hearing the joy in people when they see what we created together. I’ve had a number of shoots now where people have allowed me to shoot them in some of the most vulnerable times in their life and there’s nothing more humbling. It’s a huge challenge to get people to feel comfortable and feel good about themselves. To get them to stop comparing themselves to others and start to really enjoy being who they are.
Q Are you optimistic about the future? (Feel free to get philosophical here or just tell us what you have coming up)
A. Totally, the future is looking bright (except for Americans unless they get rid of Trump ;). For me personally, I’ve got an amazing family, 2 adorable kids and a beautiful and supportive wife. I’m super excited to develop and explore opportunities with Olympus Australia and continue to build my work and keep learning. I’ve had a few enquiries about mentorship, workshops, assistants etc (which I still find so bizarre) so I’m looking to run a couple of workshops/collaborations this year, bringing a bunch of creatives together to learn from each other and explore ideas. I’m overseas a bit this year, so I’m hoping to arrange some shoots while I’m away, I think it’ll be great to shoot somewhere completely new and different. I think the future for the industry is bright, we live in an image based world where there’s never been a time people, businesses, organisations etc require so much content for socials and marketing.