Portfolio review: interview with.. Christopher Whitfield

Photos by Christopher Whitfield

“Christopher Whitfield is a photographer and writer from Portland, Oregon, via London, England. He takes his photos in the summer, and thinks about them in the winter. Currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand.”

When did you start to think about photography?
I don’t think I started to think about photography until a couple of years after I had been taking pictures on a regular basis – photos of friends ad days mostly. I think I experienced a turning point when I was suddenly very aware of how incongruous my subjects could be with their surroundings, and this pushed me to really strip my photos down to a fundamental point. I think it is in my nature for any point I try and make to be extremely vague. This is when I started omitting faces and clothing from my work, and my composition became more formless. I think during this shift, my photography lost a lot of its potential for documentation, and in some ways I’m sad at this because I value the practical nature of that kind of photography. I appreciate nostalgia.

What does photography mean to you? and which kind of photography do you like more?
Photography I think is twofold. On the one hand I think it serves as a way to manipulate the way we experience time, picking one instant out above others and valuing it in some way. On the other I think it’s a tool for regimenting vision, imposing a perspective. This is how I use it, to force people into viewing something in a specific way, often in a way that tries to revoke connotation as completely as I can achieve. I think it would be nice to work in both ways simultaneously, to create an image of life that resonates personally but without a sense of specificity, but I think you’d have to be in a pretty special place emotionally to manifest these situations in your life. I think it is important to have photographic ideals that dictate lifestyle, and vice versa.

When you take a portrait, what is important for you?
It’s important for me to be excitable and playful and engaged. I like to feel the sense of the day as an event, and feel completely entrenched in it with the people I’m with. I need a sense of closeness and intimacy to understand the bodies of the people I’m shooting to the benefit of the picture, but also to inspire a motivation to work on the pictures. I do a lot of editing after the fact in terms of framing and orienting the picture, and I have to feel like I’m creating a relic in testament to something I loved in order to bother with all of that. I think this is where the idea of circumstance comes through in my photography even if it isn’t explicitly visible in the photo itself. It makes me less lazy.

Do you think it’s important to follow a school to learn how to shoot?
Not particularly, but I think it’s vital to be attached to people with whom you are involved creatively. It’s important to have other people as stimulus, and to grow together. To form a community. I think this kind of ensures maximum scope for your work.

What’s the photo you want to take and you never did?
The one when the roll is spent is always perfect.

What’s your photo-mission?
I think right now my intention is to use my photography to ensure a lifestyle that me, and the people closest to me will benefit from creatively and I guess in other aspects also. To drive things aesthetically, to use aesthetics as motivation, and let more complex things flourish from there.

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