For our eleventh interview we’ve asked Chris Whitney to share his thoughts on photography.
It found me, although it may have been inevitable. My Dad, a photog, gave me his used Brownie for a special Christmas present when I was eight. I worked at Yellowstone Park during a summer in college, marvelling at my friends’ 35 mm SLRs and purchased my own just after graduating. That was one of the best purchases of my life.
I shoot quite a bit on my phone. It’s right with me as life happens, and that’s when it’s time to shoot.
Digital vs film still a topic?
For me yes. I love heading out with my large format 4×5 film camera. Theres nothing like looking at thhe image focused on the back of it’s 4×5 plate glass. The image is an upside down abstraction, and I hide under the focusing cloth admiring it, hoping I will not make a mistake somewhere in the dozen or so steps it requires to capture the image. I went almost 2 years without using it, but it’s sitting by the door ready to accompany me on a trip to Iceland tomorrow. My digital SLR will be there too, ready to capture the night sky, ready to blink a few hundred times and let me see the landscape a different way. One way, I will slow down, one way speed up like I’m twirling in a 360 degree panoramic seeing all I can see. But I hope to start slowing down with the digital, letting my large format inform my digital shooting more.
Is the equipment important?
My digital is bottom of the line, Canon T2i. It uses a “secondary” sensor called the imagination. I find it works well when it works.
How did you learn to photograph?
My first class was an adult ed class in 1983. There, i learned the meaning of an fstop and how aperture and shutter speed worked. I took a couple art classes at the university, shooting BW and watching images evolve in the darkroom soup. Then I joined a camera club and spent almost every weekend photographing with my Dad. That’s when I learned photography wasn’t about nailing images and capturing trophies. If I could go back just for a day and spend it running around with my Dad, I would. And we did for his 80th birthday last year.
Are photographs taken or made?
Both. My good friend Jan Isachsen calls them “snaps”. Once you’ve done something thousands of times, it becomes a natural process to let the camera become a natural extension of your thoughts. Often, it is no longer technical for me, I just see how light is playing out and become part of it.
Is photography art?
Yes, for sure. I think it stimulates the brain just like in a painter. And then, the photographer creates. Photography is a creative process.
Where do you go to look at photographs?
90 percent on line these days, where I post and study images. Facebook, Instagram, webpages, blogs, image searches. I enjoy reading BW magazine, and peruse the pages of Outdoor Photographer, Rangefinder, Digital Photo. I really like the images published in The Sun magazine. And I like photo books. I still enjoy sitting down and going through Gaen Rowell’s books from time to time.
Who is it for you or them?
It is for both and I think that is why photography has a unifying theme. During the act of engaging life with their cameras, photographers are also engaging the lives of others.
Chris Whitney’s website