Artists, Amateurs, and iPhones

1월 29, 2012 at 10:05 오전 ,
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Nathalie, a model

By Maria Heater


“It’s midnight and you’re heading to the airport. But you’re in the Maldives and in a speedboat and not a taxi. The sky is choked with stars and it’s still 27 C, the sea smells warm and fresh and the driver is smiling quietly and you realize that this is a place you never imagined you’d be and a simple moment you’ll never forget.”
Such is mere taste of the life of Christopher Wadsworth, a Canadian photographer who’s worked across Europe, North and South America, and Asia. With about 13 years of professional photography behind him, he is now expanding into moving images, which he says is “simply a way to tell a ‘longer story. With photography it’s about an instance; with film it’s about moments in time.” But the equipment or means are irrelevant to Wadsworth: “Regardless of the medium, my goal is still to create images that resonate.” His first short film “The Space Between Us,” was shot in Bangkok and included in the 2009 shortlist.
It’s enough to make any person with a creative mind and a penchant for travel seethe with envy. Having your passion as your job and the planet as your office sounds like a dream for most. Why do some, like Wadsworth, realize this while others end up counting the hours till Friday?
The answer is: “Why not?” Two words that when strung together seem more like a non-no than an affirmative answer. But to Wadsworth, they’re sort of a mantra: “Those are words I carry with me and an outlook I strive to keep.” It’s simplistic for sure, but just like any photograph, there’s a story behind it.
The origin of the “why not” dates back to his earlier career as a designer. Though Wadsworth had enjoyed photography as a hobby since high school, when studying at the Ontario College of Art and Design, he opted for graphic design. After six years as a designer, a client with a limited budget reawakened his love of the craft. With insufficient funds to hire a photographer, Wadsworth did the job himself. Realizing it was time to change, he sought advice.
“I called a close friend who was a professional photographer and told him my plan. He laughed encouragingly and said ‘Why not?’”
Since then, Wadsworth has worked in Brazil, Thailand, India, Paris, New York, Miami, Chicago, Italy, Switzerland, and South Korea. Some of his high profile projects include Elle, Elle Décor, Lush, W Korea, as well as Harper’s Bazaar in Malaysia, China, Thailand, and Russia. He’s also been involved in projects as varied as the countries he’s traveled to, such as shooting high fashion, appearing on two seasons of “Canada’s Next Top Model”, photographing women’s shelters in Phnom Penh, and working with Kia here in Seoul.
About Seoul he says, “I fell in love with Seoul so fast! It’s such a great city with so many things going for it and I think Korea is really a country on the rise on so many levels… Korean film and fashion are very, very strong, on par with anything else out there.”
But as any artist will tell you, reinvention and adaptation are essential to remaining relevant and surviving in such a tough industry. It could be a change of genre or experimenting with a different medium, like Wadsworth is with film. It is also one’s exposure, which encourages evolution as both an artist and a person, as he knows firsthand.
“What has taught me the most so far has been my time on the road, mostly in Asia. Things you take for granted no longer apply, language doesn’t work as it did, gestures take on different significances. You simply have to cope and that always made me feel very alive.”
Evolution also comes from the willingness to be open to new projects and mediums. While a student back in Ontario, Wadsworth was asked by a teacher whether he was a designer or a photographer, which he now sees as ‘narrow-minded thinking as I believe one should always encourage cross pollination of ideas and fields.’
Technology has only made this cross-pollination easier and more accessible, blurring mediums and also the line between artist and amateur, which Wadsworth finds very exciting. As he describes, paint in tubes brought art outside and created Impressionism, the 35 mm allowed journalists access to images they never could have with older, bulkier equipment, and now almost everyone has a camera in their cell phone.
However, there is some resistance to this. Wadsworth discusses the response to a photographer in Iraq who shot everything on his iPhone. “Many dismissed his work as not serious… but I think they miss the point, it was a conscious decision on his part to use this tool to help him blend in with the soldiers and that allowed them to see him less as an outsider. The content of his work, what he shot, what he chose from what he shot, how he built his stories – that is what’s important.”
Paired with the Internet, this new technology has made the sharing of images as well as information available to the world. Social media sites like Facebook have sprouted a modern obsession with documenting one’s life, and pictures are no small part of that. It’s certainly made it easier for anyone with a cell phone to be a photographer, a title that Wadsworth is not possessive about.
“The difference between a professional and an amateur is that one derives their living from the craft… Being a photographer is not about the gear you own, it’s how you use it,” he explains. “In the end it’s a tool like any other and I don’t care what tool you use or what you did with it or how much icing you piled on to it, the question is: is it compelling or not?”
But what changes the game more significantly than tools or how many people call themselves a photographer, is how we can communicate our work and ideas to one another: “More importantly, we now have a way to share photos and experiences and knowledge on a global scale… before it was in fewer hands, now it’s a tutorial on youtube or a message board. I think this has given more people the opportunity to have their own ‘why not’ moments and that is a great thing.”
And what about the rare, worst case scenario, when one doesn’t have a camera? “If you don’t have a photo then you’ll probably have a good story and that in itself might be more interesting.”

For Faulhaber PR’s 10th anniversary in Toronto

From Lush 2010

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