Our photographer Chris Crisman was featured on Alex Gange’s podcast; The Photo Banter. In this hour long podcast, Crisman and Gange dive into Crismans journey to photography, his early work, his transition to advertising and what he believes the future of his career looks like. Listen to the entire podcast here. Below are some of the main points of discussion:
Crisman’s early life and development into photography career
Chris grew up in rural Pennsylvania and wasn’t really interested in photography as a child. He was big into sports in high school which led him to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for javelin. His identity at this time was attached to sports and he was studying pre-med. He took a course in photography as an elective and ended up really enjoying it and then committed and transitioned to a photography major during his third year. Everything sort of came together for him at the end of his time in school when he began assisting with Bill Kramer, for whom he attributes the jump start of his career.
Early Photography career
Crisman’s first two years working in photography were spent shooting mostly landscapes. This allowed him to focus on specific things like composition and it helped him become fluent in different photography skills before moving on to shooting portraits. He thinks of photos as a scene of a play. The environment and space add so much which helps tell the entire story of what is taking place in the foreground. So he felt that in learning how to work with landscapes, it would be a smoother transition to portrait images.
His first big project was of steel miners in Pennsylvania-inspired by Crisman’s father work as the VP of a steel workers union. Working in Bill Kramer’s studio afforded the resources to make this shoot happen. This particular shoot helped him develop his overall style.
After working with Kramer for a few years, Crisman began to work for a lot of magazines. He recalls that there was a year he did about 130 shoots for companies like Field and Stream, BusinessWeek, Fast Company and INC. Then, in 2008 he transitioned to advertising shoots.
Crisman’s transition from solo work to team based work
Crisman remembers the challenges of going from retouching and producing all your images yourself, to creating a team to complete projects. Gange asked if it was hard to pass of work to retouchers and Crisman states that it isn’t so much passing off, rather working one on one with someone who can take it on as their own since they have so much talent in that arena. Everyone he works with has different skill sets so there has been slight variation on his work which he has been trying to focus back to his style. He emphasizes how important it is to find people you can trust and that are consistent in their work.
Personal Project: Women’s Work
Crisman talks about his most recent personal project, Women’s Work which has gained a lot of traction and publicity. It evolved out a conversation he had with an art buyer in New York who was a graphic designer who decided she wanted to change careers to become a butcher. Crisman discusses how he has a tendency to paint an image in his head of people and he thought to himself how he has never seen a female butcher before. This generated a larger conversation about gender roles and professions. He also thought about how even though wardrobe might change, you photograph males and females the same. So in this shoot he wanted to photograph a butcher, not specify that is was a female butcher. It has grown to 20 or so subjects in 16 countries. He feels that in this moment in history, this sort of discussion through art is especially important.
The Future of Crisman’s Career
Crisman mentions a statistic that the average career of a photographer is 7 years. However, in his 12th year of his career, Crisman remains determined and motivated to develop his skills and style. Crisman wants to focus on making his processes a little smoother and be better at communicating goals. He wants to look at the big picture of his work and mature that aspect of his art.