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CHRISTOPHER WADSWORTH

FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER

TORONTO, CANADA

 

 

  

 

 Christopher is an innovative fashion photographer, traveling to exotic locations. Christopher work has been featured in top fashion magazines such as; Cleo, Elle and  Harper’s Bazaar to mention a few. 

A couple of months ago, Christopher shared with me that he has been exploring the moving picture.  When I viewed the short film, I was immediately drawn to the concept.  “During my fashion shoots I get to see wonderful things through the viewfinder that no one else can share. There are these incredible subtle transitions of emotion as we move from one frame to the next and now I find myself drawn to these fleeting moments 'between'."   Be sure to check out the videos featuring models; Sydney, Drea, and Dajana.


Exclusively Fashion Magazine: Can you tell me how you were drawn to photographer?

Christopher Wadsworth: When I was younger I used to borrow my Dad's SLR and snap photos when I could grab a roll of film.  My grandmother used to paint.  She was the artist in the family, and sometime when I was about 12 she looked at a photo I had done of a palm tree and said that I had found a very different way of looking at it. That simple encouragement was enough to spur me forward.

EFM: Where do you reside?

CW: Currently I am based in Toronto, but travel when I can, mostly to South East Asia. I was based in Bangkok for a few years and still maintain a few clients and many friends there.

EFM: What style of camera do you use and why?

CW: I have always felt that the camera is like a brush or sometimes even a hammer.  It isn't the tool it's the hand that guides it that is most important. And with the world gone "post" crazy it is becoming even less relevant.  I have seen wonderful work in hi and lo-fi, it's the idea that is paramount. For me in the beauty/fashion world it is most refreshing when I actually see real skin, even if it has been cleaned.  How many of us have friends who personally re-touch their snaps before they post them on social media? But I digress; to answer the question the majority of my work is done on a Canon 5D Mark II.  For me it was the ideal combination of cost (considering I will flip it in 2 to 3 years), ruggedness (again, if I drop it, sink it etc., it's not a Mark III) and features, in this case the ability to film in a wonderfully shallow depth of field in very little light.  I own a Mamiya 6 x 7 which was my key tool for years and I still run some film through it and occasionally visit a darkroom.  I have about 4 other cameras that see only rare use. I'll probably purchase or rent a 1ds Mark IV when they release it, as it seems there is a gain about 2 stops in usable speed. Which means, I can shoot in more and more locations without lights, again this is more relevant to filming that stills. If I am shooting a beauty campaign I may use a phase one for its larger file and the greater colour range, but for editorial I don't need this and right now I feel there is more growth happening in the 35mm world.

EFM: As a photographer, did you find it hard to break into this industry?

CW: Looking back over 11 years now it seems easy as I have the benefit of hindsight.  But I never doubted I could do it.  What also helps me is that I spent 6 years as an Art Director/Designer before picking up the camera again.  I knew my clients world and their language, and that made things much easier.  When I left design I picked up a course or two, one introduced me to models and make-up artists and how to run strobe without electrocuting myself and the other taught me how to print colour.  Again, here my design experience helped as I was used to judging colour on a press and in proofs and adjusting it.  What separated me from most of the other students was I knew that I wanted to be a pro, so I shot more, did more, set out on more ambitious shoots. Malcom Gladwell talks of 10,000 hours required to achieve mastery of something and simply put, this means time in the saddle.  The more you do something, especially with intent, the more fluid it becomes. My 1st year was all about wondering if I had exposed my film properly and should I push here or pull there. By year two I could stop thinking about that and focus on composition. When that became easier I could start to direct and articulate what I was looking for to my subject. This last aspect is a life's work.

EFM: What was your first big break?

CW: Two local magazines, one was a fashion magazine that sent me out doing a wide variety of topics and subjects and the second was about design and interiors.  They helped me to build a solid first professional portfolio.  The next life changing was my third year of shooting. I had
had a solid year of good work and a few decent money jobs that paid for my gear, and then I had a very good job with a buyout.  I had gone straight from art school to design (6.5 days a week) to shooting.  I had never travelled. So I started making plans and about 3 months
later left for South East Asia with a small back pack of clothes and 2 pelicans of my gear. Some much came of that start.  Travel brought me out of my shell, it taught me the world is a much friendlier place than the news would have you believe and it provides such perspective.  The best thing about travel is that it puts you off balance, you spend time adapting, comparing what is the same and what is different from home and your comfortable cultural assumptions no longer apply.  It made me much more of an extrovert, and it allowed for much growth and personal introspection.  There were a lot of luminal moments during that period.  One shoot in particular had a crew of about 35 and we were running three groups of models at the same time, that way one group could be changing while another was being photographed. I had
to continually think 2 to 3 shots ahead of what I was doing, planning for shifting daylight and conditions, all of which was possible as I had a great team with me and a very supportive editor.






EFM: What or who gives you inspiration?

CW: There are a few ways I express this.  The first is Truth.  That is whether or not something I am looking at, reading, tasting, watching or someone I am speaking to, feels authentic and genuine.  In the simplest sense is the smile I see authentic.  What I look for when I cast is someone with emotional range, someone who will give me a wide variety of expressions and tensions that feel right to me on a gut level.  I work in very staged environments. I bring in lights, elaborate clothes and make-up and frankly not always very believable scenarios.  Why would any woman wear 6 inch heels on a river bed filled with jagged rocks? All of that could be very ridiculous if there wasn't something in the model's face or body language that drew
you in.  I look /live for that moment in a image where I "fall" into it.  It is the point where I suspend my disbelief and simply follow the story along.

The other way I look at this is from a note I wrote to myself after watching a couple: "the space between us".  I am fascinated by body language and the little ways in which we either welcome someone in or keep them at a distance.  It is a beautiful thing to watch a couple that is in tune come together.  Today I watched a woman greet her boyfriend; she reached up and slowly stroked his cheek.  The warmth of that gesture spoke volumes to me. It is these little moments that I like to bring into what I am shooting, sometimes it is as simple as a bend to the wrist and a curl of the fingers, but that little adjustment completes things.  That is why it is important, even during a beauty shoot, for a model to use her whole body; all that energy comes back up
and out through the eyes.  That is the truth that I look for in the fiction.

I carry a notebook and not a camera. When I use the camera on my phone it's to remember something like a scaffolding set-up or a place to return to and stage a shoot. Ideas come from random sighting and collisions; something I see or overhear and that sparks an idea and my
mind runs with it.  If I write them down I don't lose them and if I don't shoot them right away I always have that bank to go back to and mine.

Lastly, I am only as good as the people I work I with and usually better because of it.  The energy of a creative team is very exhilarating; the sum is greater than the parts.  I am privileged to have the trust of many people and that is important to remember.  A
client is believing that I will “do my thing" and then push it forward past the expected.  A model is trusting me to bring out his or her best side, even if the way they are contorting or behaving seems strange or off.  The beauty team is trusting me to make their work shine.  I am trusting their skill and abilities and their tastes and fashion sense and we are all mixing this together. So I look for creative people who are positive and energetic and participators. I try and keep an open set, as someone else's perspective can send you off in a new and unexpected direction.  All this talent, this volatile creative collision, comes together and when I am lucky, helps push a
story past what I hoped for or first saw in my head.

EFM: Do you like shooting on location or in studio? Why?

CW: I shoot both, but prefer location, unless I can build a set.  I find it simply brings more depth to a story when you have a location.  It is a secondary character, it gives a model something to push back against, a hook, if you will, and that gives them a path to travel down.

EFM: Can you define your personal style as a photographer?

CW: No, I'll leave that to someone else to decipher.  I love the company of smart women and I have a respect for and a fascination with them.  My work comes from that more than anything else.  I choose fashion, as I get to tell stories with it.  I see strength and sensuality in the women I take photos of and like to keep something hidden too.  That way there is always something more to know about the character.  The actual way the photo may look may change depending on what it is I wish to say at that point in time.

I want to elaborate on the hidden point.  To me it's about questions, not answers.  If you see someone walk down the street ahead of you, you only know part of the story, for me this spurs my imagination.  I have only some of the information and my mind tries to complete the rest
based on conjecture.  This is very deep in us on a biological level, were we to judge very quickly if someone is a friend or foe.  What does there gait tell you, light and flowing or heavy? Are they moving quickly with purpose or idly?  Do they dress to show or to hide?  I'll quickly notice this and then style clues, is their hair healthy and cut well, are their shoes practical or are there little details that show a certain flare and playfulness.  All this helps me quickly form
some point of view, and it can very well be inaccurate, but it's my reaction that is more important to me here, about this person.  But I don't know for sure and that not knowing is what is most fascinating.  That means there is always something more to learn.

This also relates to some of my influences.  Most of my books in the professional sense are about film and not photography.  Stills from movies always seem to have a context to them, an emotional resonance.  They are filled with clues that suggest a larger whole.  The films I
like most are the ones that bring you into a complete world with complex characters and you have to figure them out for yourself.  People are rarely one level and I appreciate a character that is the same way.  My favourite films seem to begin at the end and end at the beginning, slowly leading you back to some loose understanding of what you first saw.  It is interesting to me that you have spoken with
Wing Shya (I always wondered who did the lush still work for Kar Wai, Props!) because Wong Kar Wai is one of my top directors.  His films are the complete package to me, original arresting visuals, costumes, design, with wonderful acting and ambiguities.  He leaves things unfinished, when his films end my mind runs ahead and tries to see where the arc of the character will continue to.  I become involved and participant because I am left to interpret.  Questions not answers.

Not all of work has this or may even succeed in this, but this is the background level of thought that goes through my head when I work, this is what colours my approach to most things.

EFM: Do you think it’s important to have an agent? Why?

CW: Yes. I think it is important to have the right agent who will know where to place your work and able to see where it can evolve to.  From a business point of view, someone else can be promoting while you are working your billable hours.

EFM: What advice would you give to an aspiring fashion photographer?

CW: Practice. The more you do something the better you will become, the easier it is to hold more in your head at one time.  Mushashi said, practice until you forget and I believe it to be true.  11 years as a professional and time on the planet have taught me that the other simple lesson is time.  Time gives perspective, you simply have more experience to draw upon and assess with.  So give yourself time to learn.  What you know now you will know more of later, what you do now you will do better.


  "Canadian Modeling Agency Chantale Nadeau enquired Christopher to film model Sydney to show off her presence before she headed to New York for show season.  Christopher jumped at the chance; saying: “It is simple and direct and Sydney carries it off beautifully.  That quickly led to "Drea" who I had always wanted to work with. With Drea I was interested in seeing if I could layer in more of an emotional storyline in a very short period of time and Drea delivered.”

Christopher pointed out that with both moving pictures, he had ‘no crew’ for both Models: Sydney and Drea.

See videos

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Interview by Rochell “E” James


   
 
 

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