Interview photographer Chris Thomson
- Rowald: How are you today?
- Chris: I have just returned my European base in
Southern Spain after a one month shoot in Miami, the Bahamas and the Florida
Keys so this is a good time to talk as I am editing and not shooting this week
- Rowald: How long have you been into
- Chris: Too Long! I started my apprentiship in a
studio in London in the "Swinging Sixties" Cleaning the studio and making cups
- Rowald: How did you start?
- Chris: I Started my own studio in London in 1970
when I was approached by Terence Conran (Now Sir Terence Conran) to set up a
studio to shoot the product Catalogues for HABITAT his international chain of
furniture stores and the CONRAN Shop.
- Rowald: What type of photos are your
- Chris: My background and training was lighting
studio still life and Tabletop shooting on 8 x10 large format cameras creating
images for press billboards and advertising campaigns for major international
Ad agencies, but in the mid 1970s I was offered an opportunity to shoot the
Heineken Calendar featuring nude girls in exotic tropical locations. Because of
the success of this and other Glamour calendars that I shot that year my career
changed from working in a dark studio on large format to shooting on beaches
worldwide with 35mm film cameras and I was sponsored by OLYMPUS Cameras and
- Rowald: Are your photos more your taste or
demand from others?
- Chris: I have always shot my style - simple
graphic images with strong colours and attention to lighting, this in turn
created a demand for my style of imagery from my clients the advertising
- Rowald: Do you develop scenery ideas with
the models or more yourself?
- Chris: I usually have a basic visual idea once I
have chosen the country, location and models for a particular shoot, then I
expect the model to contribute also once she is in front of the camera.
Originally polaroid, and now digital playback really helps photographers and
models to fine tune the shoot before the final images.
- Rowald: Do you try to create, display or
express something special with your photos?
- Chris: I try to tell a story with my images and I
like to give the viewer enough information so that they are encouraged to
finish the story with their imagination. My main aim is to visually entertain
- Rowald: Would you like to do other
- Chris: I have shot studio still life, drinks,
food, cars, trucks, fashion, industrial & architecture which are all great
experience and training for the genre that I enjoy best - photographing
- Rowald: Are you a tech freak or an
- Chris: I am technically educated and trained in
Photography and am a engineer and problem solver. Photography is a technical
medium for creating artistic images so if you are technically ignorant your
ability to create visually what you imagine will be limited by lack of
knowledge how to create the best result with what you have available. I keep
informed technically but I am not a tech freak.
- Rowald: Do you use a lot of equipment or
try to stay light-weight?
- Chris: As I work mainly on location I only take
what I can carry (about 50 Kilos) including lights, props, Mac laptop and
minimal clothing! This is especially important now with luggage and security
- Rowald: Do you do analog photography
- Chris: I was trained on large format film and as
a darkroomel, food & Wine technician, but commercially I have been digital
for about six years. Black and white printing is still my hobby.
- Rowald: What cameras do you use?
- Chris: I always find this a strange question! I
started my career with a wood and brass plate camera on which I viewed an
upside down image under a black cloth. Then I went to medium format with
Hasselblad. After that Olympus sponsored me for years with the last of their
excellent film cameras the OM4. I now use Canon Digital, but none of this
matters! Photographers should use what they like, at certain price levels
cameras are all pretty good. The important thing to remember is that it is the
imagination and eye of the person behind the camera that makes the image - NOT
the camera. You can take a great image on a $10 throw away camera and at the
same time many people spend a fortune on expensive cameras and still take lousy
- Rowald: What are your hobbies?
- Chris: Photography, I still take personal photos
for enjoyment. Travel, Food & Wine are a close second.
- Rowald: What are your plans or visions for
- Chris: To produce more Photo books, not how to
do, just photos!
- Rowald: How do you get along with
- Chris: I usually shoot female models, and I like
female company and the female mentality so usually I get on well as I like
shopping with them for props, shoes and clothes.
- Rowald: I think you traveled a lot. Where
did you go to?
- Chris: Where have I not been? over 35 years of
travelling I have shot on all continents apart from Antarctica and in over 100
- Rowald: How does one make such good photos?
Can you give some tips to the readers?
- Chris: Easy advice, but not so easy! The best
advice is to study the arts, movies, painting, graphics & photography. See
what affects you visually and try to analyze why an image is successful. Do not
try to copy someone elses style exactly, that is just plagiarism, see what
works and use that as a basis for your own ideas and imagination.
- Rowald: People envy you doing these
shootings with models. What do you say to this?
- Chris: I am very fortunate and I enjoy what I do
but it is not for most people who like a comfortable structured existence. I
spent the first 5 years working other jobs to make money to work as a photo
assistant virtually unpaid but for a unique apprenticeship training. I work
irregular hours, sometimes 24 hours at a time often nights and weekends. when I
was married, my wife was very understanding but often did not see me for a
month and then only for a few days before I was off on another job. Any social
arrangements that I might have, theatre, dinner dates etc. are cancelled more
often than not at the last minute because of work! Anyone who envies this
should seriously consider not being married or in a real relationship, living
alone is the best option.
- Rowald: Wanna give some tips for up coming
- Chris: Have a day job and treat photography as a
hobby. If you want to take up photography commercially work for another
photographer as an assistant, unpaid if necessary first. There are many good
photographers out there and not much work so do not expect to make a good
living even if you are good. Luck and being a good businessman are more
important for success that being just a creative image maker.
- Rowald: What you think about photos taken
- Chris: I am always excited by other peoples
photos because you can always find exciting images and not just from
professionals, some of the most interesting images come from amateurs with a
- Rowald: What is your best photo?
- Chris: My next shoot, I have not done my best yet.
I am always trying to improve and learn something new each day
- Rowald: How do you create a good atmosphere
- Chris: Organization, planning and calm. Models
react well to feeling good, they perform better, look better and are less
inhibited if you look after them and keep them informed about the shoot. I make
them feel appreciated and compliment them when it is deserved. Creature
comforts are also important for motivating models, good music food and some
wine also helps.
- Rowald: Do you have ethnic
- Chris: I appreciate all types of women, I like
the sculpted bonestructure and clear skin of some Asian girls. Fit Black girls
often have amazing muscle tone and posture. Eastern European girls often have a
elegant quality which is unique, and I love the sensuous sexy character of
Latin women. My least favourite and usually most disappointing because they
look superficially interesting are the bleached blond silicone Baywatch clones
who are somehow inhibited so you have this fake exterior and no personality
inside! Real Scandinavian blonds are great!
- Rowald: When meeting a girl, where do you
look first at?
- Chris: I usually video a girl for a couple of
minutes while talking to her at a casting from this I can see if she is at ease
with her body and can move easily. Conversation is also important and usually
gives some clue to intellect, as communication eye as well as conversation is
important to good images. Communication is international, some of the best
models that I have worked with do not speak much English or any other language
that I have in common with them but they can communicate with the camera.
- Rowald: What attracts or inspires you?
- Chris: I am attracted initially to the physical
"Golden Mean" with a girl, body tone, defined waist, and proportional bust and
hips, then comes the eyes and the communication that I explained.
- Rowald: Do you let them pose or do you
- Chris: I like to direct initially, but not pose
as I like my model to move as I shoot and I like them and use there imagination
to give me there own look
- Rowald: Any special preferences in scenery
- Chris: I like simple minimal locations, deserts,
coral beaches, waterfalls primary strong colours. none of this looks good in
flat light, give me strong clear sunlight!
- Rowald: Are there models you don't like to
- Chris: Of course! Primadonnas, girls who think
that they know best and tell me how good they are but have bad skin or are out
of condition with ruined hair and broken fingernails and bruises and worse
dirty wardrobe. Should I go on?
- Rowald: Where are you from?
- Chris: I am British but was born overseas as my
father was in the army and I was moved every two years around the world as a
child, I do not live anywhere now for long, my suitcase is my home.
- Rowald: Do you or did you have idols?
- Chris: Of course, Irving Penn, the father of
modern commercial photography and Richard Avedon.
- Rowald: Are you single?
- Chris: I have to be, who would put up with me and
- Rowald: Happiest Accomplishment?
- Chris: My first Billboard!
- Rowald: Do you have or pursue other
- Chris: I love to cook and entertain, even on
location with models I will cook or barbecue at the villa in the evening after
- Rowald: Favorite Movie or Television
- Chris: Blade Runner
- Rowald: Preferred color, food and
- Chris: Primaries and contrast, Honest well cooked
peasant food and good red wine
- Rowald: Do you speak any language besides
- Chris: French badly, some Spanish Italian and
- Rowald: How would you describe your
- Chris: Private, Just a few real friends
- Rowald: Wanna give a final shout out?
- Chris: Remember most people never realize their
potential, life is a gamble so you must believe in yourself and follow your
dreams. You only get one chance, don't waste it!