Monday, July 6, 2009


Surf Series I - 04, 2009

“The sooner you make your first five thousand mistakes, the sooner you will be able to correct them.”

Kimon Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw

You know all the clichés about mistakes. A mistake is a stepping stone, a learning opportunity, an escape, a sign that you at least tried. Blah. Blah. Blah.

My goal is to create visual images that have an element of the unexpected about them. That doesn’t mean they defy the laws of nature and physics. Rather, they present understood things and places in a new light, through a different lens, or from an unexpected angle. I want you to see something fresh in the subjects, not be impressed by what I did. (Haven’t we seen enough HDR, faux tilt shifts and Lensbaby blurs?)

I don’t achieve this goal every time I go out to shoot. Sometimes I forget. I’m also easily distracted. I’m not like Gregory Crewdson or Cindy Sherman, who create painstakingly detailed settings in which they can control all of the elements in the camera’s view.

Most of my subjects are things you know. My inspirations are photographers like Elliott Erwitt, André Kertész and Evelyn Hofer. Erwitt comes from a photojournalism background. His reporting is superb and touching, and his personal work is infused with good humor. Kertész was a master of giving dignity and independence to everyday subjects and moments. Hofer, who one reporter suggested might be “the most famous ‘unknown’ photographer in America, presents images of places and people that capture the essence of time and space and personality.

“Hey, Chris?” You may be thinking about now. “What does this have to do with mistakes?”

Just hold on. I’m getting there.

I used to think you had to travel to find worthy photo subjects. Now I know how silly such thinking is. Accordingly, I’ve been dedicating most of my photographic time this year to re-examining familiar things and places. The Surf Series is one of the results of this.

The Surf Series is also the result of a mistake.

Last winter I hauled an old, rarely used medium format camera down to the beach to make what I’d hoped would be exquisitely detailed film images of the ocean. But I was so rusty making my settings manually that I ended up with a set of overexposed and underexposed images, all of which were additionally so blurred that I wondered if someone had switched the film.

But those blurred images suggested to me another way of looking at water. And that became the basis of the Surf Series, work that’s given me great satisfaction. If you look at the series as a slide show, you can see how it has progressed progressed from traditional shots into something that was less about the ocean and more about the organic shapes and colors.

A mistake. One of many I’ve made. Only 3,357 more to go.


  1. I think they fall into the category of "happy accidents" that you learned to develop even further. I love the Surf Series images. They're each so unique and mesmerizing.

  2. When images are blurred, i usually expect that sort of washing out veiled effect, like there;s something between ou and the image, a fine gauze or something. What amazes me about your surf series is the intensity of the colour you've retained. It makes the images far more immediate and arresting.