A Contemporary Look
A Country of Excess
America the land of opportunity where the reality is somewhat different. Over the past couple of years I ventured through the out of the way towns, looking for photographic enlightenment. I have been inspired by the work of Stephen Shore, William Eggleston and artist Jeffery Smart amongst others. These artists and photographers captured the banal urban landscapes that have been my focus for over a decade.
A Road Less Travelled
Throughout my career I have tried just about every style of photography, landscapes have always been my calling. They offer up opportunities to get out into the bush, to get away from the rat race and spend time and brain cells on being creative. I have always wanted to be a great photographer, I guess I have a healthy ego. That means it is important to get a big old slap on the back when I make a nice image. Ok, it feels good, why wouldn’t you. My wife, on the other hand, has a completely different personality, one that doesn’t need positive affirmation to be happy. I always say, “how can you be like that, don’t you want to impress your friends with your brilliance?” Weird, but no, she is happy just doing the right thing by others and the planet. I think that is so admirable but I want the rewards, the goodies, the attaboy acknowledgment from others. In a way, this has made me successful as I have to do so much to get my ego stroked!
For this reason, I am always wanting to create an image that is different in some way to what others have created. Of course, this is just a dream as almost everything has been done before. Still, the road less traveled is the one that offers up the most reward.
Finding The Composition
The hardest part, composition. You can lead a horse to water but can you make it drink? I have taught photographers for a decade but the composition is the one I think you have to feel. It is like you have to shoot 10,000 shit photos before you realize what looks good and what doesn’t.
I have so many throwaway shots but maybe more keepers than others. There is not one person I have met that gets it right every time. I don’t but keep that between ourselves. These days I feel a composition is right. The problem with digital is you are tempted to shoot something if it feels half right as it is free. Forget the cost of storing all your rubbish, that sucker is being sprayed with megapixels. What this does is make it that little bit harder to impress your friends. When I was starting out 29 years ago I remember having a meeting with some advertising guys and one bit of advice that I was told was, “only show your best work”. Lots of work isn’t impressive if half should never have been taken. Remember the other saying, less is more? So don’t pad out your portfolios with fluff. It will be at the expense of your Rib Eye steak or tempura-battered tofu, whatever is your poison.
The image above shot in San Francisco is one of my favorites. Not everyone likes it but there are stupid people in the world. Why is it so special? Well, I am glad you asked! It is because it was shot one-handed, pre focussed, pre-exposed whilst driving on a freeway through the city. Now that is frigging worth a big pat on the back. So it was probably illegal, dangerous, irresponsible and stupid but sometimes the shot is more important than doing the right thing. Actually, I don’t believe that but I got away with this one. Don’t tell my kids, I don’t want them to repeat my actions. Oh, I forgot to mention it was shot on a Phase One. Have you ever held one of those things with one hand?
Why The Banal?
You know, I don’t really know. Maybe it is the simplicity, the every day, the fact you don’t need to get up for sunrise to shoot it. It could be all of those things. But there is something about the every day that is so interesting to photograph. Maybe it is this idea of going down a road that is less traveled that appeals to me. I don’t have all the art theory to back up why I like these images, it is like composition, you have to feel it and see it. Once you do you wonder how you could have overlooked all these amazing opportunities right on your doorstep. America is home of the banal, it is a mecca for us weird lot that finds a skip bin more appealing than El Capitan.
When to shoot?
As mentioned above, these banal urban landscapes don’t require any special light. Sure everything can benefit from low angled, warm soft lighting but I actually prefer mid-morning to mid-afternoon. It allows you to sleep in, be home in time for dinner and usually eat some dodgy roadhouse food whilst out on the hunt. I have this fascination with the washed-out 50’s look you see a lot of in old historical photos and videos from America. Especially the stuff that usually records shit blowing up like massive nukes and rockets being sent to the moon. They always had the coolest looks. America is also home to the big sky. In the deserts of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico there isn’t much living, a few trees here and there, but mostly dry scrub and sand in valleys between mountain ranges. It is so perfect and the harsh light sets it all up perfectly.
Yep, America is great and probably my favorite place in the world to photograph. I must get back when the politics settle down and they build a plane that gets there in a couple of hours! I hate flying. Cattle class is no fun…….. so I have been told!!!
Publishers Note: Christian Fletcher is a friend. He’s a fantastic photographer that isn’t afraid to be different and more than anything else see different. I have had the privilege to photograph with Christian in some corners of the world, and I am always learning from him. As I mentioned, he sees different, but he also strives to make images that look different. He’s master with Photoshop, and his tutorials are excellent. We’ll see more from Christian over the coming months. He has a lot to share, and he likes sharing, which is fortunate for all of us.
Christian Fletcher has been a professional photographer for 29 years and still retains all of the passion and enthusiasm for taking a great photograph. At the core are three aspects of photography: capturing the beauty in landscapes, teaching his technical skills to others, and using his photography to reinforce the connections we all have with our natural environment. When Christian moved to Dunsborough back in 1990, he dived into photography as a career; which meant that he took photos in between paying the bills with two manual jobs not related to photography. In the pre-digital and pre-Photoshop days, Christian had to perfect working with the only tool at his disposal—his camera—which remains the essential skill in creating the best images possible even today. He ‘marinated’ himself for many years developing black and white images in a secluded darkroom in his parents’ house, and eventually started to sell his images in a local restaurant. Following six hard years of effort doing commercial, portrait and wedding photography, he was ready to give up, until he walked into a gallery in Esperance that inspired him to focus on building a gallery full of landscape images. He returned to Dunsborough with a renewed purpose, and sold his images in market stalls and in a small gallery space at the local framing shop. As his sales increased, he then established his galleries in the early 2000s and Christian Fletcher Photo Images was born. Christian has perfected the art of light, composition, colour and post processing. He believes that all great landscape images have to have the ‘perfect light’ at their core, and it is this light that he is most respected for: “Christian’s pictures are not souvenirs, but images that help us to ‘see’ and to understand landscape as art. Light literally exudes from Christian’s pictures like few others, and this luminescent enlightenment startles us with its clarity and perception”. -Les Walkling, professional photographer