Chris Fatseas is an Australian fashion photographer whose editorial pieces more closely resemble stills from a movie. Read on as we chat about Chris’ inspirations, how much preparation goes in to a shoot and dreaming in CinemaScope…
How long have you been shooting and what first attracted you to fashion photography?
I bought my first camera nine years ago but started taking it more seriously/treating it as a profession and art form about five years ago. My first paid work in photography was for automotive magazines but I quickly transitioned into fashion after realising that the combination of interesting fashion design and talent could be powerful tools for storytelling and artistic expression.
Your work has a very cinematic feel — like looking at a still from a Ridley Scott movie; do you draw inspiration from the cinema for your shoots?
For sure, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has been hugely influential on my perspectives and approach to photography. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was really significant for me too (I’m a real science fiction nerd at heart). I often get the strange sense in the world of fashion photography that aesthetic beauty inspires aesthetic beauty with little else in between. What I find so inspiring about these great directors is their ability to draw on the less tangible aspects: emotions, character and narrative as a way of informing aesthetic considerations. Lighting thick with mood and compositions you can feel working to highlight the skill of the actors and story. It’s the way they can make the complex and intangible so easily accessible to the viewer; even before the character walks on screen, you’re engaged with the story.
What has been the high-point of your career to date?
The day that I decided it was time let go of all the bullshit surrounding what fashion is, what art isn’t, what’s good photography, what’s bad lighting, how to play ‘the game’. There’s all of this false logic like “Fake it till you make it”, “It’s all about the clothes”, “It’s all about the model” and “It’s who you know, not what you know” etc. Your head can so easily get full of all of this crap. The breakthrough happened on a shoot a few years ago – I felt like I’d finally emptied my head of the confused logic that wasn’t my own. There was a profound difference in picking up the camera and seeing through it with my own eyes.
Edwin Land said, “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail”; have you ever had a shoot that went completely awry and what were your learnings from it?
When I was first getting started in fashion, I had a few shoots that were spectacular failures. I never initially respected photography as an art form and so each time I picked up the camera I missed that connection. It was a shallow focus. Generally the biggest failures occurred when I was doing a shoot to please someone else or working on a concept I had little interest in myself. It’s much harder to produce something you’re happy with when you’re constantly thinking about what someone else might like or what might make them happy. The biggest learning was to let go of the idea that having a personal vision and perspective was selfish.
Fashion photography evolves quickly and the number of fashion photographers and outlets for work is growing exponentially; how do you stay ahead of the game in this industry? How do you ensure that your work gets noticed?
I imagine a giant ladder with everyone clambering for a rung to get a foot up. Then I imagine myself sitting on a patch of dirt beside it looking up in confusion. Then you realise there are a bunch of other people sitting in the dirt with you, and that they are your real audience.
How much preparation goes into one of your magazine editorials? Do you develop the concept yourself or in collaboration with others? Talk us through a typical shoot day.
I generally like to take the lead with the initial conceptualisation to ensure that it’s an idea I’m personally connected to. It makes it much easier to daydream in the world you’re imagining and let yourself be absorbed by that process. From there it grows quite organically based on the resources available and the model we cast. More recently, my partner Kelly has been really involved with the shoots too, taking the lead in styling and helping to build sets. Having other people around you that believe in you and understand your perspectives should never be underestimated – I’m always grateful for the pool of talent in the entire team.
When it comes to the day of the shoot, it’s so important that I’ve been able to get all of the thinking and preparation out of the way. In studio, for example, the set will be finished with ample time to test lighting and consider how each look would best be shot. Generally, it ends up being a week or two of thought and preparation before shoot day; but on the day it is best if the thinking stops. I shoot by feel as much as possible and trust that all of that thought and preparation has filtered down into my subconscious.
How important is social media in your work-flow? Do you find that it influences your work at all?
I do notice what people like on social media but my follower count is a very limited number as far as quantitative statistics go. I’m much more likely to be influenced by a single person reaching out and saying, “Wow, that struck a chord with me” vs. the numbers game. Being involved in the arts/photography is so much about communication and expression, it’s nice to know that people get something meaningful out of your work.
Do you have any advice for photographers considering fashion photography as a career?
Commercial success and personal/creative development are often opposing forces if the meeting of the two is forced or lopsided. Consider who you would like to work with not for. Mutual respect produces better results for everyone involved.
What is next for you? Do you have any big projects that you are currently working on?
I’ve been stewing over an idea for a short film for a while now. I had a really vivid dream complete with cinematic camera angles and lighting that I now feel compelled to make real. The working title is ‘The Patchwork Subway’ and the only line of dialogue in the piece is “Are you free?”.
See more of Chris’ work at:
All images copyright Chris Fatseas.