Christopher Polack is an Australian photographer and film director who now splits his time between New York, London and Melbourne. With a client list including Vogue Italia, Schön!, MTV, Red Bull and Nike, this guy is in demand! I think its only right that we pick his brain and see what we can learn! Enjoy…
How did you first get started in photography? Who or what was it that first inspired you to pick up a camera?
I used to ride BMX professionally; I first got in to photography through wanting to capture the action my friends and I would experience from riding and traveling the world. Photography then evolved further into an obsession. I would constantly look up BMX & skate photographers and I learnt a lot flicking through magazines and books. Its basically how I learnt photography.
Who are your photography icons and why?
This changes all the time but the heroes that always remain are the classics: May Ray, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I actually went to a 300+ photo exhibition of Cartier-Bresson at the Centre Pompidou in Paris not that long ago, which was amazing.
Black and white to me is like a fictional novel; it strips away all the distracting elements of the real world (colour) and forces you to focus on the emotion, drama and the dynamics of the story.
Black and white seems to be the predominant palette in your folio; is this a deliberate stylistic choice and is it part of how you convey your message?
Black and white to me is like a fictional novel; it strips away all the distracting elements of the real world (colour) and forces you to focus on the emotion, drama and the dynamics of the story. Its like I’m conducting a play and the viewer is taken on a journey where I only allow certain elements to play in so they feel what I want them to feel. What I’m trying to do now is to use this same method with colour photography; it’s trickier.
The majority of fashion photographers start out shooting stories on spec and for submissions but how do you take that to the next level and start getting commissioned by magazines and brands? How did this work for you?
Always be shooting; regardless of what it is, you need to be shooting. One day that editor will be moved by what they see on your Instagram and bam, you’re getting an email asking for your services. While you’re waiting for that email, befriend people that already work for the magazines you want to shoot for; it helps.
Personally, my heart wishes to be a fine-art photographer but my brain tells me otherwise. Go figure.
What have been the biggest learnings for you when turning photography from an interest in to a career?
For me it was coming to the realisation that becoming a working fashion photographer meant I have to treat my work like a commodity. You have to learn not to take things personally. Yes, you’re pouring your heart and soul into all the shoots you do, and you think the world will see it and become a better place. But, to be honest, the people you work with and the people who commission you don’t have that same time invested and never will. They are completely removed from any emotional connection to the work. You are the only one that sees it that way. They see it as what it is… a photo. They may take a moment to pause and appreciate it for whatever reason but, at the end of the day, your photo is the solution to a problem they came to you about.
Unlike fine-art photography; those images are generally purchased as a result of a positive or negative emotional reaction/connection to the work.
Being a commercial photographer, you are a problem solver; being a fine-art photographer, you are a poet. Personally, my heart wishes to be a fine-art photographer but my brain tells me otherwise. Go figure.
What is next for you? Are you working on any projects that you can tell us about?
I’m currently in Paris. Over the next month I’ll be between here and London working on various projects which I’m looking to exhibit later this year. I have two long-term studies which are based on Australian cultures. They are documentary and portraiture projects and will launch with a coffee table book and exhibition in New York, London and Sydney later this year. I’m also working on fashion commissions over the next weeks along with commercial commitments. I’m here during Paris Fashion Week right now and seeing a lot of talented designers. It’s exciting to be working among them. I’m also looking to start a company which will help support Australian up-and-coming artists break through to the international market. Its always good to be busy… I think.
See more of Chris’ work at:
All images copyright Christopher Polack.