Interview with Christian Fletcher
#1 Please introduce yourself
My name is Christian Fletcher. I was born in Perth Western Australia in 1965, before man walked on the moon. That makes me sound old! I became a photographer because of the need to do something fun! I was never into “real work”. I thought photography was a good fit for my personality. I have managed to make it into my career over the past 22 years. I am a full time Landscape photographer and have three galleries in Western Australia. I was recently awarded the AIPP Australian Landscape Photographer of the year which, for me, was a defining moment. To be judged by your peers for doing good work is all I could have hoped for. Now I spend my time doing all those fun things I wanted from photography – travelling, shooting and processing my work. The creation of images is a drug I am addicted to, I can’t seem to stop, only my demise will make me put down the camera, even then I might try for one last shot as they nail my coffin shut! Actually we have coffins here in WA with my photos on them. I want to be buried in one of those….. although not for a while. I have too much to do yet!
#2 How did you get interested in photography?
I started photography in school. I was never any good at it but it was way better than Maths or Science. I explored it a lot after school when I had more time and money. I used an old Rolliflex SL35 in those days. I still have it in my gallery to remind me of where I came from. I had decided to follow my family, when I was in my early 20’s, to a small country town in the South West of Western Australia. It was there that my interest really took off. I set up a black and white darkroom at the folks place and continued to marinate myself over the years in chemicals with no ventilation. I always remember coming out of the room at the end of the day into the light and fresh air feeling like I was hung over. I’m sure it wasn’t good for me! As I started getting better results my interest grew and grew until I was hooked.
#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?
I am a left hander, so generally speaking I am artistic, right? Not necessarily, but in my case I am definitely a right brainer. I am sure I was put on this earth as an artist. I must be an artist, I did 6 months of accounting before photography and thought my brain was being sucked out my ears. It was mind numbingly horrible so I never went back. Everything I tried or ever wanted to do involved creating something. Usually a mess in my room but boy was the mess artistic! Thinking back now I remember my parents were both talented artists, albeit non practicing, and dad took some great photos of us growing up. I loved looking at those images, it was magical.
#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?
Starting out I never really looked at other peoples work. I can’t say I had any inspirations till later in my career. There has always been one photographer who blew my mind when i first saw his work. I even got shivers up my spine when I met him. I know that is really weird but it happened. His name is Peter Eastway so check him out. The guy is not everyones taste but I get where he is at. I believe he is one of the most creative photographers I have met. I have other photographic heros, most of them are now my mates. Tony Hewitt has taught me stuff about vision and printing you just don’t get from anywhere. He can find an image in a bath tub, I hate him for that! Then I have two others who inspire me for their knowledge of the craft and art. Nick Rains and Les Walkling are two of the smartest guys you will ever meet. What they don’t know about colour, photography and post production isn’t worth knowing.
However my main inspiration now is Edward Burtynsky. I love his work. With the flood of epic colourful but soulless work you see everywhere he stands as a true artist. It is different, it is epic and it has a message.
#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph? Are you planning every step or is it always spontaneous?
It has always been spontaneous for me. I can’t plan or organise, that is work. I just go with the flow. jump in the car, camera on my lap to see what I can find. I think I probably should prepare more but how can you when you are at the mercy of mother nature. I am happy to accept what ever she serves up.
#6 What fascinates you in places that you shoot?
I am inspired by anything new. The landscape sometimes isn’t that fascinating but add into that some brilliant light and things can be different. In the past I was attracted to epic scenes, waterfalls, mountains, rivers and so on. Now that is less important to me. I am more looking to convey a feeling or a message. I want people to want to spend time in front of my images. Exploring them. Making them think or feel something other than, “oh that’s pretty”. For this reason I am fascinated with industry, urban decay, altered landscapes, hence the admiration for Burtynsky’s work.
#7 Could you please tell us something about your technique and creating process?
I use a Phase One Camera system and love photoshop. I am addicted to post production. For me it is the darkroom stuff I did way back in the days of my black and white printing. I love to see an image transform into something else. Peter Eastway once said to me, do you take photographs or do you create photographs. I like to think I create photographs. I want to get the best quality I can possibly achieve. I make very large prints every day for my galleries so they have to be perfect. I start in the capture process, from focus stacking to exposure blending. I will shoot the same scene in different ways to then bring the elements all together in one composite print. I use a Wacom Cintiq 24HD monitor for my editing. By actually drawing on the screen you get such better results and it feels more natural. I print on Epson printers having two 4900’s and a 9900. My papers of choice are Canson Platine, Rag Photographique and Baryta. They are all capable of producing the ultimate quality I need.
#8 Could you tell our readers how to reach such excellent results in photography?
The easiest way to reach the ultimate quality is to be prepared to learn as much as possible. People think that all you need to do is push the button and the camera will do the rest. The camera is a dumb instrument. You have to make it work for you to fulfill the vision you have. In every step of my photographic process I am looking to create a perfect image. It is all about the Nth degree. From Mirror lock up to a sturdy tripod, to the sharpest aperture to a cable release. Then it is editing that does not clip highlights or fill in shadows to keep a full range of tones to describe your image. The biggest problem I see with a lot of photographers is halos around areas of the image that have been altered in photoshop. There are such great masking tools in photoshop now you never need to see halos again. Obviously if you want to make big prints you need a lot of resolution. This is why i use a Phase One IQ180 digital back. 80 megapixels help. If you don’t have such luxury as a medium format digital stitching images using a DSLR can approach the quality seen from my Phase One.
#9 What do you do in your life besides photography?
Photography is my job, my hobby and part of my family. I don’t do much else but photography. When it is a family holiday it is also a work trip. Sometimes it is frowned upon by my wife and kids but most of the time they are happy for me to be doing what I love. There is nothing better than exploring a new town or landscape for shots. It is like Christmas when I get a great image, I guess that is why I still love it. It is like people who look for the best waves to ride or the highest mountain to climb, it is addictive and meditative. When I am out shooting I forget about the world and any problems and am in the moment. Oh actually I do ride my bike every week. Yes I wear Lycra too but being an older man don’t care about the laughs at coffee shops. We think we look great!
#10 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
I have been working with four other photographers to create exhibitions on the different regions of Western Australia. We have already created a body of work based around industry in the Pilbara region of WA and the next exhibition on the South West region of WA happens in November. Next we will move on to the Kimberley Region of WA then the Goldfields region. I really enjoy shooting with this group, we are known as ND5. I assembled them to start these projects because i wanted to work with and be inspired by the association. After our first trips together we realised we had a special chemistry and decided to continue working in this way. Photography is so much fun when shared with like minded people. I am working on a new overdue book and would like to create a body of work different to anything I have ever done before. I would like to break into the contemporary art photography world and exhibit outside of Australia. Most of all I just want to keep taking photos for as long as I can where ever I can.
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