California-born, New York-based photographer Chris Clinton is a director, filmmaker and capturer of the intimate and unexpected. An avid surfer and skateboarder, he started honing his eye for photography at a young age and went on to pursue his childhood passion at New York’s prestigious School of Visual Arts. We caught with him to talk favorite lenses, life lessons and first loves. You can follow him at www.chrisclintonphoto.com.
When’s the first time you picked up a camera and what did you shoot?
The first time I picked up a camera was when I was 12 years old. I became passionate about it because I would travel overseas with my family often and starting taking travel photos. We went to Hawaii, Beijing & Shanghai, China, Virgin Islands, etc.
What made you take photography more seriously and turn it into a career?
I started taking photography more seriously in high school because I was dyslexic. My grandfather was pushing me to go to college and I became very interested in art school. I went to City College & Art Institute in San Francisco and then moved out to NYC and got into SVA. I majored in photography and that’s how I met my mentor, Guy Aroch, and eventually started assisting him.
You take a very observational almost retrospective approach to your shoots. Can you elaborate on your creative process?
I love to hang out with the people I’m shooting. It helps me get a vibe of their personality so that they become comfortable enough to not be aware of the camera.
What stories are you trying to convey through your work?
I believe in telling the back story and give a little bit of history of all my friends, clients, and talent that I shoot. I like to give people a little peak into their world.
You mix up music personalities with elegant lifestyle, street style and some incredible cityscapes in your portfolio. What drives your inspiration?
I’m inspired by so many things in life. It’s hard to pinpoint it exactly. Traveling and seeing the world and meeting new people inspires me greatly!
What’s one of your favorite cameras to shoot with? Some of your favorite gear?
Honestly, I miss shooting film. I used to shoot more with film before the digital age took over. I now shoot mostly with my Canon DS and love it! My favorite gear is anything that works. But actually it’s not so much about the gear, it’s more about going outside and just photographing things or people. Getting into it and enjoying the work you’re shooting!
What was the most challenging photo you’ve ever taken to date and why?
I used to shoot for Prophecy, a lifestyle magazine, back in the day. We would travel to various countries / destinations for surf adventure stories (i.e. Brazil, Peru, Nicaragua, etc). On one particular shoot, we traveled to the north end of Peru. We were scouting surf locations and ventured upon a small fishing village where we met local fishermen who we convinced to drive us out further south on their boat. The boat was small and smelled of foul fish sandwiches. We made it to this secret destination where we scored amazing waves! It was a tiring journey documenting each part of it along the way.
Who are some voices in the creative space you really relate to and why?
I have so much respect for Guy Aroch, Dennis Lanni, Adam Weiss who are amazing pioneers in this industry. They have taught me so many things and I value their opinions.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I’ve been fascinated by Dennis Lanni, who is this amazing hair stylist and my dear friend. We’ve been shooting these hair photos for the last couple of years and we’re currently trying to turn that into a book. It’s been such an inspiring journey to take photos of his work.
What’s the end game for you?
The end game is to retire with my loved ones in the afterlife.
Do you ever dream of photography?
Yes, all the time. Spencer Ware Jersey