Interview with photographer | Chris Buck
As a teenager I was very much into the popular culture side of the arts. I would have obsessions with bands (first Kiss and Queen, and later Punk Rock and Electro Pop groups), also movies (Star Wars) and television (Monty Python). I had to find some way to be involved in that world, and as I got into my college years my involvement in the local music scene grew.
It was really exciting, within a few years I became something of a figure in the Toronto scene – putting out compilation tapes, managing a band and working for the local music paper. But I soon realized that I didn’t want to be on the business side of things, and I had no musical abilities, so my focus was moved towards photographing the bands.
I always had some creative talent, and my father worked for Kodak, so photography was an easy fit.
Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?
When I first started shooting musicians Anton Corbijn was a big influence. Rock photography seemed pretty dull and literal up until that point so I found his pictures inspiring for their beauty and subtlety.
I loved the way that Irving Penn would make these odd portraits of the great figures of his day. It seems reasonable now but I remember thinking in college that it was kind of ballsy to imagine that I could approach someone like Johnny Thunders with the seriousness of a Penn portrait.
Other influences along the way include Joel Sternfeld, Jeff Wall, Wolfgang Tillmans, Greg Miller, David Barry, Katy Grannan, Peter Hujar, Juergen Teller, Sarah Wilmer and Taryn Simon. My work doesn’t necessary look like theirs but they’re people who made me look at photography differently.
Now that I’ve been working for a while I’m actually more interested in how photographers have managed their career. I admire the consistency and output of Annie Leibovitz. I love how Cindy Sherman’s work gets weirder and less appealing (in an obvious way) as she moves into her fourth decade shooting. Or how Lee Friedlander can quietly build an amazing body of varied work over a lifetime.
What is your greatest experience as a photographer?
Eating lunch after the shoot.
What equipment do you prefer to use and why?
For film I have a Mamiya 67 RZ, and for digital I currently use one of the Canon cameras for editorial and a Hasselblad for advertising. I’m still waiting for a digital camera that impresses me, so I just rent for now.
Describe your editing process (i.e. How do you go about selecting, retouching and printing your photographs?)
A photographer is largely defined by their edits, especially in an area like portraits, as the process of shooting is so collaborative. It’s in the editing stage that I will aggressively push my vision forward.
It’s not uncommon for there to be just one or two frames that I consider to be successful, everything outside of that are just dull outtakes.
What are your plans and aspirations for the future regarding photography?
As much as I’m proud of much of the work that I’ve done I’m also unsatisfied by it. I’m not where I’d like or need to be. I think that there are ways of achieving great celebrity portraits that I haven’t reached yet. I don’t know what that “unachieved” thing is yet, as I have yet to get there.
As well I want to continue doing series work, sometimes related to celebrity, sometimes not. I think that in my attempt to add breadth I end up also adding depth to my work in doing these ambitious projects.
I’ve been shooting more short videos and that has been an interesting exercise. The challenge is to let the medium say something different than my photographs while not totally breaking away from my style.