An Interview with Chris:
Getting to know your Photographer
What triggered your love for photography?
I was always captivated by photos. For me, I loved how I could capture memories and dust them off whenever I wanted to.
Friends weave in and out of our lives, families grow, homes change, and portraits can remind us all of what we've experienced, how far we've come and that life is fleeting. These images encapsulate memories to help people stay connected and help us to refine the context in which relationships are celebrated in a more meaningful and profound way.
I think back to the earliest memories of holding a camera, and I remember being in a thrift shop at the young age of seven. There it was, second-hand albeit new to me, perched upon a shelf. I reached into my denim pockets in search of my wallet. I grabbed hold of it, peeled open my fancy 1980's velcro wallet, and counted my allowance in hopes that there would be enough to get my new "toy." I felt a surge of excitement as I placed my wallet down on the shelf in front of me.
As I reached out for the flimsy strip-camera with cubes for the first time, I found myself intrigued by all it could do for me, my family, and my friends by way of capturing life's moments. I imagined myself snapping portraits around the thrift store as a professional photographer with child-like wonder.
As my father called out to meet me at the counter, I realized that I'd lost my wallet from my animated theatrical role-playing in the store. While we weren't able to find it, he decided to purchase it for me. That day, I became a proud owner of a brand-new second-hand camera. I marveled at all that I could create.
As a child growing up, my mother was a cosmetologist. She specialized in hair and makeup for all of her clients. I remember her snapping shots with her 35mm camera. In retrospect, she has an artist's eye in terms of painting and drawing as well. She would artistically enhance my sister's rooms with life-like murals of our favorite Disney characters and always encourage us to bring out our creativity in the medium in which we individually thrived. As my mother developed her pictures, I found myself mesmerized by the depth of her photos, and it reinforced my love for portraiture.
I found my Sophomore and Jr. year in high school a particularly challenging time. Depression and insecurities suffocated me with the changes in my daily environment. I felt that my life was a never-ending evolution of painful transitions, and it became increasingly important to me to hold on to treasured moments and make them last visually in my mind. Since I had no means to afford a professional camera back then, I committed to buying the Kodak yellow and black disposable cameras every chance that I could. I took pictures of friends, family, and all the moments because I'm a sentimental kind of dude, and I wanted those memories to last.
The following year, while speaking to my friend Alice, I discovered that I'd missed my Senior Portraits day while being out sick. I was discouraged when I realized that my photo wasn't going to be in my class yearbook. I felt that without the submission of my picture, that I'd been deleted from history. In my conversation with Alice, she mentioned that she was part of the Sr. Photographer's editorial yearbook staff. She managed to pull some strings together to get me into the yearbook in my Bulls basketball jersey with my Dennis Rodman's hairstyle, ha! She even got me a two page spread! I was intrigued that by having an in, that she could make "magic" happen, and when it did, the feeling was sublime. As simplistic and impressive as that outcome was, it was a profound moment in my understanding of the emotional impact of how portraits can help people feel uplifted, connected, and remembered.
What happened between then and now?
It was career advice day, and I was encouraged to take one of those mandatory tests to help me figure out my purpose in life. I already knew what I wanted to aspire to, and when I shared my dream with my high-school counselor, she tilted her head and looked into my eyes and asked me the following questions:
"Do you want a family? Do you want a wife? Do you want children?"
I was confused by her questions as she went on to reference the term "starving artist" and statistical information on the impending doom I'd face as a single, homeless, starving photographer.
"Yes, I want all those things," I said.
"Then you don't want to be a photographer. Your test results say you'd thrive in the hospitality industry."
Needless to say, at the time, I actually believed she was doing her best to point me in the right direction. I did discover later that I made excellent management and leadership positions at several of the companies that I'd go on to work for many years later, however, there were days that I felt that my dreams were buried and hidden away.
What encouraged you to be a pro-photographer?
About seven years ago, I went through several life transitions with my career, marriage, family life, and my health. I'd also just lost a great friend of mine to cancer and experiencing all of it at the same time was disheartening, to say the least. It was really the defining moment of seeking out the re-connection of my identity through God. It was the re-alignment that I yearned for at the time. My wife encouraged me to get back into different passions to reignite the life inside of me. I leaned heavily into Christ and reacquainted myself with a local church. I purchased my first DSLR camera, and my wife gifted me with a class at Austin School of Photography for Christmas that year.
There, I met Andrew Shapiro, the owner, and instructor of the Austin School of Photography. After attending several of Andrew's classes, he became a sounding board for developing my portrait style and voice. I was open to his critiques, both favorable and unfavorable, and worked hard to get better at my craft. As a witness to my determination, drive, and improvement under his direction, he was adamant about expressing the potential he saw in my work and encouraged me to pursue my dreams of becoming a professional photographer. Andrew taught me the language of photography that fueled my confidence in communicating stories through portraits.
After completing the curriculum at ASOP, I continued to learn from other industry leaders and attended several well-known and highly respected conferences and workshops. I had the pleasure of meeting in-person with successful photographers who later became my mentors.
I made the decision to open up my company, ATX Portraits, a few years ago in Austin, TX, and have since had the fantastic opportunity of doing what I love and making a good living at the same time. I also had the pleasure of collaborating with other local photographers and am now able to provide an upgraded client experience in a professional studio atmosphere.
I'm learning more each and every day and am in no means slowing down any time soon! As a result of my previous work for the past several years, I've been in the position to deliver a variety of portrait services and art pieces to aspiring models, actors, actresses, entertainers, and other business professionals.
I've encouraged overworked men to capture their dynamic portraits in the passions that they're in love with, the fuel that in part keeps them going.
I've helped both new and mature couples celebrate their love for one another with professional portraits customized to enhance their unique personalities and style.
I've worked with Jlgerhardt, the creative director of the Everyday Saints series, for which we won a national award in recognition of the images we worked to create together. Check them out here, at this link.
I've helped numerous job seekers improve their business resumes with professional head-shots. Last but not least, I've helped every-day women feel pampered, beautiful, and refreshed regardless of age, occupation or educational background with artfully enhanced beauty sessions and silhouette art for women 21+, including maternity silhouettes.
I personally invite you to reach out to me if you have an artful vision that you'd like to create together through the magic of portraiture. Or, if you'd like to recommend me to any of your family and friends, it'll be my pleasure to help them explore their artistic side. Check out my portfolio, here at this link.
If you like what you see, let's talk soon!