Chris Holmes. Self-taught photographer shooting light and shadow while balancing a non-creative corporate job
I’ve always had creative hobbies from a young age. You’d always find me with a pencil or pen in my hand as a kid up until the point I picked my first pair of drumsticks and that took over my mind. At school, I wanted to follow a creative career, either in graphic design or as a professional musician, but was unable to ever make the leap into either, and so I headed down the default reality.
I moved to London ten years ago where I was immediately thrown into corporate life in various guises. I now work for a large Telecommunications company where I take products and offers to market. It’s enjoyably fast paced and hectic, but it doesn’t allow what would be regarded as creative outputs.
After years of trialling different outlets, I believe that photography is where my creativity has rested. It offers such a wide range of pillars; problem solving, critical thinking, technical challenges and utter freedom. All of which are elements of my prior ‘hobbies’, but emphasised and rolled into one.
I’ve been shooting for just over three years now, starting with from snaps with my iPhone whilst on various holidays. My photography passion began whilst on a work trip to New York as I had plenty of free time to explore Manhattan. As it’s such an iconic and cinematic city, it’s the perfect place to practice scale and composition. Every street corner gives a photo attitude!
From that point, every holiday, commute to work or on trip to the shops I found myself constantly searching out images with or without a camera in hand. That’s when I realised photography could become my outlet and was worthy of further exploration.
I use a Nikon D750 which is a solid mid-range full frame workhorse. Although the dynamic range of my camera assists the amount of detail I can pick out in the editing process, it’s the lenses that I believe offer me a wider exploration of a subject.
I predominantly use a wide angle, prime lens with a fixed focal length as I enjoy the challenge of moving my feet to explore what’s around me. The way I shoot is then fully dictated by what I can get into the frame to create the scale or emotion I’m looking for. You’ll often see me running back and forth or crouching down searching for the right angle/strongest composition.
With the advances of mobile phone cameras - especially within darker environments - it’s exciting to see quality equipment becoming available to many more people and the content they’re able to produce at an affordable price. You don’t need a valuable camera and a wealth of lenses to create striking imagery.
Filters. I feel it’s much like painters or musicians that create within a certain discipline. Their brush stroke or approach adds an immediately identifiable hallmark to that individual artist. In my view, post processing within photography acts in a directly aligned fashion. It doesn’t replace the need for a solid composition or a strong subject, but can add an artists’ identity to the end product.
My day job isn’t distinctly creative per se, so photography acts as my outlet and my way of gathering some calm. And, because my job can be pretty hectic, it’s refreshing when I’m out with my camera as I have ‘just that and only that’ in the front of my mind.
Maintaining a steady momentum is important to my self-inspiration. There have been periods where, due to other commitments I’ve not picked up my camera at all for a few months and it’s been hard to then find a groove again. So, spending more time thinking about, talking about and seeing inspirational work from other photographers bumps me back into action.
I also owe a lot to London. If it wasn’t for this incredibly vibrant city, I wouldn’t be inspired to attempt to photograph it. This city exists to be captured.
I read an article early on that discussed the impact ‘human suggestion’ can have an image; whether that be smoke from a fire in a landscape shot or a single silhouette in a city scene. It creates a level of mystery. That article became my primary principle for photography. Although not ground breaking and possibly pretty obvious, perfecting it is certainly an art I’m still learning.
My advice. Stay disciplined to what you want to produce and have confidence in it. Conviction in your output is more self-fulfilling than wider acceptance. It will allow you to push your boundaries further. Your own acceptance in what you’re creating is the first one that matters.
Photography has taught me that I can be patient whilst I wait for the right moment in a frame. But, that has also taught me that I’m probably too particular. Unless it’s just as I see it in my head, I’ll be stood there for some time!
I think like most, I’m also over critical of my own work especially during shot selection. The quote that perfectly defines the oscillation between inspiration and frustration is, ‘you’re only as good as your last photograph,’ an adapted quote from the journalist, R. Quirk. That’s been piling the pressure on creatives since 1924!
Art is highly personal to both those that create it and to those that view it. My photography is a collection of what I perceive as worthy; anything subjective has endless parameters, little rules and infinite possibilities. The simple idea that we have the opportunity to; capture a scene; a movement or a colour; an everyday image that's unique to the individual who sees it is a concept, draws me to photography.
The actual process of treading the miles around London with nothing but my music and camera is something I find mentally cleansing and cathartic. It’s a bit of air to focus; a closed internal space in a busy world. It’s shown me that with the right focus and cognitive thought, I can progress and develop creatively - a journey I struggled with in other side lines. Photography is the only creative outet that I’ve remained consistent with. It’s no longer a hobby, it’s part of who I am, and a part of my identity.
When I started as a fledging photographer, my only ambition was to enjoy it, plain and simple. Three years on, I’ve been fortunate to exceed those ambitions by inclusion in a couple of books and some interviews.
As this is a passion as opposed to a career, I’m lucky to have the freedom to create solely for me, allowing me to push the edges of my output without fear. My aspirations for photography aren’t financial or commercially motivated, instead they are one of personal recognition and growth. Five years from now I’d love to have had an exhibition of my own, created some published concepts, have my work hanging on strangers’ walls dotted around the world and tested my ability within different styles.