Journal #360: Christopher Wilson and His Journey from Art Director to Photographer

Graphis Master Christopher Wilson is a U.S photographer whose dynamic images inspire and speak through memorable composition, lighting, and color. His prior experiences as an advertising writer, art director, and designer just may have something to do with his talented eye.

Wilson’s award-winning work in the Graphis Journal #360 includes “Harley-Davidson Racing Bikes” (above, left), “BMW Concept Car” (above, top right), and his “Nissan R382” (above, bottom right).

Christopher Wilson’s career actually began as an art director. It was his imagery when working on a Ritz-Carlton campaign that got him noticed. When asked about how he got into photography, he says:

“There was no jumping into photography on my part, […] I fell into photography. […] I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t have told you the difference between an f-stop and an ISO for the life of me. But somehow, wonder of wonders, it all worked out. And it led to another project. And then another. And then I woke up a couple of years later and discovered I was making more money shooting than I was art directing or writing. Life is funny that way.”

His series “Maasai Warriors” shot in Tanzania, won Gold in the Photography Annual 2016. (Go inside the campaign in his Graphis Journal Q&A.)

Wilson also describes how he has distanced himself from the idea that success is solely financial. Of course, being successful financially and getting awarded is important for anyone’s career. As he grew older his definition of success became more linked to his personal being. He says,

“When I was younger and just starting out as a commercial photographer, success meant financial success – of course. Success was also tied to acknowledgement – winning awards and getting press for my work. However, as I grew older and more comfortable in my skin and more confident in my abilities, my definition of success has become more personal, if you will, and more about what can I do to contribute, in my own small way, to the world around me.”

Below are more excerpts from his Q&A:

What is your work philosophy?

“All I know is that I’m always trying to create something that resonates with the heart. […] I fail more often than not, but […] unquestionably, it is the driving force for me as a photographer. I don’t care what I’m shooting, or if I’m shooting for a client or not, I am always looking for something that, in its own small way, could live as a counterweight to hate.”

What artists inspire you?

“I look at many many artists, past and present, for inspiration. Some artists, whether they be photographers or painters, I look at for composition, and points of view. Others I love because of their use of color. Others for their use of light and darkness. Sometimes it’s just their spirit I love.”

“I also find myself looking much more to paintings than photography for inspiration these days. It doesn’t matter what period or style, I’m curious by it all, as somehow I would like to take my photography in a more painterly direction. I’m not sure what that means yet, but it’s what interests me most right now.”

What is the most difficult challenge that you’ve had to overcome?

“For me, the most challenging part of being a photographer is sitting down to do the final post work after a shoot – as I do all of my own coloring and retouching. […] It can be an extremely time-consuming, frustrating process at times, but when it all comes together, when somehow, miracle of miracles, the image starts to sing, well, I live for those moments.

“I’m much more critical of my work than ever, as I am of the belief that if you aren’t getting better as a photographer, you’re getting worse.”

See more of his inspiring work, and learn more about his philosophies and experiences in the Graphis Journal #360!

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