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Daily Inspiration: Meet Chris Willard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Willard.

Chris, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Well, my love of photography began at a young age. When my father, Rodger Willard, handed me my first 35mm Film Camera, a Canon AE-1. Instantly I am hooked. I fell in love with taking photos, so much so I quickly decided to set up a darkroom in my fathers’ basement. I carried my camera with me everywhere! As anyone or anything around me is subject to a photographic experiment at any time. Upon graduating high school, I knew I wanted a photography career, so at 18, I packed my bags and decided to move to Africa for a couple of years. Yes, I was a very impulsive young man, but maybe I could become a great wildlife photographer! I applied to National Geographic in hopes they would love my work and well, hire me as one of their wildlife photographers, and as you can guess, that wasn’t the case. But National Geographic was kind enough to give an ambitious young man with a broken heart some advice. They recommended I go to college and get a degree in photography. So, I took their criticism and attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. Fast forward to yet another pivotal time in my life when I participated in a school trip to New York City.

During this trip, I had the privilege of meeting some fantastic, talented studio photographers. You could say this is when I slowly started moving away from the idea of becoming a wildlife photographer and began to be more interested in studio work, photographing people vs. animals. I picked up an internship with a professional studio photographer named Ameen Howrani, who has since passed away. I remember him as a kind, warm-hearted man with immense talent. I assisted Mr. Howrani while he photographed professional athletes and celebrities. I now found myself with a new version of my original dream—becoming a famous studio photographer. Ok, ok, I’ll settle for a GREAT studio photographer. So, here we go; weeks after graduating from college, I yet again packed my bags and headed off to pursue this new dream of mine. But this time, the destination; Los Angeles, California. In the beginning, I fell in love with photography, and I knew If I couldn’t spend the rest of my life doing this, I wouldn’t be happy. So I kept going until I did. It certainly wasn’t easy, and there were many obstacles along the way, but for one’s happiness; totally worth it.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Not a smooth road for sure… To make a living in the arts, no matter what the medium, it’s most likely going to be a long and bumpy road. It’s a labor of love only reserved for the most dedicated. For me, I did what I had to do to get by until I got my foot in the door so to speak. I heard an awful lot of “we love your work” but booking myself as a working photographer was harder than I expected. It took a very, very long time before I could actually make a living off my photography alone. However, with a little perseverance, dedication to my craft, and dogged determination, I was finally able to break into the world of Unit Still Photography and I haven’t looked back!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
As a Unit Still Photographer, I focus on capturing film or production still images specifically intended for use in the marketing and publicity of a film or network television productions. I am also the head of a department, a department of one. I feel what sets me apart from others in my field; I approach every day like it’s my first day. I challenge myself to capture emotion in my photographs while the scenes are playing in front of me. I showcase my subjects with emotional depth, so the viewer can feel what is happening, whether it be light-hearted or a profound, dramatic scene. While still changing my style depending on the story I’m telling. Like any job or career, it has its challenges. This particular career path takes a lot of determination, due diligence, immense sacrifice, and I could keep going on and on but in the end, it takes a lot of faith in oneself. Having people who believe in you helps—especially when you find yourself giving up. I’ve learned you have to be humble, take criticism, bad or good (which can be hard for many artists), but in my industry, it’s crucial you do.

I found that a good still photographer must possess a good understanding of human behavior and tremendous patience. It is vital to be ever-so-present and invisible at the same time while on set. Not an easy task.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m always trying to better myself and my craft. I’m always trying to learn and to be inspired. I still absolutely love to see photography or any kind. It’s super easy to see great photography out there these days, but I also like to go out and find photographic displays in galleries when I can. These are the photographers who have put so much time and work into their craft. To have your photos hanging on a wall, in a show somewhere is still an amazing task that I haven’t done in some time and something I would like to do in the near future.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All Photo credits: Chris Willard

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