Interview #21: Chrissie White

8/17/09

CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?

Chrissie White: I got interested in 2006 I think? I used to take my little Kodak camera to school and take photos with my friends. I met Elle Hardwick that year off Myspace and found her Flickr; (back then she mainly took photos of her Blythe dolls) and I got interested in photography a little more, (and Blythe dolls) so it all progressed from there. I am also horrible at drawing, and writing... so photography suited me!

 

CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.

CW: I live in a suburb just outside of Seattle; it's cloudy 200 days a year, and rains a lot during the winter. It has beautiful mountains and forests though; I love the smell of the air when it's shit cold outside.

 

CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why?

CW: People! They’re really unpredictable and each one is so different. I like taking pictures of weird/awesome strangers, but I rarely show those pictures to anyone. (I got this awesome one of an old lady in a bedazzled hats once! But then the film was ruined).

 

CUS: What kind of camera do you enjoy using the most?

CW: My mom's coworker gave me an old Minolta SLR that I think is incredibly fun to use because of the shutter sound and how easy it is to push down the button. I also love disposables! Especially if they're fun colors...

 

CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer?

CW: That's really a hard question; I really like Glen Erler and various commercial photographers of course. However I absolutely love a lot of lesser-known photographers, especially Will Govus, Lina Scheynius, Anya Shiller, and Yann Faucher. I have a running list of about 170 photographers that I admire here: (http://delicious.com/chrissiewhite/photographer)

 

CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

CW: I had one of those Handi-Snack Packs that have six crackers in them and spreadable cheese. 
And tea! I am a huge tea addict.

 

CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?

CW: I don't really have anyone in particular in mind; I think everyone is nice to photograph in their own way. I love how Dakota Fanning looks though; maybe a shoot with her would be nice! Oh I’d also love to do a series of pictures of other photographers.

 

CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? 

CW: I think that anyone (digital or film) can be a photographer. It's not difficult to pick up a camera, learn a few tricks, and take nice photos eventually. All it takes is determination and patience. I know people always say "artists are born," but I think that's a load of bullshit. Everyone has ideas, I think once you have taken x amount of photos and spent x amount of time looking at them, something smacks you in the face and the more "mature artsy ideas" come naturally. It’s all about taking the time and effort to work it out. Of course everyone differs on how fast they progress, but if practiced, everyone will get better. 

 

CUS: Do you always have preconceived concepts of what you want to shoot

CW: When I take photos with other people I almost always have an idea in my head, otherwise I wouldn't have contacted the model. But if it's just myself I almost never have a fully formulated idea until half way through the shoot.

 

CUS: What is your most treasured possession?

CW: My music collection, because it would take forever to get all the music back if I lost it. I'm not too concerned with physical items because they can almost always be replaced.

 

CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion?

CW: Appropriate light. Whether it be beautiful or nearly non-existent, it should always suit the photograph. Plus, you literally cannot have a photograph without light. (The word "photography" means "drawing with light")

 

CUS: What’s playing on your iTunes right now?

CW: Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve. (I have three versions of this song, I LOVE IT!)

 

CUS: I’ve noticed that some of your newer photographs seems to be less staged than your previous work. Would you agree with this? If so, can you explain this style shift? 

CW: I would say over the past year I have definitely been more interested in "natural photos" but I wouldn't say it was particularly a style shift. I still like to take staged photos, however I am just not focused on that type of photo at the moment. The initial interest came when I met my boyfriend, I would have to say he "opened my eyes" to the greatness of minimalistic or natural, photographs. I really love the fact that to achieve a good minimalistic photo you must pay a lot of attention to composition, light, and the emotion you feel radiates off the subject. In a sense, it's harder to take those kinds of photos because you must be very aware of your surroundings. For a "conceptual" photo it's mostly about the subject and idea. Compared to a natural photo which is more about the tiny details and how you choose to frame them. I think the reason the general public is obsessed these days with fashion photographs is because they are very straight forward and often striking or beautiful to look at, almost always easy to understand. But, it’s harder for people to notice small details, like the light in someone's eyes, or how sad an empty room can look. Many people prefer beautiful things to thoughtful things. 

 

CUS: If you could go anywhere in the world to take photographs where would you go?

CW: Iceland!

 

CUS: What is the thing you like the least about photography? The most?

CW: I really hate how a lot of talented people are unrecognized because they simply don't have the same connections that the famous photographers have. I love the fact that there are so many good photos in the world, it's never ending.

 

CUS: What are some of your favorite films?

CW: I just saw (the Japanese version) of Ponyo and it was the most adorable movie ever! 
I also love Into the WildMy Neighbor TotoroKiki's Delivery Service(favorite childhood movie, I watched it almost every week!) Fight Club,The Breakfast ClubRoman Holiday, le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, and Jeux d'enfants.

 

CUS: What sort of themes do you try to explore through your photographs? Is there any one in particular in which you try to convey often?

CW: With places I like to convey the feeling of loneliness, stillness, or conformity. 
With people I like to show tiredness and the "neutral" or "thoughtful" state everyone goes into daily when they're doing things like sitting on a bus or waiting at a doctor’s office.

 

CUS: Tell us a little about your family.

CW: It's not very loving, mostly we just talk to each other when we need something. It’s very lonely and rather uncomfortable to live with, but I ultimately believe that real family isn’t what you were born into, but instead compiled of everyone you truly love and trust.

 

CUS: What is your fondest childhood memory?

CW: Spending sunny mornings lounging around in sunbeams while watching Saturday morning cartoons. I also loved every Easter, because we used to go to my mom's cousin's house and do giant Easter egg hunts in the forest. Also my aunt and uncle used to have the most wonderful new year’s parties, and they always had bowls of m&ms, Pictionary, and a box of really awesome barbies.

 

CUS: You’re planning your dream concert; what 5 bands/musicians would perform?

CW: The Presets, Radiohead, U2, Crystal Castles, and Bloc Party. I have other favorite musicians however those I think would be the best to see live. I'm not really into concerts though.

 

CUS: What was the last movie you saw in the theatre?

CW: 500 Days Of Summer; It was pretty good but Summer was a bitch! Also I couldn't get the title right, I called it "300 Days Of Summer" when talking to my boyfriend a couple times, and then when I bought my ticket at the movie theater I called it "400 Days Of Summer"

 

CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?

CW: There are really too many people, and too many things to list. I’m influenced by pretty much everything, from beautiful castles and kings to someone who takes a dump on the side of the road for fun.

 

CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?

CW: Sushi, tea, my best friend, cold air, and mascara [laughs].

 

CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?

CW: I have taken ballet lessons since I was three, I sprint and run hurdles, I'm obsessed with fashion blogs, I collect perfume bottles and interesting tags (off clothing), I absolutely love interior decorating as well as architecture; I love going new places just so I can look at the surroundings, I'm also very interested in package design.

 

CUS: What is something that no one knows about you?

CW: When I watch something for the second time around with another person I pay attention to how they'll react at certain scenes and it gives me a thrill. (However I think everyone does that?) I also have a really big guilty pleasure for old jazz music like Billie Holiday and George Benson.

 

CUS: What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?

CW: I haven't had too many bad injuries, however I spiked/cut myself early spring (with new track spikes) in the leg and it still has not healed completely. I also have five hairline fractures in my femurs from doing hurdles. (I have weak bones.)

 

CUS: What is your favorite photograph that you’ve taken, and what’s the story behind it?

CW: I can't pick a favorite, however my best liked photos are in this gallery: http://chrissiewhite.com/#amillion 
They were all very effortless to take, and I personally feel that they show a lot of liveliness without having anything living and breathing as the main subject.

 

CUS: Which technology do you think has benefited our generation the most?

CW: I think that ultimately technology will contribute to our demise; however I believe that the internet has benefited our generation the most. It’s extremely useful for networking, and learning.

 

CUS: What do you think the world will be like 50 years from now?

CW: I think it will be pretty technologically advanced, but still environmentally friendly as well. 
I just hope I'm still alive to see it!

 

CUS: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on a photo shoot?

CW: My friend Clara and I were once forced by a drunken guy to have our picture taken together by him on his own camera.

 

CUS: If you could be anyone for a day who would you be?

CW: I don't have anyone in particular, but I'd like to be someone who could sing really nicely, and was living on a sailboat traveling around the world! 

 

CUS: What’s have you always wanted to photograph but have thought was too difficult to execute? 

CW: I haven't really thought anything was too hard or difficult to execute, it's mostly just a lack of materials and locations. However, I want to take a photo that shows both love and loneliness between two people all at once. I can't seem to figure out how to show that though.

 

CUS: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Do you think that photography will still be a big part of your life?

CW: I'm not sure; hopefully I'll be traveling around the world doing things I love. Photography will always be a big part of my life even if I decide not to do it as a career.

 

CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers

CW: Learn the technical stuff, and take photos every day. Always try to be better than you are no matter how good you think you are. Set goals for yourself and work hard to achieve them. Stay away from clichés and don't worry so much about what other people think.

 

CUS: What was the highlight of your summer?

CW: My boyfriend visiting me. Also getting my braces off after having them on for five years!! 

 

CUS: Our last interviewee, Matt Caplin, would like to know: Are you who you thought you'd be five years ago? Who do you feel you'll be five years from now? 

CW: I thought I would be really good at sewing my own clothing, and I thought that I would hang out with my friends more and be happier. I don't have the patience for sewing anymore, and I never want to hang out with friends because I’m always tired. Five years from now I want to be rather level-headed, busy with work, attending lots of fashion parties, and not being bored all the time,

 

CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask our next Interviewee?

CW: If you were to start a band what would you call it?

 

 

 

Chrissie White, b. 1993 from Seattle, Washington   
chrissiewhite.com

 

Images provided by Chrissie White. All rights reserved.