Christian Blanchard – Melbourne Spring Fashion Week

Christian Blanchard is currently working as a freelance photographer and film director. Recently named by Capture Magazine as one of Australia’s top ten, Blanchard’s rising star has seen him shoot global campaigns for clients including Mimco, Amstel, Nobody Denim, Nintendo, L’Oreal Paris and Puma. Throwing dirty water on celebrities for the famed ‘Nobody was Thirsty’ campaign is indicative of Blanchard’s breakthrough approach that has seen him win international acclaim.

We spoke to Christian and asked him a few questions in the lead up to Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (MSFW).

When and how did you go professional?
I have fond childhood memories of playing with my parent’s camera and treasuring the photo albums of my abstract masterpieces that were stored under my bed. However it really was not until high school that I acknowledge my passion for photography which to this day is owed greatly to my teacher and first mentor. From school I went into TAFE in Western Australia and during my time was invited to take the helm of ‘Site Unseen’, a student body that co-ordinates an annual photo exhibition and printed book similarly to the ACMP annual publications.

After several years of built up frustration from studying I threw myself into the deep end and approached a photographic studio to do an internship for a year as a form of hands on free education. From there I slowly worked my way up the ranks to a full time assisting role and then onto become one of their staff photographers. Up until this point the single contributor to my success was motivation however it takes passion to allow you to grow with photography and turn that interest into a lifelong career.

A huge turning point in my career was relocating to Melbourne and signing to a photographic production agency. The partnership with an agency and most importantly a producer who is as passionate about your work as you are is essential to establish yourself in the national market. I have been fortunate in both cases to have the support and guidance of Miss Bossy Boots who have truly assisted in shaping who I am and facilitating the work I shoot today.

Passion for photography has driven me to learn with every mistake of every day and every shoot. It has also allowed me to stop at points in my career and question if I am happy and more importantly if I am comfortable. This sense of comfort is an indicator that I need change because things are becoming to easy and in turn I am not learning or growing with my work. This attitude of being thrown in the deep end has allowed me to work for 6 years in Perth, 4 years in Melbourne and now in my new home of Sydney. Internationally I have worked and been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, Thailand and Indonesia and make time to travel abroad every year for work and inspiration.

Photography by Christian Blanchard

MSFW is quickly approaching – how will you be involved in the fashion week?
I will be presenting a series of workshops in conjunction with Nikon School at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week which will coincide with the launch of my short film Anemalia. To see the full MSFW program, click here.

How would you describe your style of photography?
Forever evolving. As time goes on my signature style is becoming more and more refined however working within Australia really allows you diversity and in turn personal exploration. Fashion photography allows creative freedom like no other style as it allows you to draw on themes, genres and fictional story telling while collaborating with the creative minds of your team. I love to tell stories, express emotions and evoke responses through my imagery. At the end of the day I would rather someone passionately dislike my images than feel indifferent towards it.

What sort of clients do you shoot for?
As much as I love fashion I like to shake things up a little and mix my work between fashion editorial, fashion campaigns, advertising and portraiture work. I love the ability to create with fashion and the ability to document with portraiture. Portraiture is most rewarding when my subjects are personalities who shine through their creative talents. It is an amazing opportunity to meet and share commonalities with these people over a casual conversation whilst capturing their passion, personality and charisma in camera.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
It was from john Whitfield King asking me to ditch my medium format gear and concentrate on 35mm for my portrait and wedding work.

Photography by Christian Blanchard

If you could photograph anyone or anything, living or dead who would it be?
I am confronted day after day by the materialistic world of fashion so the opportunity to photograph charity projects is always an exciting prospect. I like shooting at least 1 charity project a year and am working on an idea that will hopefully come into fruition in the next few years. The idea is to create world peace through a series of “coming together” portraits of opposing figures from various cultures, industries and societies. So imagine opposing politicians, sports figures, religious leaders etc being photographed together in pursuit of world peace. Opportunities to use my skills and abilities to make a change for good is the most rewarding part of my work.

Your top tip for beginner fashion photographers?
Live, breathe and dream of it. I am yet to meet a fashion photographer who is not passionate about their work so be prepared to read monthly fashion magazines, attend fashion parades, spend endless evenings studying other photographers work and developing and executing your own ideas. It is a world of fantasy and fiction so let your imagination run wild.

Photography by Christian Blanchard

Favourite location to shoot?
Anywhere outdoors that I have never explored. Photography allows you to see the world through the eyes of your passion and in turn creates an amazing association with everywhere you explore.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a photographer??
Living on a remote island and surviving off the fat of the land. I have a strong belief that we would all be so much better off if we reverted to a more simplistic living ritual and if my passion was to be taken away then following this belief would be the next best thing.

Photography by Christian Blanchard

Talk us through your favourite Nikon gear…what are you using at the moment?
I have been a loyal Nikon user for 15 years and the most exciting Nikon equipment to date in my eyes would have to be the D3x. I waited so very patiently for what felt like eternity for this beast of a camera to arrive and when it did it was more rewarding than all my childhood Christmas’s rolled into one. I am shooting International campaigns that are blown up to 2x3m in shop windows and billboards of up to 20m wide. My all time favourite lens is the 85mm f1.4 for its sharpness and clarity. I strongly recommend to those that own this lens to try it out at f6.3 which I believe to be its sweet spot of ultra sharpness.

Where do you see the fashion photography industry heading?
The advent of digital photography has made taking photos that much more attainable and achievable to the general public. Where a lot of our industry feel this is detrimental I believe it is a great way forward to challenge us to greater heights and to shine through creativity rather than what camera we own.

Within fashion photography this means that we are going to see a greater acknowledgement of the medium being a true art form and being celebrated rightfully so.

Photography by Christian Blanchard

Who is the most famous person you have photographed?
Would have to be John Howard not one of my favorite politicians but I guess he would have to be the highest profile person I have photographed.

Tell us the story behind the current Trimapee project. What considerations/gear went into the filming of this?
Anemalia started as a “little creative collaboration” with Melbourne fashion label Trimapee and has grown to a full scale short film production consisting of over 30 cast and crew. In addition to directing the short film I shot stills on the the D3x and the final outcome is a multi faceted exhibition presenting a 8-10min short film and a stills gallery of 16×24” prints during Melbourne Spring Fashion Week in conjunction with The City of Melbourne.

The film based around the innately primitive rituals of the animal kingdom. Throughout the film we explore the notion of “survival of the fittest”, a policy all animals have abided by since the day life begun. The emotively charged story revolves around the 3 main characters as they engage in courtship rituals in a post-apocalyptic world. Two males violently compete for the prized female as survival of the unique species hangs in the balance. The species featured was conceived through extensive research into the animal kingdom with particular reference to avian, insects and land-based beasts. The result is a unique creature with a distinct physiognomy and facial features, individual personality traits stemming from a shared functionality and carefully orchestrated interactions between nature and themselves.

With the support of NPS (Nikon Pro Services) I was able to utilise a range of Nikons best equipment including D3s and D3x camera bodies and lenses ranging from 600mm f2.8 and 200-400m f4 through to 45mm tilt shift and 12-24mm lenses. Nikon’s durable design and architecture ensured that the equipment withheld the elements of shooting for 4 days in the snowfields of Victoria.

Photography by Christian Blanchard

And finally – what is your most exciting job to date?
My most exciting job to date would have to be when photographing the Nobody Was Thirsty charity campaign back in 2008. Nobody denim, a close ongoing client, joined forces with Charity Water to raise funds for wells and clean drinking water in poverty stricken villages all around the world.

Nobody designed a not-for-profit t-shirt and the revenue from each t-shirt sold provides 2 people with 20 years of water. To generate global interest 3 photographers were selected from separate countries (AUS, USA, UK) to photograph a selection of their nations celebrity talent wearing the charity T-Shirt.

For me it was a fantastic opportunity to give a little back and work with some amazingly talented people. I acknowledged the importance and power of the campaign and recognised the value placed in creating evoking images so I wanted to engage the viewer enough for them to come a little closer and understand what it was all about.

The brief outlined what the charity was about and a few loose talent options however I was left with a free creative rein to come up with concept. Perspective and reflection was the basis of my photographic concept.

The outcome was to document the reactions of famous personalities interacting with water indicative of that consumed by those living poverty-stricken parts of the world.

The concept came about when thinking of what relationship humans have with water and what occurs when that relationship is changed or removed. Coming from a 1st world nation we take so much for granted and I think water would have to be at the top of the list. It is one of the most important needs in our life and yet we continue to place such little importance and respect upon preservation of this vital resource.

I was inspired to document this relationship but with a spin that related the images back to the charity, which fortunately lead me to pouring dirty water on celebrities. Or at least that was my justification for having a cheeky good time.

At the end of the day I just wanted the images to evoke viewers into reflecting on how easily we take for granted the simple necessities in our lives such as clean water.

The shoot was one of the most manic days of shooting but somehow seemed to fly by. I was shooting in Perth the day before and departed at midnight to arrive in Sydney at 6am for a 7am call to set.

Prior to the shoot I typed up a photographic directive outlining the concept and nature of the shoot for the publicist to pass onto each of the celebrities. Great in theory however it somehow became lost on the information super highway and so I was left on set with celebrities unaware that we had every intention of pouring dirty water all over them.

After some sweet-talking and by good fortune (possibly the nature of the shoot) we were blessed with 9 open-minded easygoing subjects willing to get dirty and wet. Could my job get any better?

Photography by Christian Blanchard

We started with Jason Dundas and his high-energy attitude to life, which managed to awake me from my jet lag and set the pace for those to follow. Importantly though I wanted to show a range of emotions so to connect with a larger audience and reflect a little on each of the subjects. We had it all, from Gracie Otto and her more subdued expression stretching to the tips of her red finger nails through to Emma Lung venting repugnance at the top of her lungs and Alex Demitriades’s look of disgust. The message was clear.

There was a cast and crew of over 20 people and all was accomplished in 1 day without hiccup.

Other highlights in my career have included shooting International Campaigns for Mimco with super models such as Alice Burdeu and Emma Balfour, touring Australia shooting campaigns for L’Oreal and separately for Amstel Beer, working with UK pop celebrity Tara Palmer-Tompkinson on a resort campaign in Bali and the many opportunities to work and play in the snow, desert, beach and bush of our beautiful country.

To see more on Christian Blanchard, check out his website – click here

Published by mynikonlife Aug 11, 2010
Categories: Learn, News