Photographer’s Q&A – Chris Young
This week’s Q&A is with Chris Young, Toronto freelance photographer. His web site is chrisyoungphotography.ca
Winter Solstice at Stonehenge 2005. (Photo by Chris Young)
What were your first steps in the industry?
I actually fell into it more by chance than design. I was on a career break around 1998 after leaving my previous job as a sales director for a reprographic company in London, England. It really wasn’t a career path I was enjoying. I got out without too much of a plan as to what I was going to do next.
A friend of mine was a keen amateur photographer and introduced me to a camera. After I started playing around with it, I entered a competition to become part of a photographic team shooting the vehicle-based adventure/expedition competition “The Camel Trophy”. As the representative from the U.K., I travelled to Sweden to take part in the contest, coming second and winning Best Action Photo.
Through that I met Mark Whitfield, who worked on the sports photo desk at The Mail on Sunday newspaper in London. He was very kind and let me have spare passes to the lower league soccer games in London that the paper wasn’t covering. One day, the car of one of his photographer’s broke down and I was just around the corner. Whitfield took a giant chance and sent me to cover a rugby game.
During that same period of time, I had also met a guy named Brenton Booth, who was photo editor at a free magazine called TNT. He mentioned he was looking for someone to shoot nightclub pictures regularly for the entertainment listings pages. I volunteered myself. From there, it was a case of a lot of fast talking and hard work, but things took off.
This was taken for Photosensitive Cancer Connections project in 2007. (Photo by Chris Young)
When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation? Are you where you thought you would be now?
I didn’t study photography at all. I studied politics at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. I then went travelling, fully expecting I would return to London to a corporate life, which I did, until I realized that it wasn’t for me and walked out on it one day. I still have to pinch myself sometimes.
You just spent your summer working as a photo editor at The Canadian Press. What was that like?
It has been fantastic. I’ve probably learned more about wire service photography in the last few months than I have shooting for the wires over the last eight years. I was provided with a complete education in the Canadian newspaper industry. I gained an increased understanding of the papers all around the country and the type of pictures and stories they individually require. It’s made me think more about the edit I file as a photographer. I gained an appreciation for different picture styles and the papers they suit. I would recommend it to anyone.
Chelsea Pensioner Bill Germanes, a 90 year old D-Day veteran, relaxes in a chair outside his berth in the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, South West London. (Photo by Chris Young)
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
My five-year-old daughter Ella can pick up my point-and-shoot and beat me into the ground with her pictures. I’m very lucky to work alongside some very talented photographers whose photos make you want to pick up a camera and go and take a photo. When you see someone with a fresh eye, that also inspires you to take a fresh look at things.
Do you have a mentor?
When I started out, the guys at The Mail on Sunday – Mark Whitfield and Nick Wainwright – were amazingly supportive and patient, and I hung onto their every word. I really owe them everything. The same goes for a friend of mine from London, Matt Clarke, who has since passed away. He was an incredible sports photographer. We would grab a beer and he would go through my contact sheets from the previous week helping me to iron out the creases.
Ken Lewenza, National President of the Canadian Auto Workers union. (Photo by Chris Young)
What was a pivotal point in your career?
I would have to say meeting Whitfield and Wainwright, and their photographer’s car breaking down that day in 1999, (which gave me my first job), would rank highly. Also, getting a freelance contract at Press Association in London, around 2003. That’s when I felt I had truly arrived and the hard work had paid off.
Coming to Canada in 2007 was also important. It’s given me a new reason to challenge myself. Moving to a new country wipes the slate clean, with everything you have done in the past being exactly that. In the past.
What are you working on now?
Actually there are a couple of things in the pipeline, both of which are in the developmental stages of negotiations in terms of access and copyright. Without going into it too much, one of them requires a role as more of a curator, which I’m very excited about.
Moses Beaver, Ontario, 2009. (Photo by Chris Young)
How important to you is multimedia?
Multimedia as a storytelling medium is fantastic and it’s a wonderful way to add colour and depth to a news feature. However, in a hard news environment, I think it’s still finding its skin. I’ll be interested to see whether or not its final resting place will be dictated by the combined factors of the end delivery device and how people ultimately assimilate their news information.
For example, if we end up getting our daily news intake on the way to work or over our corn flakes through handheld devices rather than newspapers or laptops, then simplified text or a streamed news feed from TV news broadcasts could prove preferable to the end user. The development of the idea of premium content news web sites could also prove to be another important factor.
Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Phillip enjoy the spectacle, as a swarm of bees cause concern prior to The Queens Company Review at Windsor Castle. A beekeeper removed the swarm, which had gathered on one of the dignitaries chairs, prior to the ceremony. (Photo by Chris Young)
How do you ensure you are progressing as a visual journalist?
I try to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes you take risks with your pictures and it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. As long as you learn from your mistakes, then it’s worth making them. I also think that whilst you should be your own harshest critic, it’s really important to allow yourself a pat on the back occasionally. If you take a picture that you’re proud of, you should acknowledge it, as it proves your growth.
Torquay fans celebrate the final whistle which brings automatic promotion to the Second Division after the Nationwide Third Division match between Southend United and Torquay United at Roots Hall, Southend. (Photo by Chris Young)
What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education, etc.).
It always changes but right now for simple aesthetic pleasures I check out:
I was shooting a feature on the FA Cup and came across this little boy lost in his own game, whilst a match is being played out in the ground behind him. England, 2006. (Photo by Chris Young)
What is your favorite way to unwind?
I’m very lucky to live in the Beach neighbourhood in Toronto. We have the lake at the bottom of the road, so I can go down there and play with the kids or walk the dog.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
“Don’t chase a picture. Have confidence in your own decision. Make your mind up and let the picture come to you.” – Martin Argyles, photographer with The Guardian.
“Don’t fuck up” – Graeme Roy, The Canadian Press Director of Photography. For a wire photographer, that’s pretty much on the money.