“Using white chalk, In the night, she scratched his name on the coarse gray wall, telling her love, describing its never ending nature, its eternal flow. It lasted, clinging like salve, until the rain came—a small morning storm, really—washing it away forever. The wet powder raced through the gutter like a white penny, rolling toward the river, the sea, eternity.”
Today we share the work of photographer Christopher Bryson.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
Although my university training is in science and literature, I am a
photographer, writer, and graphic designer who lives in New Orleans,
Louisiana. I have lived in North Carolina, Ohio, California, New York
City, and an assortment of other locations for shorter periods of time.
My photographic work involves portraits of people in the French Quarter
and along the Mississippi River, as well as landscapes in California,
Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. Currently, I am interested in
occupations, labor, how people work, and how they transition to and from
the workplace. These proclivities, along with an ongoing inclination
toward street photography keep me involved.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I would have to suggest that early technical training came from my
father, and uncle who were both avid photographers, and from looking at
many pictures. A Brownie box camera, and a Kodak Pony 35 mm. were my
first cameras—my mother and father’s cameras, respectively.
Later, I learned, and have continued to learn, from other photographers who
produce work that I admire. These mentors are both living and dead, some
of which have become friends along the way.
“On the occasion of Ms. Elizabeth attempting to teach my dog, Jack, to sing, we made pictures, and passed a good time. Jack never learned to sing, per se, but he sure did like the way Elizabeth smelled, and sounded.” Christopher Bryson
Why do you create?
This is an excellent question, but not one that I have often asked
myself. I usually ask ‘how,’ as opposed to ‘why.’ I suppose I create for
multiple reasons. I like to express how I feel. And, in the form of
photography and in writing, I like to record what I see. Specifically,
it is a sort of record, ‘proof,’ that I have observed—that I experienced
the thing—and sometimes I choose to expand that record with an extended
caption or other verse. This is generally not something I contemplate
until long after the picture is out of the camera.
“What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.” Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
Well that could be a very long list. My parents, several university
professors, Kafka, Neruda, Borges, Chekhov, Tobias Wolff, Bukowski, and
photographer friends who have encouraged me and given guidance. Mostly,
these are people who have given me permission to become whoever I would
like to become. This has been a vitally important gift in my life, this
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you
That’s easy. The first one that comes to mind is the portrait by Édouard
Boubat. It does everything for me.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
Hmm. That would be a photograph of a man in St. Augustine Catholic
Church, in Faubourg Tremé, in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was in the
church, after morning mass, to make pictures of people who had deep,
inter-generational roots that connected them to the church and the
community. Tremé is the oldest neighborhood of free people of color in
the United States, and the church itself has a long and rich history. I
was there in part to help gather family histories in celebration of the
300th anniversary of the city of New Orleans. The experience taught me
that it is better to get too close, than to not get close enough. After
that experience, I get very close to people when I shoot them. This was
not a small lesson, for me.
What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?
I am naturally a curious person, so most days are good for me. I feel
like it is a good day if I discover something new about myself and how I
process the world I live in, or if I discover something unexpected, or
unusual, about someone else.
If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living
or passed who would it be?
I’d enjoy hanging out with Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz for a
day. Am I allowed a two-fer?
How important is the photographic community to you?
While not reclusive, I tend to work alone, and I enjoy the lack of
distractions when working in a solitary environment. So, if you had
asked me this question five years ago, I would have said, “Not at all
important.” But that is changing. This interview is proof of that.
What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?
I’m not much of a technical photographer, so the equipment isn’t the
thing I think about very much. I like to have a camera that I will take
with me when I am on the move, out on the street. The SONY RX100 has
been good for me that way. Over the past year or so, I also bring along
a SONY A7RII more often. But I’m not much of a gear guy. I just need
something that will allow me to get what I want using ambient light.
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the
I’d like to learn, and experiment with working in a large format, wet
plate situation. But again, I would likely use it to make portraits of
people doing their work. Documenting people involved with labor is
exciting. And to me, there is a heroic aspect of this that activity that
could be tremendously majestic in the wet plate format.
Whats on the horizon?
I am just recently starting to show work in galleries, so I’m going to
try to do more of that if people are interested in seeing what I’m
seeing. And, I’ve been contemplating ideas for a book. Meanwhile, I’ll
just keep looking, seeing, and making a visual record of my experience.
I have ideas to explore.
Thank you for sharing your work and words with us.
To learn more about the work of Christopher Bryson please visit his site atChristopher Bryson.