Behind the lens: A conversation with photographer Chrisean Rose

Chrisean Rose is a fashion, editorial and portraiture photographer, who utilizes a minimalistic style that often centers around nostalgic themes. He serves as the focus of our weekly Behind the Lens feature.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how close are you to reaching your maximum potential as an artist (with 10 being the highest)?

I would say about a 4 or 5. Definitely on the low end because I feel there is so much more I want to do and so much more I am capable of doing but I am limited to time, resources and outlets to make my visions reality.

I honestly don’t think I will ever see my full potentials, and that is something I’ve recently come to terms with. I had a long talk with myself and told myself that that’s ok. I now use photography only as a source for creative balance in my life. I create only when I want to create, there’s no more pressure.

Describe the moment that you knew photography was your life’s calling.

I’ve always been in love with art. I paint, I draw, I can build … I can do all these creative things well, so photography for me came naturally and just seemed like the next best step. There wasn’t a particular “aha” moment — it was just very organic.

All images by Chrisean Rose.

What were the steps that were taken to get you from that an initial dream to becoming an accomplished professional?

Early on in my career as a photographer, I would pump a lot of money into my work. So even though I had no idea what I was doing half the time, my product always looked polished and more professional than I actually was (laughs out loud). 

I say that to say this, you have to invest in your dreams. You can’t expect quality if you don’t put quality into it. And this same theory applies in any field. You want to be a rapper? Save your money and invest in quality studio time and equipment. And sometimes the investment doesn’t have to be monetary, it can be as simple as spending 2hrs a day doing quality studying and building your craft.

Who were your greatest teachers?

My greatest teacher was my eighth-grade homeroom teacher, Marvin Duncombe. He was someone I looked up to as a teenager and is one of the best public speakers I know. I’ve also been inspired to be like him, but I haven’t quite gotten the public speaking down packed yet. I’ve actually become more of a recluse as I’ve gotten older.

As far as photography, I appreciate everyone’s work, but I would be lying if I said I studied anyone’s work. I don’t follow any of the famous photographers. However, many years back I recall Gavin O’Neil having a photography blog that I would frequent. I remember thinking, man this is how I want my work to look. He was very good at answering questions and just being a mentor to new photographers. So I would say if anyone, he was my greatest teacher.

All images by Chrisean Rose.

Who has served as some as your greatest creative inspirations outside of other photographers?

My background is Bahamian, so I grew surrounded by talented Bahamian painters who helped mold me as a creative. Moya Strachan, Wendy Cartwright, and Kevin Rolle are just a few.

How important is it to study the greats?

You know, my honest opinion on this is that I don’t think it is something that you should spend too much time on. While I do think it’s important to appreciate the work of others, you really have to build your own style and create your own way to become the 1st you, and not the next somebody else. I see so many photographers work that looks just like the work of others. And you can tell they spend a great deal of time emulating the style of famous photographers, and there’s no creativity in that. 

Rank these in order of importance, while describing your rankings: Technical proficiency, clarity of vision, personal project investment.

Ooh, this is hard. This can vary vastly depending on your approach. 

For me, it is important to first have a clear vision. I’m very anal about this. I am a plan freak and I don’t like swaying away from my vision. Without a vision, you’re just throwing anything on a wall hoping something sticks. Some creatives do that and create beautiful work, but I like structure, so that would be most important. Investment is also very important for a good end product, so that would be next. And last, I would say technical proficiency. We live in an era where you can find out how to do anything in a matter of minutes so being technical isn’t a must. 

All images by Chrisean Rose.

In what ways do you ensure connection with your subject?

I try to have my crew joke and talk a lot on set. Even though I consider myself serious, I like to keep the atmosphere light and this really helps the subject model to feel comfortable and open up. The whole time they are opening up, I am low-key taking notes that help while shooting. 

What is one passion project that you are looking to pursue in the future?

A big passion project for me is to take a group of creatives and models on a road trip across America and just stop at different locations and shoot when we see an inspiration. Can you imagine that? That’s like a dream project, man. 

All images by Chrisean Rose.

Have you felt personally impacted by the fact that you are a minority among working photographers?

I honestly don’t think about it or even notice it unless it’s blatant. I would say though, a lot of my clients are surprised to find out that I am a Black guy. (Laughs out loud.) I don’t turn a blind eye to it. However, I do know that there has been the same group of non-minorities running the fashion industry for a long time, but times are changing. I feel like now more than ever, black artists have the opportunity to have their art equally exposed. A 23-year-old Black photographer just shot the greatest entertainer in the world, who happens to be Black, for the September issue of Vogue. Man, if that ain’t engagement, I don’t know what is.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers, specifically people of color?

Don’t put yourself in a box. It’s ok to have a niche and your own aesthetic, but do not limit yourself. Know exactly who you want your audience to be, make a game plan and then create work that targets that audience. Network and try to work with other creatives that would elevate your work. Most importantly, be kind to others. You will be surprised to know how many jobs you win over other photographers who may be better than you, simply because you have the better attitude.

You can find out more about this talented photographer at www.chrisean.com.

DeWayne Rogers
DeWayne Rogers

I write. I create. I take photos. In my spare time, I'm also a part-time super-hero. Go figure.



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