chris parkes interview

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    Photographer Chris Parkes

    XX / QUEL HOMME / ISSUE 3 / LONDON

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    Editor Calum Donoghue has a catch up coffee with Chris Parkes, fresh from his trip from Sierra Leone, to chat shooting fingerprints, working in the rain, and Instagram.

    Interview by Calum Donoghue, photography by Chris Parkes

  • Where are you based? London mostly. Working for clients takes me all around the world; Europe, the States, Australia London is where I live and this is where I have built everything.

    Where are you from? I was born in the UK, but I was raised in South Africa between 1982 and 1993 and then I moved to Devon. Very, very different places. Going from the suburbs in South Africa where everyone has a pool and surrounded by compound security, then moving to rolling green fields of Devon, with a bus only every two hours and no shopping malls Also just different attitudes.

    How did you build a career in photography? I was a photographer on a cruise ship for a couple of years when I was a kid. Then, when I came back to London, I needed to make ends meet and took any job I could and became a door host - it was quite easy, I would go every Monday and Wednesday night. It was in Covent Garden, so after I would run up to Heaven and get my dance on.

    After a couple of years of that I needed to knuckle down again, because my career of photography was going further and further into the background. Thats when I got a job working in a studio as a lifestyle photographer.

    I was also a forensic photographer for a few years, working with crime exhibits. I would work in the lab photographing fingerprints and things like that. It wasn't for me, dealing with that day-in-day-out puts things into a different perspective as to what is going on in the real world, and what people arent being told when they read the newspaper. I was probably a bit too sensitive for that.

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    When did you first pick up a camera? I was about 16 when my dad gave me my first camera, which was a basic point-and-click disposable one. I was inspired by National Geographic magazine, that is what got me into photography. I also worked in a library and was constantly looking through nature books - I just consumed it all the time during my teens. That and films.

    Working on the cruise ships meant I had to turn around a photograph really fast. I had to really learn how to pick up the pace. Earning the money from the ships and saving up would allow me to buy better lenses and equipment.

    How has your photography evolved? After the cruise ships I started building more and more contacts for things like weddings and that allowed me to, in my spare time, work on projects I loved and was passionate about.

    I started doing a series of black and white portraits of gay men, which is where the majority of work I currently do grew from. I have a lot more fun with my photography, using smoke and rain, working with interesting guys.

    Mens Fitness was my first magazine shoot, which was a big deal, and they kind of said do what you want. I was feeling my way through the shots and I was struggling, I was like something is not quite right. Then the weather came in and the rain broke, everyone was getting soaked, the guy from Mens Fitness said should we stop and I was like NO! The model Andrew started really going for it with the ropes, rain was slapping me in the face and I just thought yes, now it is happening, now the shoot is working.

    XX / QUEL HOMME / ISSUE 3 / LONDON

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    XX / QUEL HOMME / ISSUE 3 / LONDON

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    Tell us about your recent trip to Sierra Leone? I have a client who is a blonde bombshell with lots of energy, and she told me about a charity she works with, Street Child, and that I was going to love them.

    I then went for a coffee with two of the guys from the charity, they explained what they do and told me some of their stories, and I was like I have to be involved and help tell these stories. In Sierra Leone there was a civil war for over a decade and people were subjected to such brutality, then when they finally started to pull their lives together Ebola hit, which brought the economy to its knees.

    We flew out and travelled through the night and first thing in the morning we went to visit a project. They have different projects which include reuniting kids with their families after the civil war who were recruited as child soldiers, children who have been orphaned by Ebola, and also kids who cant go to school because they havent got the right uniform - which is a big deal there. They are getting these kids back with their families, off the street and getting them safe.

    They are also helping people set up businesses where the iron trade has collapsed, I went to visit that area on my first day in the country.

    Is Instagram a big part of your work? Well I have a good following but I'm not big time. And its nice when people I know who do have huge followings take the time to post my work that they have been involved in.

    I am kind of strict about who I follow, because I feel like I want to see more than just a guy with his top off. Some of the people I follow do have a level of narcissism but there is also expressionism involved - they are trying to take their images in a more of a creative direction.

    Where is next to travel? I really want to get out to Nepal and be close to Everest. I like places where people have extreme experiences, because I can connect with that.

    www.christophotographic.com Instagram: @chris_parkes_esq

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    http://www.christophotographic.com

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