Style Guide: Embracing Experimentation with Fraser Chatham

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    Fraser Chatham is a dynamic photographer and director represented by FAMILIA. Fraser burst onto the scene in New Zealand and made history in 2019 as the youngest ever photographer to be included in the Lürzers Archive's World Top 200, a position he has held ever since. Currently based in London, Fraser specializes in commercial direction, studio still life photography and product photography. Fraser's talent stems from his unparalleled eye for detail and innate understanding of the evolving industry, effortlessly blending photography and direction to craft stories through visuals.

    LBB> How would you describe your job?

    Fraser> I am a director and photographer focusing primarily on still life and product work.

    LBB> So, is there a particular style that you prefer? If so, how would you describe it?

    Fraser> In short, I would describe my work as compositions with precise lighting and dark, atmospheric tones. I am drawn to creating images and creating environments where the subtle nuances of an object's materials and design are highlighted.

    LBB> How were you drawn to the particular medium you work in?

    Fraser> I entered the world of studio photography while attending art school, where I fell in love with the level of control offered through lighting. I was fascinated by spending hours in the studio, meticulously tweaking lighting setups and observing the effects on objects. Additionally, given my passion for industrial design, still life photography felt like a natural fit.

    LBB> What were your inspirations and influences when you started developing your creative skills and style?

    Fraser> After graduating from art school, I worked in rental housing, where I discovered the film and photography industry. In the evenings and weekends, I worked on personal projects, learned equipment, and experimented creatively to hone my skills. The interaction with the creators, photographers, DOPs, and directors that gathered in the studio sparked my inspiration and I was really excited about the prospect of doing it as a career.

    My conceptual art education and gallery visits also had a big impact on me.

    LBB> How has your style evolved over time, and can you talk about any stylistic experiments or directions you've explored over the years?

    Fraser> Over time, my style has evolved a lot, but my approach has remained consistent. I thrive in a controlled studio environment to create my work.

    Initially, as a photographer, I created vibrant, colorful images with abstract elements, driven by a fascination with color, shape, and pushing the boundaries of photographic aesthetics. I was interested in bridging the gap between his CGI and traditional photography.

    Over time, my work has transitioned to darker, more atmospheric tones, and adopted a simplicity and perhaps a more “purist” approach. My subject matter has moved on to more organic themes, and that's where my current work lies.

    LBB> Is there a particular project that shaped your style?

    Fraser> I feel like my style continues to evolve, formed by experiencing new works and honing my sense of style. There is no specific project that embodies my style, but there were key moments.

    One of the recent milestones was relocating from New Zealand to London last year. This move led to a re-evaluation of my work as a whole and a clearer understanding of what I wanted to photograph.

    LBB> What ideas shape your style today?

    Currently, my style is characterized by soft and sophisticated lighting, a minimalist and earthy palette, and a simple approach to styling. I am particularly interested in juxtaposing organic objects within a studio environment. Currently I am exploring a series of building landscape sections within the studio. This summarizes the conceptual direction of my work at the moment.

    LBB> From NFTs to the Metaverse, there is more space for your work to be exhibited. What do you think about the impacts, challenges, and opportunities presented by these new spaces? And do they influence the way you think about your style (i.e., how do you adapt your style to fit these new digital frontiers? Or is there pressure to change? Or is it kind of exciting?)

    Fraser > The emergence of spaces like NFTs and the Metaverse poses both challenges and opportunities, but we're not sure about their specific impact on film and photography.

    There is certainly pressure to adapt to this evolving landscape, but I have yet to figure out what it means for my work. But instead of being afraid of change, I see it as an opportunity to experiment.

    LBB> Is it more important for an artist to have a clear brand or style when working in the commercial sector?

    Fraser> I think it's important to develop a clear style. However, maintaining consistency while evolving and expanding your practice can be extremely difficult. While a consistent style is very important, I also try to accept experimentation and failure as part of the process of developing my style.

    LBB> What is the balance between having a unique voice and being responsive to the visual language of a brand/campaign?

    Fraser> In the best case scenario, the client or agency's approach will build on our existing body of work and will naturally influence the look and feel of the entire campaign. However, it's important to realize that not every project will perfectly match my personal style. It's a delicate balance.

    LBB> How do you typically approach a brief on a commercial project?

    Fraser> Usually, after being briefed by a client, I find that I can quickly understand how the project I envision will look and feel. Once you have an initial idea in mind, create a supporting document with references and a short text outlining your approach. During pre-production, we prioritize candid dialogue with all parties involved to ensure everyone is on the same page. This includes working closely with staff to clarify and refine concepts through sketches, models, and other means. Additionally, maintaining ongoing communication with both the agency and the client is important throughout the process.

    I like working with detailed storyboards and animatics. I found this approach helpful in visualizing how the final edit would come together.

    LBB> What projects have you worked on recently that you feel were a really satisfying fit for the brand and your own style? What was it about these projects that was really interesting to work on?

    Fraser> Last year I had the opportunity to work on a still photography project that focused on capturing Adidas' sustainable manufacturing processes. Photographed at Adidas headquarters in Nuremberg and manufacturing facility in Konya, Turkey. What made this project particularly appealing was that the brief matched my personal style very well.

    Adding an extra layer was the challenge of working on an agile, fast-paced set, which is not something I do often. It pushed me to adapt creatively by stepping out of my comfort zone.


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