Kris Anderson – Special Guest – Podcast Episode 9

In this episode of the podcast we have an exclusive interview with Canadian photographer Kris Anderson. His images have won him numerous accolades at international level. He recently won the in camera division at Icon International Photography competition and also achieved his Double Master award. As well as mind-boggling in camera techniques, Kris also is known for his storytelling composites.

We discuss competitions, judging, imposter syndrome, creativity, weather and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to get an insight into how this immensely successful digital artist works.

The winning  in-camera division image at Icon:

Kris Anderson winning image In Camera Icon award
Kris Anderson boat at sea
Kris Anderson "Senseless"

To see more of Kris’ work please visit the Images by Anderson website.

You can also get all the latest updates on his work via Kris’ Instagram

He has also become well-known for a little 2-word phrase at the end of the behind the scenes video he shot for Icon.

Transcription of Kris Anderson Interview

Welcome to the Focused Professional Podcast. This is Episode 9, and I’m Joe Lenton.


Joe Lenton: Welcome to the Focused Professional Podcast. Today we’ve got special guest Kris Anderson. Hey Kris.

Kris Anderson: Hey Joe, how’s it going?

Joe Lenton: It’s good, thank you very much. It’s great to have you on the podcast this week. Kris is a double master now from Icon. He won the open in-camera section and the grand award for the in-camera division recently at Icon, so got some trophies coming in the post then, Kris?

Kris Anderson: Yeah well if Kelly Brown bringing them in her carry-on luggage counts as the post then we’ll take that but um no it’s a pretty big one actually like that’s I entered that open in camera a couple what the last time when WPPI was running and came third and it’s like oh now I got a fire lit under me and I was super keen so it is that is a super big deal and I’m it’s like that’s only a couple days ago so I’m it’s still still dealing mentally with it but it’s it’s pretty good.

Joe Lenton: still sinking in then is it?

Kris Anderson: a little tiny bit yeah.

Joe Lenton: well you know you’re gonna have to say your catchphrase now don’t you?

Kris Anderson: oh no no don’t make me do that oh it’s so fun okay so do I need to explain what we’re talking about?

Joe Lenton: we probably better vaguely explain in case there’s anybody that hasn’t seen the video yet.

Kris Anderson: all right. So they did it had a really cool feature at icon where it’s like lots of print judging you have the prints that are up in the gallery you can wander around afterwards and look at them. But as entrants, we were invited to submit a video and you submit a video that’s the same like aspect ratio as your print. And then what they do is they have a special app that you can download and you walk around with your app, you know, aiming the camera at screens. And when it kind of goes, Ooh, I know that picture, it replaces it with the video that you sent in. So it overlays like a behind the scenes video or, you know, whatever you want to put there really. And that’s super cool. And it made the gallery really interactive from what I hear. I wasn’t there, I missed out actually. But I sent a video in for that in-camera, the open in-camera image that eventually did really well. And after I sent it in, Jerry and Melissa Ghionis, who are the founders of Icon said, can we please use this in the award ceremony Because we want to demonstrate what you could do. And I was like, yeah, cool. I said something at the end of the video that was funny, I think, and judging by the amount of noise that came out of the recording of the audience there, they liked it. And I’m not going to say it now. You’ve got to find the video. You can link to it in the comments for the thing.

Joe Lenton: That’s a good idea. Yeah, we’ll do that. Well, I’ll see if I can get it out of you at some point.

Kris Anderson: Alright. But since then, like seriously today, I’ve had at least eight people either message me saying it or tag me in a post or I had a one of my other responsibilities is I’m a board member for the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography and we had a board meeting today and it took took about two hours but someone finally used that phrase on me it’s like “oh no” so I mean it’s funny it’s hilarious it’s good um it’s I like it.

Joe Lenton: it’s gonna be haunting you for a while I’m just looking forward to the Convention next year when you’re gonna get thoroughly really sick of it I should think.

Kris Anderson: I really am that’s okay it’s all right I’ll take it if that’s if that if that’s the meme that I’m known for it could be worse so you know I’ll take it.

Joe Lenton: oh absolutely. Yeah that could be an awful lot worse yeah so thanks for um well not staying up late I suppose it’s not that late is it really down where you are but you’re the opposite end of the day to us in the UK down there in Australia at the moment it’s about 10 hour difference isn’t it?

Kris Anderson: yeah I think so it’s like 8:10 at night and I’m old but I’m not that old so I think I can manage to stay away for a little bit longer but um yeah

Joe Lenton: excellent yeah if not I’ll have to give you a virtual prod part way through

Kris Anderson: would you mind?

Joe Lenton: I think I think I’ve got an air horn effect somewhere or something that I can put through the speakers.

Kris Anderson: I got those electrodes you sent through the post and they’re wired up. I assume that’s what that’s for so

Joe Lenton: ah excellent excellent yep I’ll get the button ready. So what on earth is a Canadian doing in Australia anyway? Surely it’s far too hot for you guys down there? 

Kris Anderson: oh it really is like I love cold weather and Brisbane is not a cold place. It’s been hot and humid and stinky and it’s a stupid place to live if you like cold weather. When I was a kid so I’m Canadian I mostly grew up in the States so I have an American accent I have a Denver accent but my folks moved to Australia when I was 11 and was like just for a couple years for my dad’s work and then a couple more years and then a couple more years. And when they eventually moved back, I was going to university and was pretty established, so I ended up staying. And it’s slightly more complicated than that, but basically that’s how I ended up in Australia. And I didn’t want to live here when I was a kid, so the accent stuck, like my original accent more or less stuck.

Joe Lenton: Cement your identity, set yourself apart.

Kris Anderson: And I’m the only one in the family that stayed, and everyone else moved back. So, yeah, that’s what I’m doing here anyway.

Joe Lenton: So you probably haven’t seen snow for a few years then?

Kris Anderson: I don’t see as much as I like. We do go and visit family overseas from time to time. I was hoping for a little bit of snow in London. I think I saw like for six seconds some snow outside the window one day and then it was gone. So it’s like. 

Joe Lenton: Yeah, don’t hope for snow in London. No, I wouldn’t. You see, you’ve got this image in mind with snow where you’ve got like beautiful countryside dusted with snow. And it’s substantial enough to look nice. In London, it’s just a grey inch of sludge, you know, ground up by millions of tires going through it, none of which are winter tires. So they’re all skidding around and it’s just filthy and unpleasant generally. 

Kris Anderson: Yes, that is not what I’m picturing when I think about snow, that’s for sure.

Joe Lenton: Yeah, yeah. So don’t wish for it in the UK, in London especially. It’s not quite the same impact as you might be used to.

Kris Anderson: Yeah.

Joe Lenton: Yeah, so we met at the Society of Photographers convention last year.

Kris Anderson: Last year? 2023? Is that right? Yes. That sounds right.

Joe Lenton: Yes, it would have been. Yeah. Yeah, we got put together on the same judging team.

Kris Anderson: Which was great. 

Joe Lenton: And we’re still talking.

Kris Anderson: Yeah, we’re still talking. Yeah. Yes. That’s one thing I love. I love judging anyway, but getting to judge with different people from different places with different skills and backgrounds and ways of looking at things is great. And I can remember from like the first day judging with you. Like number one, you have like a radio voice, which is super cool. And clearly that’s helping with the podcast. But also like the way you were picking, not picking apart, that’s the wrong phrase, analysing commercial images, analysing kind of the effectiveness of an image as a commercial image was really good. And it was clear that was like an area where you know your stuff and the panel chair threw to you all the time for comments in that area, which is really good. So I enjoy judging with you.

Joe Lenton: Yeah. And then you end up with a section where we were doing pets and all sorts of little pictures of dogs start coming up. And I’m thinking, oh, that was a steep learning curve.

Kris Anderson: Oh that’s the thing I think as a judge though like sure you have your areas of expertise and you have your experience where oh I’ve shot this kind of thing and I know how hard it is and whatever but a lot of times the things that make a photograph effective are going to transcend categories so it’s not like it can feel a little bit disconcerting to be out of your genre if you’re judging but I think the more you do it the more you kind of go no it’s okay cool like I get this and I get how to communicate visually and a lot of the things carry over anyway so and And especially if you’ve got a team where you do have a couple of experts in that area, if you really need to lean on someone for knowledge, then it’ll come out. So I think being out of your comfort zone judging is amazing. So hopefully pets didn’t bother you too much.

Joe Lenton: No, it was good. It was a good challenge. And I think I felt a lot more comfortable is in a way is not the right word. But I mean, judging after having done the first sort of 20 by 16 print competition like that which is pretty intense having done the first one and got through the initial sort of really bad nerves there’s still a little bit of a nervous tension there when you start which is you know is the right thing when you’re judging a competition of that kind of level.

Kris Anderson: yeah you should be a little nervous because it’s a big deal. I mean there’s people that have poured I mean we’ve been in that situation ourselves so we know people have poured their heart and soul into their entries and it’s it’s people are putting the work that they feel is their best work forward to be judged and And it’s to them, all those words that you’re saying, they count. So I think being a little bit… Having a little some nerves as a judge is a really good thing it reminds you that it’s important if you were kind of just relaxed about it it didn’t matter then you’re probably going to say some stuff that isn’t very kind.

Joe Lenton: Oh exactly yeah and I think the great thing with being on a team like that with the variety is that at each point you’ve got somebody who’s in their element and everybody else who’s kind of being stretched and you just you learn so much you know as as a judge. If you go into there thinking well I’m a judge because I know everything you think well Well, no, you’re in the wrong place. If you can go into it and with an open mind and really listen, you can learn an awful lot. And one thing that you certainly pick up from the judges that Terrie chooses for the Societies is that none of them enjoys having to criticize something down. It’s not something we want to have to do. You know, we actually want people to do well. 

Kris Anderson: You want the best thing for entrants. And I think sometimes there are going to be stronger and weaker prints. And so for the entrants that maybe have submitted a print where there’s more work for them to get to the point of being competitive, I think that’s one of the most important things, responsibilities of a judge, actually. Like it’s kind of easy to give feedback on a really great image, because you can sort of say all these neat things about it on an image that’s a bit harder to connect to, finding a way of, how to say this, putting yourself in the shoes of the entrant to try and work out, well, what were they trying to do? And what were they trying to achieve? Okay, well, now knowing that, what steps could they have done a little bit differently? And maybe they could try that next time, which is kind of how I approach giving feedback. And so hopefully then it comes across as being. You know like you’re on the same side as the entrant it’s not it’s not yeah you’re not an adversary you’re a coach and I think that’s a good hat to wear when you’re judging.

Joe Lenton: Yeah it was exactly the word I was going to choose. A sort of coaching role really that kind of judging which yeah I really enjoy and this year we did we have it the previous year as well but this year we had the nouveau category in our room and that’s people who are entering for the first time and it’s a particularly good opportunity for giving that more detailed feedback and as somebody who enjoys coaching I think those sections for me are some of the most enjoyable parts because you’re allocated extra time to give that feedback.

Kris Anderson: That’s good and hopefully the people that have entered are in the audience listening too because you’ll hear everyone say this and if you haven’t been you’re going to go “what are they talking about?” It is the best education going to print judging just the the volume of images that go by the things you can learn the different approaches is like I learn about techniques I get inspired it’s it’s fabulous so anyone who’s listening and they haven’t been along to you know whether it’s the Society’s print judging or other print judging. Find some. Go along because it’s it’s totally worth it. 

Joe Lenton: How have, presumably you’ve sat in the room while one of your prints has been judged or you’ve watched a video of something being judged, how does, how do you feel then while that’s happening? 

Kris Anderson: That’s it’s definitely changed So I. It is always going to be, what I would say is pants poopingly scary. Like, you know, that is, it’s always a little bit nerve wracking because you have put your soul on a plate for other people to, they don’t know what’s yours. They don’t know if you’re in the room. So they’re, they’re critiquing the image. When I first started entering, oh my gosh, like I’d get super nervous. And I can remember being… In Australia, when we used to have our old institute, we’d have state judging, which would be two rooms running simultaneously for three days, and then followed by national judging as well. But in the state judging, I can remember I was in one room, my wife’s in the other room, and we’ve got our phones out because I might have prints in both categories, and our job is to text one another. And it’s like, if a print come up in my room, I try and text her like, my print is up, but I text [nonsense] because I just can’t type because I’ve lost physical control. No, I’ve been, I get really nervous. I can remember prints not going well and that stings or prints going well. And then just being on a high for hours and still have, I still have that, but probably not as much as, as before. And I think part of that is kind of learning that I try really hard not to tie judging results to self-worth. Like you can have an image that does really, really well and wins everything. It doesn’t mean that you are the best in the world. And you can have an image that maybe doesn’t go so well. And it doesn’t mean that you’re not excellent. It’s just that’s how it was judged at that point in time. And it’s right. Like I kind of have decided that if five judges are judging my print and they give it the score in that moment with those judges, they’re right. And there’s no arguing with it. It’s just how it is. But it doesn’t mean that your print is any more or less, I don’t know, worthy maybe. So I guess I’ve tried to emotionally separate myself a little bit from it.

Joe Lenton: Do you tend to agree with the judges normally? I mean, you know, would you, when you enter an image, would you have a sense of which are going to do well and which aren’t? Or did you get surprised by the results? 

Kris Anderson: Yeah, usually I’m pretty good with, you know, these are the ones that are going to go better and these are the ones that are not going to go as well. Do I agree with the judges? Yeah, if they say that a print’s amazing, sure, I agree with them. If they say it’s terrible, no, not so much. No, no. You know, like often if a judge says something, you kind of look and you go, oh, they’re right. How have I not seen that before? And you can’t unsee it. And even like I’m a huge one for asking for feedback from friends. So like obviously if someone’s given feedback, they couldn’t judge it if they ever encountered it on a panel. But like getting feedback from people that have done judging that are as finicky as judges, usually that’s really good for the prints because I like to get all the weakness out of them. And then when you’ve shown a bunch of people who are really good at this, and then a judge sees something new, it’s like, ah, you know, dang it. But no, I think if you go into it going, every time a judge gives a comment that is constructive, they’ve got something in mind, right? They’ve got a place they’re trying to get to. At least understand what they’re trying to convey, at least understand where they’re trying to go and how they’re trying to improve it. Even if you don’t take it on board, understand their point of view. And then it’s a learning experience no matter what. So I’m also a pretty big believer in like failure is learning. I like to fail. I fail a lot experimenting with stuff. All that does is make you stronger for the next time. So, yeah.

Joe Lenton: So is it the learning aspect then that motivates you to enter a competition or is it more of the aim to have lots of pretty things to put on the mantelpiece?

Kris Anderson: I do like the pretty things. They’re pretty good. But I’ve got a few of them now and I don’t know where to put them. So I need to figure that one out. Learning is good. Do you know what? But I think there’s a challenge about it that’s nice. There’s something competitive about it for sure. But competitive with yourself. I always figure I would like to do as well as I did last year or better than I did last year. And I think the standard…

Joe Lenton: That’s going to get difficult for you now after what you’ve done at Icon. You’re not going to do much better than that next year. 

Kris Anderson: That is a once-in-a-lifetimer. So I probably won’t go back to that one. But that same image might not do so well in a different competition. So that’s okay. The standard of work people are producing for awards is going up and up every year, which is excellent and super daunting. So there’s no resting on your laurels. You’ve got to work to try and get better and it’s not so you can beat other people it’s so you can get better like do you, look at your work from three or four or five years ago and go oh my gosh like what was that dude thinking?!

Joe Lenton: yeah oh I know that feeling absolutely and I mean you know even like I did my fellowship panel of guitar images and you know I went through that kind of cycle that a lot of artists go through thinking yeah this is great no actually it’s crap oh no I‘ll start again and then oh no this is actually quite good and yeah um and I’ve shot some since that actually I look and say that’s better than what was in my panel I wish I could have put that in my panel it’s like

Kris Anderson: no dude take the win! You got it walk away happy!

Joe Lenton: Exactly yeah do you tend to go through that kind of roller coaster you know that a lot of artists get with that sort of experiencing doubt? Because I think a lot of people look at the the common faces that they see in competitions that win and they think, well, yeah, but with my images, I like it, then I don’t. And then I doubt whether anybody’s going to award it. So I don’t put it in. Is that something you can relate to or has it changed for you? 

Kris Anderson: It’s not just images for competition. It’s images for clients, it’s projects, it’s stuff where, you know, you bite off a project for a client and then there’s a point where you go, Oh, what have I done? This is not coming together. I’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake. I think having been in that kind of the low part of that little curve, a bunch of times, you sort of know, look, it’s okay. I’m going to get out of this. I’ve got out of this before. I will get out of this again. I need to keep plugging away at it, or I need to go away and think about it for a little bit, or I need to do something. But I’ve usually recovered out of that little spot. And sometimes it can be just getting distance from a project as well. And which if it’s a client project, maybe that’s a bit harder because they’ve got timeframes if it’s a personal project you can do it but um yeah I totally end up in that spot. When I was doing my fellowship panel I went through a whole lot of well this is garbage like you know how is anyone going to respond to this I you know and I equate that to well I’m not worthy right yeah there’s a cue imposter syndrome conversation right so um like yeah I think think everyone goes through that and it maybe you get to have a little bit of extra armour as you get more experience and stuff like that but yeah I definitely go through that. 

Joe Lenton: I think it’s important for people to to hear that especially if they’re entering something for the first time or they’re newer at professional work and that is that imposter syndrome is kind of one of those things that pretty much everybody suffers from at some point. They all think they’re the only ones suffering from it. They think everybody else looks confident and everything’s going fine and it’s just them and you say no I think it’s good to it’s good to bring it out into the open a bit from time to time and say look you know this is common, it’s not just you.

Kris Anderson: I did a podcast with Jess from That Tog Spot a couple months ago now we talked about imposter syndrome and I’ve thought about it so much since then and I finally realized I asked something about it in the last couple of weeks, which is I will look at other people’s work and I’ll go, look at that work. That person is excellent. So I will equate the high standard of their performance with them. And I’ll look at my work and I’ll go, well, that piece is good. And that piece is good. And that piece is okay. But I don’t ever equate that back to me. So there’s something about kind of summarizing someone else’s performance and going, well, they’re worthy they’re good but myself I don’t see it the same way and I think that’s probably part of it like you sort of see you see your low points more than anyone else does because you know it’s two in the morning and you’re editing and you’re going this is garbage so maybe you see more of that than other people do and everyone else you know not that other people don’t have that or they’re probably just not talking about their 2 am terrible editing periods so yeah I don’t know that’s I don’t think it’s ever going to go away the imposter syndrome thing but i think acknowledging that everybody else feels a version of it is really helpful.

Joe Lenton: Yeah, I think you can kind of learn to sort of cope with it so it doesn’t become so debilitating. But in terms of completely eradicating it, well, highly unlikely. I mean, you know, even when you get those sort of high accolades, even when you pass your fellowship, I mean, I don’t know about you, but for me, it took a while to sink in that it actually passed. You know, this project had been with me for months and, you know, you’re sitting in this room and it’s just one little phrase, one little phrase. You think did I hear that right? You wake up the next morning and think did they really say yes or did they say I’m sorry but you haven’t you know.

Kris Anderson: Oh can I tell this story about breakfast in London with you? 

Joe Lenton: Oh go for it yeah.

Kris Anderson: I have to tell this so I mean we’ve talked about how we met already and I think we judged on panels for like one day and I remember seeing you at the so in the hotel where the convention was at it’s like there’s Joe didn’t really chat with him yesterday let’s have a chat. Hey, Joe, do you want to have breakfast? So we sat down and we’re, you know, we’re having breakfast and we’re just chatting and having a great old time. And then I think I said to you, so what have you got on today? And you said, oh, first up, I’m judging a Fellowship panel. How about you? And I said, first up, I’m having my Fellowship panel judged. And then there’s just silence and we look at each other. Okay. And I think breakfast was done really really quickly after that.

Joe Lenton: Not at all awkward. 

Kris Anderson: Not at all awkward. But now, actually, it’s really interesting because when I was preparing myself for the Fellowship panel and I… I gave that panel the first time I was in London, so I’d never seen anyone do it. And I didn’t really know how it worked. And so maybe that ignorance was good. Maybe I’d be even more nervous if I knew. But your guitar panel is one of those ones I was looking at really closely to try and understand, right, well, in the context of a Fellowship panel, this is an exhibition of related work. This is a body of work that should sit together. Okay, cool. I’m looking at this. Here’s a similar subject matter but different personality different colours different composition but something that ties it together. That was actually really important for me putting mine together so thank you for having an excellent panel. Well before I met you or knew who you might be then I used that for sure.

Joe Lenton: Oh cool well that’s that’s nice to know! I mean with you when you did your Fellowship panel I mean I don’t know about you but for me it was it was such a learning curve in so many ways and it sort of changed me as a photographer. How do you think it changed you? 

Kris Anderson: Yeah that’s a it’s a good question I don’t know like it it hasn’t changed the way I shoot it hasn’t changed the way I talk to clients it’s an extra little bit of credibility that’s quite nice to have on the resume right like yeah you know it’s kind of like awards right like you have clients who book you and they book you because they they’ve seen your work and they’ve talked to you and you’re an okay human being and they want to work with you and you’re trying to, they’re going to part with their money and they don’t even know what they’re going to get because you haven’t made it yet. So the more you can do to de-risk it, the better. And then having someone say, oh, look, I’ve won these awards or, you know, I’ve achieved this level or I’m a Fellow of the blah, blah, blah, you know, that’s, it’s, it’s credibility and that’s. It goes on the plus side of the scale when people are worrying about spending their hard-earned money. So it’s possibly helped with that, but I think it’s more, I probably the biggest thing is it’s big. Okay. So I said, I don’t really get nervous when my prints are judged. Yeah. That was not true for the fellowship panel. Oh my gosh. Like that was, that was the scariest. I’m trying not to swear. That was the scariest thing. And I was really nervous, like nervous Nervous to levels that I don’t remember being that nervous ever. And I’m sure I have been. I just don’t remember. So, yeah, that’s, I was a mess. So at least I know what everyone else goes through. 

Joe Lenton: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a useful thing as a judge, you know, having been through that, you can kind of empathise. The techniques that you ended up using for your fellowship panel. Is that something then that you’d already started doing that you then developed? Or is it something that you devised for the panel?

Kris Anderson: Yeah. So I’d already started working with that. So I guess just to tell the story a little bit, in my photography work, I’m a performing arts photographer primarily. And that touches a whole bunch of things. Actor headshots, live theater production, branding for theater and performance companies, and dancers. So I shoot dancer portfolio work and I’d started experimenting with some long exposure stuff to try and really get a little more movement in there. And that’s not unusual, right? It’s a well-established technique. And I think I kind of kept playing with it and kept trying things and let’s use a projector instead and let’s use gels and let’s light it this way. And eventually something started to emerge that felt like it was different. It felt like it was mine and it made me really happy. And then… I’d already started working on this and the opportunity to do the Fellowship panel came along and it’s like, well, what am I going to do? And kind of once you married up the, it should be an exhibition, like a set of 20 images that would sit together in an exhibition. Once you kind of married that up with this concept, it’s like, okay, that could totally work. So then it was about taking the raw material for those and making sure that they were arranged right and that they sat together and they were facing the right way and they were prepared to a level that they need to be for that panel. So the opportunity to do the panel and the nature of the work, they came along at the same time, if that makes any sense.

Joe Lenton: And you and you’ve carried on developing the idea as well I mean your recent winner at Icon was kind of another step along the line with this technique. 

Kris Anderson: Yeah it was very much the same kind of the the learning that I had doing that technique carried over into that and what’s really great is I’ve had someone this is this freaks me out I want this for everyone someone in the states saw it, and said to me, you might as well have signed it. And that’s awesome because, you know, this is not the technique in that image It’s kind of unusual. Like it’s, I don’t, I haven’t seen it before. So, or it’s a variation on the stuff I’d done, but it was kind of new. And that was to me, that’s the novelty part, but to have someone go, oh, that’s Kris’s, that’s super cool. So, and not like my neighbour going, oh, it’s Kris’s, you know, it’s someone in a country I haven’t been to for a while. So that was pretty neat.

Joe Lenton: Yeah. You know, you’ve developed a recognizable style and that’s a, it’s a great thing. But I think for competitions, I also kind of worry about that, whether the judges are going to go, oh yeah, that’s so-and-so’s and oh, that’s so-and-so’s. You rely on their professionalism to judge it properly regardless, I think. 

Kris Anderson: And like a lot of the places where I judge there are like sometimes I’m the overseas person or there’s people that aren’t as familiar with that community so they can judge a little more you know without having the preconceptions for people if there are recognizable things but I also think as a good judge you should be able to push past the recognition and you know even if you think it might be that person’s it might not be and I’ve definitely been guilty of judging in the back of my head I’ve gone all this is so-and-so’s and it’s not like Like if there’s work that’s been successful in awards, often that will inspire people to do similar things. So you might think you see someone else’s work. And I’ve had someone say to me, oh, like, I judged your print in this competition. It’s like, I didn’t enter in that competition. So I guess it goes both ways. But actually, that’s worked for me too. There’s a friend of mine in Australia, Matt Palmer. He’s an amazing human. One of the things he was known for is Muay Thai martial arts photographs. Like people fighters in the ring and, you know, really crisp black and white and just capturing the perfect moment. And, you know, there’s spit flying and sweat and all kinds of stuff, just really visceral, amazing images. And I did an illustrative piece that had a similar feel to it with a different kind of storytelling. It’s a couple of years ago now. And someone called Matt to book him for a job and they were saying, well, like your work and all that, but I especially like this piece. And they go on to describe my piece. And Matt’s like, yeah, that’s not mine. So, So, you know, that kind of mistaken identity thing is kind of weird. But yeah, no, I’ve, you do you have to be a bit careful about that, I think 

Joe Lenton: Yeah, I think with your work, you’ve kind of. Looks almost to me like you’ve got these type of two photographic identities. There’s one which is very in-camera based. And then there’s one which is very sort of complex composites telling stories in a very different way. Do you get more satisfaction out of one of them than the other? Or do you just enjoy doing a bit of both? 

Kris Anderson: I think I enjoy doing a bit of both, but a bit of whatever is challenging. Like they’re all different. These are all different tools you can use to do the thing you want to do. Right. So when I first started getting kind of any little bit of success in awards, it was doing Photoshop composite work and storytelling stuff. And so I was building my Photoshop skills for sure. Then I did a travel portfolio that was single capture and it had some success. I was like, okay, well, that’s kind of neat. I’ve done some commercial work and that’s had some success. And then the in-camera stuff, I think I just like trying different things. I kind of feel like it’s probably time for me to find a new thing to try now and fail at for a while. So maybe you won’t hear from me for a couple of years while I go into a cave and work something out. But I think I like the challenge of having something in my head and then making it work. And I love constraints. I love making things more complicated than they need to be. So one of the other things I do in life is I’m a musician for improv theater. So if you know, like theater sports or whose line is it anyway, that kind of thing, I do music for improv theater and a lot of improv games, like the short form ones where it’s like one minute, two minutes, four minutes, whatever it, you don’t just have like, people don’t get on stage and, and Oh, be funny. And they’re funny for four minutes. It’s not like that. Like you have to, you kind of give them a constraint, like your thing is going to be a poem. And now that’s a set of rules that you have to follow to try and make something clever. Or, you know, there’s a, these are so simple but there’s a game called death in a minute the only thing that has to come true is someone has to die within that the next minute on stage and then you just have to work around that as your constraint but constraints are really good for creating for inspiring creativity right like sports are popular and there’s rules like in camera to me is a really fun constraint because it makes you go right well there’s a whole bunch of tools i cannot get to but i still need to make something that looks like this how am I going to do it I love that that problem solving aspect of it.

Joe Lenton: Uh-huh. So do you create a quite a narrow brief for yourself? So if you don’t have like a client brief, if you’re doing your own creative project, do you set out these restrictions for yourself in advance? 

Kris Anderson: Yeah, sometimes. So like if I’m just experimenting, then it’s more, let’s just use this technique and try it and see what happens. Things work, things don’t work, that’s okay. Sometimes if, like, I guess if it’s a competition thing and I know I wanna enter it in an in-camera thing, then I’ll be really careful about not breaking any rules and staying within the bounds of the rules. And, you know, that’s the same probably for any competition piece, I suppose, as you want to do that. But sometimes it’s a clear visualization of the thing that I want to make. And sometimes it’s like, actually, we just got this technique. Let’s try it and see what happens. And those are fun too, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Then all of a sudden, and this is where that curve of this is terrible. I am terrible comes in again. Like you spend time trying a technique and it’s like this is not working this is not working oh my gosh this is working this is totally and you get that excitement of of finding a technique and and playing with it that’s so much fun so I think that’s where I get a lot of energy from.

Joe Lenton: okay yeah so it’s sort of experimentation and discovery and yeah yeah I mean with um creativity often people sort of seem to get the impression that it’s like if you had a white sheet of paper in front of you that somehow you can come up with something to put on it that they think that’s you know that’s what being creative is and that therefore if they sit there and stare at this blank screen or blank piece of paper and can’t come up with something therefore they’re not creative what would you say to that? 

Kris Anderson: No I but there are probably people that can you know given a piece of paper or given a really blank brief go and create something I probably need to have those constraints I certainly don’t think I have this on tap. Like there are projects that I’ve thought of, I’ve implemented, and it’s done. And it took me a day. And there are ones where that took four years because I just – you think of something and you go, oh, I don’t really know how I’d do that. And you leave it and it goes on the list, the giant list of projects that you have. And then eventually you look at that list and you go, oh, I’ve got an idea about how to do that now. So, yeah, I can’t turn it on and off. I’m sure some people can, but not for me. 

Joe Lenton: No, I relate to that. I like having some kind of constraint to it. It’s like I did a series of images a while back. It was a series of images of just some watches. So it was kind of a simple sort of commercial thing. And my constraint was basically the only other thing that was going to be in the frame was paper. So what could I do? And with paper and the majority of it, it was white paper. So not let’s have loads of crazy colours and things going on. But it’s what can I do with just paper and a watch?

Kris Anderson: And now you’re forced to come up with things, you know, you can fold it, you can light it in this way, you can use this texture and you have to figure out novel ways of doing it. But that’s the point. It’s a novel way of doing it. And you start to create something that’s your own. Yeah, I love that. 

Joe Lenton: So those sort of things I personally often find actually bring out the creativity more when you’ve got that constraint in place, it actually helps, you know, you’ve got, you’ve got some problem to solve and that’s what the creativity is so good for is solving the problem rather than necessarily creating something out of nothing. 

Kris Anderson: Yeah, totally. I mean, that’s like that, that exercise that I think every photography course does at one stage, which is the go and wander about your neighbourhood, but you can only take this lens or you can only take that lens. Or you can only go in, you know, your backyard and that’s it. Like it’s, those are about, here’s a constraint. What can you make out of it? Have you ever done, like I did a project 365, like 11 years ago now, you know, where you’ve got to take an image every day and, or shoot an image every day, sorry. And then share it on social media to keep yourself accountable, blah, blah, blah. That was a really good constraint. And I can remember about two and a half months and I’m going, oh my gosh, like I’ve, I don’t have anything left to shoot. I’ve shot all the things now and I also kind of promised myself I wouldn’t repeat an idea which I was mostly successful about but then all of a sudden you have to try and do something weird and like look I mean there’s a shot in there and it’s a microwave clock and it says 11:59 because I forgot about taking the shot until the very last second so they’re not all super creative but sometimes it’s it was a good exercise for creativity so maybe that’s the key it’s not not about that blank piece of paper it’s about having the blank piece of paper with something on it that you have to finish maybe that’s the trick. 

Joe Lenton: Yeah I like to think so. So I mean if if this is the sort of thing then that gives you enjoyment this kind of problem solving and creativity in that sort of respect if that’s what makes photography and that fun for you, what kills the enjoyment? 

Kris Anderson: Working with less than awesome humans might kill the enjoyment um like Like I’m a people photographer and I love people and there is definitely a spectrum of clients from awesome to less awesome and sometimes that can be a drag. So if you’ve got a client that’s difficult or their communication has, I guess your shared communication has landed you in a situation that’s painful or whatever, that takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. But I think I also have avoided doing styles of photography that are not fun like I’m not a full-time photographer I have another job and it pays the bills and it keeps us well fed and watered and keeps the roof over us and all that so I don’t need to take photography work to eat which means two things one is I can work in whatever area I really enjoy and two is I can charge whatever I like it’s not like only charge a little bit because I don’t need to it’s not that I can charge as much as I like because if I don’t get the job it’s okay so. That’s probably what, when I first started taking money for photos, I guess, if you will, I did everything. I’ve shot maternities and newborn and families in the park with white t-shirts and jeans. Everything, because I figured paint cans, that’s what you do as a photographer. Eventually, it’s kind of like, no, I don’t really have time for that. I just want to shoot the stuff I want to shoot. So I think I’ve probably, I’m just thinking about answering your question. I think I’ve removed the things that don’t bring me joy. I think I have isolated my work to things that bring energy and working like, so my photography life is working with performers and artists and that is awesome because they are creatives. And more often than not, if we’ve got to do like a commercial brief for a client and these are theater companies and so they’re fun and they’re not super large theater companies. So we’re not talking, you know, we don’t have 20th Century coming and knocking on the door. Or these are like, you know, smaller pro pro-am companies in the city where I live. They’ve, they’re flexible and they’ve got ideas. So more often than not, if we’ve got a brief we’re working to, we’ll shoot it, we’ll get it done. And then we’ll say, right, well, what can we try? And about 50% of the time, the stuff we experiment with ends up being amazing. Just having that melting pot of ideas where you have creatives bouncing off each other, coming up with ideas is great. And that’s super energizing for me. So yeah, I don’t think I have run in, I guess that’s my answer is I don’t run into too much stuff that sucks my energy away I‘ve worked pretty hard to curate the sector that I work in so that it is fun and energetic. 

Joe Lenton: So do you think then if you were to make a switch to trying to earn all of your income out of photography that that would actually make it less fun for you? 

Kris Anderson: I’m sure it makes some of it less fun I don’t know if it make all of it less fun it kind of depends on Like, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t take the segment that I’m in now and scale it up to the point where it would feed the family. Like, I would need to do other things. And I’ve sort of got ideas about where I probably could go. But yeah, I guess I would hate to find myself in a position five years down the track where it’s like, I’ve got to go and shoot. And then I’ve got to go and edit this stuff. You know, if I wanted to go, ugh, I would stay in my day job. So, you know, which I don’t hate, but still, like, if that’s a change that I make, it’s going to be because I love it as well as it being financially rewarding. 

Joe Lenton: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s an interesting thing. People sometimes will look at like competition winners. So like Hannah from Sweden and just they think, wow, you know, this is incredible. You must be like taking photographs all day, every day. It’s like well no I’ve got a day job and I do this alongside it and and then you realize actually she spends time crafting some things they’re essentially it’s for her that’s that she enjoys and then she chooses to share with the world and thank goodness that she does you know it’s it’s it’s not always got to be something where you’re immersed in it all the time and I certainly find with um some of the people I’ve worked with saying to them well are you sure actually going the the professional route is going to be the best thing for you. Because I’ve had students who’ve rung me up and said, I’ve been asked to do this. I feel really uncomfortable with it. Have I got the right lens? Have I got the right kit? And so on and so on. And what should I charge? And I turned around and said to them, look, do you need to earn your living out of this? Well, probably not because I’ve got my day job. It would be nice to have a bit of extra money at the weekend. Yeah, but you’re sounding pretty darn stressed there. Yeah. Is it, is it worth it? Is that really what you want to do to your photography? Do you want to take it that way, that way so that you kind of have to take some of that stuff on? Um. But actually, not so much. 

Kris Anderson: Not so much. There is a bit of peer pressure from other photographers too. Like it’s, I haven’t, I must admit, I haven’t felt it recently, but, you know, going back four or five years. And if you go to a, like, I remember being at a conference here and I was introduced to someone that I had met, uh, you know, a friend of a friend and it’s like, oh, so what do you do? And what do you do? And I was kind of saying that this is a part-time gig for me and I have a full-time job. And this person looked me up and down and said oh you’re the problem and I kind of well I was a bit taken aback and I’m sure I made some goofy joke and then wandered off but I was thinking about it and you know why would someone say that and it’s probably it was around the time when there was a real threat and still the case I suppose but a real threat to family photographers that are charging I‘d say you know good money to go and photograph a family and then do prints and stuff like that. And then you had other people saying, we’re going to do a two hour shoot in the park and we’ll burn all the images onto CD and it’s for $49. So, um, you know, even though the quality level wasn’t going to compete with the people that are doing it professionally, if, if you’re seeing that stuff go by on your newsfeed to you, that’s what it’s worth now. So that was a real threat and still is to people where that’s their business. So I, I kind of get why that person looked me up and down because they made an assumption that, Oh, you’re a shoot, a shoot and burn 50 buck session person that’s like no not really but I think but there is that pressure to. I think you were talking about this with Steffi the other day as well right like, just because someone like we all don’t have to do the same photography to be successful just because someone has a studio a high street studio and they have clients come in and they do this doesn’t mean that’s what you also need to do and that pressure I think sometimes is gonna, maybe be motivating in a good way maybe in a bad way I don’t know.

Joe Lenton: Yeah it’s also interesting when I was talking to Terrie Jones from the Society she’s the head of judging there and she was sharing some of her journey with developing the judging school and that sort of thing and the kind of horror that some people seem to exhibit when she said “I’m not a photographer.” And you think, why are you so horrified by that? You know, she’s so passionate. She’s so capable. She works so hard that she’s created this incredible judging school, training some of the best judges around, really, for her competitions. She’s so passionate about photography, but somehow, oh, because you’re not holding a camera, there’s something wrong with you. 

Kris Anderson: Yeah, no, I think the stuff that Terrie does is exceptional. And to me, there’s probably no better demonstration of that than last year. Or sorry, this year. It was a couple months ago. I’ve totally lost track of time. There were a couple new judges that hadn’t been on panels before, and you couldn’t tell. I don’t think you could tell anyway. I think they were all well-spoken. Maybe inside they were shaking, but outside they sure weren’t. They just belonged on the panel and they had opinions and if you’re really paying attention you could kind of pick as they got more confident maybe but like it takes a lot of guts to get out and be on one of those panels for the first time so it’s you know full credit to Terrie and the way that she’s organized the teaching because it helps to create people that are very prepared to step on a panel and judge in with a bunch of peers that are working at a high level and judge work that’s at a high level. And it’s an opinion game too. You know that feeling you get when you’re judging and everyone else is around, they’re all sitting on the 78s and you’ve gone 89 because you can see something that resonates with you. And you get that little thing, and your stomach starts vibrating like, I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to challenge. And now you’ve got to put your opinion out. Judging the team, it’s a team sport and people are open-minded and they listen. But… That activity for a new judge oh my gosh or even being on the other end and kind of being a lower score and then having to explain your point of view so yeah like she just does a phenomenal job of training it’s really good.

Joe Lenton: yeah it’s important I think that we kind of challenge these um basic assumptions that can come into into play when you’ve got an industry that in some respects risks getting overcrowded because it is so easy to get into now with the kind of camera equipment available but on the other hand then you know I certainly know that from the point of view of my career what I do the more that I’ve kind of connected with other photographers the more I’ve stopped viewing them as the competition or something like that actually the better I’ve become the more relaxed I’ve become in my job and you realize there is a there is a niche for everybody who wants to find it. 

Kris Anderson: Yeah and I think a lot of it’s it’s not just about the work that that you do. It’s the person that you are and how easy you are to communicate with for that client. Because there’s, there’s lots of people that I’ll meet and I’m just not their photographer. It’s okay. Like it’s, we just don’t click in the way that you want to. And then there are people where it’s like, oh yes, I am a hundred percent your photographer. And that’s, you know, that’s another reason why I don’t think we’re in competition as much, but we all do things differently too. That’s one of the best things about being involved with SWPP or any of the, the various kind of societies and institutes around the place is it’s full of people that do really cool work and it’s the same, but different. Like, you know, you can see, you can see it well enough to appreciate it, but it’s different to the work that you do. And I find that really exciting that you get to chat with people and they do something different to what you do. Not super different, but different enough that it doesn’t feel like your competitors at all. 

Joe Lenton: No, no. It’s like one of the, I suppose, more difficult genres to judge that we’ve had in our room is the more sort of illustrative genres. But there’s so many very strong photographers out there producing great illustrative work. But there’s room for it because each one is telling a story. 

Kris Anderson: Yeah. 

Joe Lenton: They’re telling their own story their own way. You know, a lot of great illustrative images, but it’s not just, oh, heck, another illustrative image. Some of them will really connect with a lot of people some of them a lot of people might miss the story and all that but it’s a genre which seems to be growing in quality at the moment. 

Kris Anderson: So do you find that difficult to judge the illustrative stuff?

Joe Lenton: I do because we get so little time with the image. I want to I suppose my default if you start squeezing me you know with With all of us, if you start squeezing us and putting us under a bit of pressure, we come out with our sort of more natural sort of instinctual self rather than what we want to be, perhaps. With me, when I get squeezed, you start to get that kind of focus on the technical. I very easily can slip into that. What I want is the time to kind of let the story connect with me. And we don’t always have the time and sometimes, well, quite frankly, I’m just a bit slow on that aspect because that’s not the natural for me. So I don’t necessarily get it straight away. But, you know, when you’re just under that pressure to judge an image quickly, connect with the story if you can and… You’ve got to hope as an artist that that panel of five judges, at least three of them are going to connect with it and understand what you’re what you’re trying to do. So, yeah, as a judge, I want to do justice to the image. And part of that to me is is trying to understand it from all angles. 

Kris Anderson: Yeah, it’s funny. I find that way easier to judge than something like wedding just because I think I’m not a wedding photographer. So it’s a little bit out of genre for me. But also that wedding, there’s a significant constraint you’re working within, like the people that you’re photographing or the events, the circumstances are dictating the image that you’re going to make. But with kind of those illustrative categories, it’s like all bets are off. You can do whatever you like. And it’s wonderful. So I love that. And I love kind of going, right, well, there’s intent behind this. What is this person trying to say? How have they used techniques? Does the technique support the thing that they want? How does it make me feel? And then I’m probably a lot like you. My stress response is going to go to technical because like at the end of the day if you’ve got nothing to say you can say well the eyes aren’t sharp and you’re going to be technically correct and the rest of the judges will go oh that’s right the eyes aren’t sharp you know so you’re no one’s going to look down on you for doing that I think it’s it is harder and more challenging to try and connect with the intangibles in an image even if you don’t like even if you can tell it’s reaching out to you but you don’t quite know what it’s saying that’s that’s often enough for me like Like the fact that there’s this, if I can’t read the story, but it’s just out of reach, great! Like it’s made me feel something. So, you know, that works for me too. And I think you only need one judge to connect with it. You just need that one judge. This is the you on 89 while everyone else is on 78, right? You need that one judge who’s going to go, here’s what I saw. And then everyone else goes, oh. Oh, and that, that is as an entrant, there’s nothing better than having a judge champion it. Maybe they saw it the way you wanted it. Maybe they saw something different, but having someone stick their neck out for an image and then work as a team, like that’s just the best thing. So, yeah. Yeah. 

Joe Lenton: They’re images which I really love seeing. I think I’m kind of that little bit self-conscious about can I get it quickly enough in the time that we’ve got going through there? Can I get enough out of it to really do it justice? Because so many illustrative images, you could stand in front of a print, like in a gallery, just with a mug of tea and just stand there and finish the mug of tea. And you still haven’t seen everything, you know? It’s still talking to you. So that I mean that’s what I like about some of the images that you produce that are totally on a different end of the spectrum to your in-camera artistry the more illustrative sort of narrative images that you do sometimes there’s just so much in there you know that you know your boat on the out to sea with the water tossing over the boat and the barrels going around in it it’s one of those things you can just keep looking around it and finding something else and something else to to see and it is you think you know I want time with these these kind of images you know you know that someone’s put a lot of time into creating it you kind of want that that time to to appreciate it really. 

Kris Anderson: yeah and I think that there’s an impact that images can have even if you can’t read the whole thing but sometimes like you know I mean even if you you can’t read it but you know there’s a story there like that how many times have you heard a judge say something like if this was on my wall I would see something new about it every day like that in itself is you’re assessing an image and you’re assessing it’s there’s a really good judging word I’m trying to enduring impact how’s that that sounds like a really good judging phrase. 

Joe Lenton: Absolutely yeah. Yeah well there are some images that you you see it and initially you just go wow but then you don’t necessarily feel there’s so much to go on seeing afterwards the initial kind of impact is very high but then it doesn’t carry on for as long and that that kind of enduring impact that you talk about yeah is is something that’s that’s slightly different and it’s it’s kind of difficult to judge those two images side by side because uh you’ve you’ve only got a few seconds each time you haven’t got a few hours to see, do I still feel the impact of this after two hours of sitting with it? 

Kris Anderson: It’s funny that you say judging things side by side, because I forget what competition it was, but there’s one in the States this year, I think. And that’s what they did is they basically, they did head-to-head image judging. So you’ve got two images, which one gets through out of these two. And so, you know, they started with 64 and then went to 32 and then 16 and then eight to four, and then the two have the big playoff at the end. So it was like head-to-head judging for for images, which is a completely different feeling. You know, I’m not saying it’s invalid. It’s when you enter a competition, you know the circumstances it’s going to be judged. That’s something you’ve got to think about and be okay with. So I’d kind of love to try that judging just to see how it feels. 

Joe Lenton: I think I’d feel happier about it in some genres than others. You know, I think in some genres you’re a bit closer to comparing apples with apples. You know, in other genres, you’re a little bit sort of comparing apples with cars. Houses and wedding dresses, you know. 

Kris Anderson: Did you say apples and cars? 

Joe Lenton: Yes. 

Kris Anderson: That’s what I said. We said cars at the same instant. That is bizarre. Okay. Anyway, we’re obviously on the same wavelength. Excellent. 

Joe Lenton: Okay. That’s a weird moment. With us two together to only get one weird moment would be quite odd anyway. 

Kris Anderson: Yeah, that’s probably true. I think you’re right. 

Joe Lenton: So, I mean, obviously you’ve judged a lot of this stuff, but you also come from the perspective of somebody who creates these kind of illustrative images. So where does something like that start for you? Do you see something and think, oh, I could do that with that? Or do you have a story you want to tell? 

Kris Anderson: Yeah, it’s usually a story or a feeling like something will happen in life where I’ll observe a thing or a friend will be going through a situation or I’ll be going through a situation. Like there’s an image of mine that’s got a dude on the he’s like sitting with his family and out of having a lovely picnic in the park and he’s on his phone and they kind of clean up the picnic and leave and then it starts raining and then it stops raining and he kind of goes oh what happened and that kind of comes from me sitting on my phone on the couch while the kids are growing up. And it’s this sort of deep feeling that, God, what a failure I am as a parent and as a human that it’s easier for me to sit on my phone and scroll than it is to spend time playing with my kids Now, that’s not always the case, but there’s sort of a shame that went with that. And it’s a really strong emotion. It’s like, oh, okay, how can I convey this feeling? How can I take someone out of their own head and put them into mine just for a minute to try and explain how I feel? I think that’s the kind of stronger stuff that I’ve done has usually had a really strong emotional core like that. So you try to create those hints to pull people in and they don’t always land and that’s okay. But when they do really effective or it can be other friends stories as well. Like there’s back when I was shooting weddings, one of our wedding clients, she was explaining about how she went through some struggles like in the years prior with health and with relationships and everything. But she was also the kind of person that would drop whatever she was doing to help everyone else. So if someone else was in a bind and, you know, needed to talk to someone or just or, you know, help carry some stuff or whatever, you know, she would go and help. And the way she was explaining it was like she was always there for everybody else but no one was there for her so she wasn’t she’s helping to keep everyone else afloat but she wasn’t meeting her own needs and that was getting worse and worse and then you know she married or met her fiance and everything changed so that’s okay but it’s like oh that story is really strong how could i create that visually how can I make that so that when someone reads it they go “oh!” Like it unfolds in in front of them and they get that feeling. I think that’s what it’s about for me is trying to Less about a situation and more about an emotion, maybe. So trying to encode an emotion like that in, or a feeling in a picture, I find really challenging and composites let you do that because they, you can make something that is, it’s nearly reality, but not quite. And you can bend the rules a little bit. So you can have, you know, multiple copies of this person or show things in multiple frames or whatever to try and, I don’t know, there’s a little, that little bit of novelty as well that engages a viewer when they see something that’s a bit different. And that keeps them paying attention for a little bit longer. And maybe they’re more likely to read the story when you do that. So, you know, that’s where that stuff comes from. 

Joe Lenton: So when you’re telling a story like this, is it something where you’re perhaps trying to inform people, perhaps trying to change someone’s opinion of something? Or is it more that you want someone to just step into a different world for a little while? How do you see your stories that you’re sharing? 

Kris Anderson: Yeah, for me, it’s just step into a world for a little while. So I don’t have any grand missions to, you know, clean up the environment and have world peace in photos or anything like that. So it’s, maybe I’ll find that kind of calling someday, but I don’t now. It’s just about trying to, to, to weave a story and pull someone in. Like, you know what it’s like when someone’s reading a story to you or like a narrator on an audio book and they’re just using their voice like an instrument and it sucks you in. And, and like, that’s what I want to try and do is, is that, and I, it’s, it’s, it’s as simple as that. It’s just kind of creating a space and drawing someone in to feel something I think is what makes me happy. 

Joe Lenton: So have there been any stories or ideas that you found that you just couldn’t translate into a still image that you got the feeling actually, no, this needs to be a movie rather than a picture?

Kris Anderson: Yeah sometimes but I find if I sit with them for a long time something will pop out and I’ll figure out a key and you know what I’ve got a couple of them on the go right now and I’m not going to tell you about them just in case you see them someday on a panel the last thing I want to do is be sitting down with you at breakfast again and find out. 

Joe Lenton: On a panel what are you planning Mr Anderson? That’s it oh that’s all we’re getting yeah oh well. 

Kris Anderson: Where’d you go Kris you’ve gone? So yeah.

Joe Lenton: I was going to say well you know have you got any projects that we can look forward to and the answer is yes but we’re not telling you. 

Kris Anderson: I’m not telling you yeah I think at the moment I don’t have a lot of personal projects I have a lot of client work and I’m enjoying the work that I’m doing. So I’ve started to have a few clients that are commissioning me for more illustrative pieces and a lot of my illustrative stuff kind of is in the area of mental health and wellbeing. So I’m getting interest from people that they don’t have a timeframe. They just trust, you know, here, do what you want. I’ll have it on my wall, please. And that’s kind of nice. But it’s still not a personal project. It’s still for a client. So that and all the other stuff that I’m doing. Actually kind of my other mission at the moment is trying to take advantage of opportunities to speak and teach and judge and that consumes a fair amount of time too um and like that’s something that’s probably ramped up for me quite a bit in the last couple of years and I love it love it so it you know every you got a finite amount of energy to draw from right, so it’s probably drawing a little bit from that personal project time but you know there then what will happen and is something I’ll stumble across something and I would be consumed by it for a couple of weeks and. I do have some stuff let’s have this chat in a year after the next SWPP because I do have some ideas that will that may throw you for a loop but we’ll see. 

Joe Lenton: Well I look forward to it absolutely yeah do you do you ever have any kind of almost like a wish list of I really wish I could go there and photograph that or if money were no object that I would like to set up this scene with so so-and-so and so-and-so and photograph that, or you’d prefer to get on with working with people around you and things that you know? Would you have a wish list of things that you’d love to do? 

Kris Anderson: Yeah. I guess if there’s a thing I wanted to make photographically, I know I can use composites to do it. So I don’t really feel compelled to go anywhere. As far as people I wish I could photograph, I wish I could photograph my mother. She passed away years ago. And you’ve talked with people about this in the podcast before, like people who don’t want to have their photo taken so much later on, what you wouldn’t give to have those photos. And my mom was always… She wouldn’t ever go, oh, I look terrible in photos. She wouldn’t ever do that. She would just kind of find a way to not be in them. And she’s, you know, like really sneaky. So, and she would just avoid them, except every now and again, she’d get trapped in one and she’d be okay with it. But wish I could go back in time more than anything. That would be the thing because I don’t have those photographs of her that are about her. You know it’s like we have the formal staged family portraits you know where everyone’s in their Sunday best and they’re all arranged on the stairs in a perfectly casual I just happen to find you here manner you know.

Joe Lenton: All families stand on the bottom stairs arranged a bit like a football team yeah.

Kris Anderson: You know and that kind of I can look at the person in that photograph and I can go yes yes, that is my mom, but it’s not who she was. So if I, this is probably one where I don’t think you have enough funds to make this work out. So, you know, if you’re, if you’re looking to fund my project, sorry, this is a hard one, but I wish I could go back and get photos of her. That’s the, that’s the one thing I’d want to do.

Joe Lenton: It’s, it’s one thing that you hear from portrait photographers a lot is that, you know, you want to bring out the person. Oh, so often people just think, oh, well, you know, a photo of somebody is a photo of somebody or whatever but I think that’s what makes a really powerful portrait photo is it’s not just a visual record it’s that you’re saying something about them what they connect with what what they do what’s important to them. 

Kris Anderson: Last year I was really lucky I got to go and visit in Australia in Canberra the national portrait gallery for the national photographic portrait prize which is a thing they do every year. And I was teaching there, which is, you know, that’s cool. But I went to the judges’ round table where they kind of talked about the judging process. And one of the judges said something, I’m going to get the words wrong, but it was along the lines of to, to him, you could tell a portrait was a strong portrait when it was evident that there was a sense of trust between the sitter and the photographer. And I’ve sat and chewed over that and I’ve used that to measure photographs and it’s like there is something to that like where you look at an image and you go you know especially ones where someone is vulnerable not in an exploitative way but somewhere they’re really where the photograph is saying something about them and in a raw kind of a way you go well if you’re the photographer you didn’t steal that like you spent time with them to build rapport and to understand them to the point where they’re confident that you’re going to represent them well how much trust does that take so I think you know there’s lots of different kinds of portraits I think for the ones that you’re talking about for me it’s that’s the trust thing and I’ve had that in the back of my head trying to go right well how can I apply that lesson to my portraiture you know or to create something and that’s a really tricky one and one I haven’t mastered at all but but I’ll keep working on it.

Joe Lenton: It’d be interesting to see if you could find a way of combining that with some of the sort of slightly unorthodox techniques and things you’ve been using, because all too often it’s very easy for either the technique to take over and you don’t have the same kind of emotional content, perhaps, as you might with a simpler lighting setup with a simpler portrait, or that you sort of look at it and think, oh, there’s so much energy here. That almost needs a dancer to be in it it’s like could you find someone that you could if you could get into that trust space maybe where you could who is that kind of full of beans and energy naturally we’ve all met the odd one or two of them you know so you sort of think I wonder whether there could be some way that you could bring the two together? 

Kris Anderson: Yeah and I think in the space that I work in where I’m encountering performers quite often then there’s room for that for sure because most performers are pretty complex they’ve been all the stuff we’ve been talking about with photographers and confidence and imposter syndrome and competition and everything like it’s that transcends photography a lot there’s lots of artists out there that are in the same space but I have been shooting some portraits of and they’re portraits so I’m not like here’s a headshot session and let’s also add some portraiture it’s like I want to let’s have a portrait session and try to get into that space and then it’s like okay well I’m going to to use a technique or a variation on a technique, but it has to be supportive. It’s got to be compatible with it. It can’t overshadow the subject. It has to complement. In fact, it probably has to, if you kind of go, well, this needed that technique in order to tell the story the way that you’re telling it, then you’re probably doing all right. Like. It’s, it’s no fun when you see an image and you go, well, someone’s just, you know, they’ve used this technique because they could, and it doesn’t add, right. Then it’s, it’s distracting and it gets in the way of you connecting with someone. So look, I’m, I’m saying this, like, I know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m experimenting and finding out what works and what doesn’t work. And I’ve got years of playing with this to get anywhere. So I think maybe that’s the challenge you’re talking about. What are you working on right now, Kris? Maybe it’s portraiture and trying to find ways of connecting on more than a superficial level with someone to tell their story a little more or to show who they are. Maybe that’s the project. Thanks for clarifying that, Joe. Now I know what my project is. Excellent.

Joe Lenton: Well that’s great that’s sorted that out for you yeah so with with your speaking and that that you’ve said you’ve been doing have you got anything that coming up that people could see either in person or online are you doing any workshops? 

Kris Anderson: Yeah I’ve got a few things coming up I guess in the state where I live there’s a bunch of camera clubs and I don’t think this is interview is going to be out in the next couple of days so probably I won’t advertise that one but there’s like I‘m doing a conference here in Queensland in in May that is teaching. One of my workshops sold out which is great but I’m teaching a 90 minute workshop on mixing strobes and continuous lights for long exposure portraiture so that should be heaps of fun. I’m doing the AI course that I think you battled your way through but I’m doing that there as well And I’m doing

Joe Lenton: As long as you don’t get chat GPT to write it for you.

Kris Anderson: Yeah, I was just gonna I was gonna have an avatar and not show up at all. So I just haven’t I’m doing something that is really scary. It’s a 75 minute keynote and I’m doing it on dance photography So I’ll talk about it for a little bit But then I will do some classic dance portraiture and then I will do some long exposure dance portraiture in the keynote in front of the audience. And the likelihood of things going wrong is very high. So it could go all kinds of south. But there’s that. The Australian Photographic Prize is coming up in June or July, sorry. And I think I’m doing some training down there. I think I’m running a workshop in New Zealand for the New Zealand photo show in early August. And then I’m hoping that you’ll see my smiling face in London again next year for the SWPP conference. I sure hope so anyway. 

Joe Lenton: Yeah let’s let’s hope so yeah well with the long exposure one I suppose you know you need to shut all the lights off so it’s nice and dark for the long exposure you know if the first one doesn’t go quite right just turn the lights off and nip out the door. See how long it is before they know that you’ve gone.

Kris Anderson: You’ve given away my secret, dang it! 

Joe Lenton: So if people want to keep up with your work and um see what uh you’re producing uh where’s the best place to go um website perhaps?

Kris Anderson: Yeah so I guess there’s a few places you could see my stuff online. The most prolific is the performing arts website, which also includes some award stuff. So that’s Images by Anderson is the company name, or @imagesbyanderson on Instagram. I have a not very well loved art account that is And on Instagram, it’s And I probably need to devote some more time to it. But the one that gets lots of traffic is Images by Anderson, and that’s updated most days. So if you want to know what I’m doing or where I’m speaking or stories about what’s going on or reels about the studio shoot that I had on the weekend, that kind of thing, that’s definitely the place to go and check it out.

Joe Lenton: Excellent. Thank you very much, Kris. We’ve really enjoyed having you on the podcast. Thank you very much for agreeing to be a guest with us. 

Kris Anderson: This has been an absolute treat, Joe. It’s just been nice to chat. I’ve had the best time, so thank you.

Joe Lenton: Please do go and take a look at Kris’s work. There’s plenty of beautiful award-winning images for you to see.

Thank you for listening to the Focus Professional Podcast.


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