Chris Mollon is a conceptual photographer based in Detroit, Michigan. His work is known for its unique subject matter and excellent use of color. We had a chance to speak with Chris and learn more about his work.
How did you first get into photography?
Initially, I signed up for a credit line on amazon and didn't know what to buy, so I bought a camera. I had no interest in getting "good" or knowledgeable about photography as a craft. After I bought the camera I just took photos of my drunk friends at my parties. Eventually moved onto taking photos outside due to boredom and I thought my pictures sucked so I wanted to figure out why. After looking up photography videos and whatnot on YouTube, out of nowhere I just became infatuated with the technical side of photography and how to work a camera. From there I just applied all I learned to taking photos.
Your images are an excellent example of how color can set a tone/feeling for each image. In your opinion, how important is color in setting the mood for the viewer?
I think color, or lack there of, makes or breaks the photo, even down to a +/-10 adjustment in hue of a single color on the palette. I think color can be used as a good distraction. It can be used to make a boring image interesting, in my opinion. Much of my work isn't flashy. It's not complex. It's very simple, banal subject matter, but my attempts to "enhance" it is through my use of colors within the photo.
Can you tell us about the umbrella image?
The red and white umbrella photo seems to be taken as the "most popular" image of my semi-recent work. It is a big part of my series on my mental struggles called "protection". The model used in the photo had the umbrella hat and we were location scouting for somewhere to use it, looking for complimentary colors or some sort of scene that would fit a vibe I am going for. This is one of the very few shots that I hadn't preplanned with a scene in mind, simply wanting to use the prop. We were driving through a very desolate part of Detroit where there was a long block of dull, colorless, abandoned looking buildings. Out of nowhere we came across a shoe shine business with the red and white stripes as their entire storefront. I immediately parked and took the photo. I originally took a variation of that photo on 35mm film, then eventually went back with the model and the umbrella hat 2 months later with my digital camera.
How do you think living in Detroit has affected your eye and the images that you make?
Honestly, I used to shoot street photography and photos with more of a city vibe. I even used to photo document abandoned buildings around Detroit which, if you don't know, makes up a pretty large percentage of the city's building conditions. So, when I did that, it effected it more than it does now. Living in Detroit with my current style, really doesn't change much on how I shoot. I make due with my surroundings and work with what I can to get the images I desire, which I would do anywhere. I think ideally Los Angeles would be a nice place to live that would actually help make things easier on me, due to the city's color palette, but I have no desire to live there ever.
What kind of tools are used in creating your photos?
I use a lot of props to convey my concepts, and I technically use a point and shoot camera, even though it has full manual controls. It's a body with a fixed 35mm equivalent lens attached to it, so only one lens option. I shoot pretty much in full automatic most of the time, unless I'm dealing with uneven lighting. I am fully knowledgeable on manual settings and can pick up any camera and figure it out within minutes, but I just choose not to make it harder on myself by fidgeting with settings. So, I keep it pretty simple.
What’s your favorite image that you’ve taken? Why?
Probably this super old photo of my step dad. He's still alive, but I don't really have photos other than that one of either of my parents, even though they agreed to let me do a conceptual photo shoot with both of them, which I'm excited to do.
What is your biggest goal for your photography?
My biggest goal is really an end goal. I just want to take photos until my last day on earth. I couldn't care less about awards, getting a career nested with it, or anything like that; the stuff most people yearn for in this field. I just have an undying love and appreciation for the craft and those who keep the craft alive. So, as long as I'm doing that until the end, my goal is accomplished.
Any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I am releasing my first book on December 18th, 2017, which I am very excited about. It is called "protection," which has been an ongoing project I've been working on. I also have a gallery planned for early/mid 2018 in Detroit that I am planning right now with some fellow artists in the area.
More of Chris' work can be seen on Instagram