Adam Christopher is a photographer based in Los Angeles, California specializing in celebrity portraiture. Adam is currently shooting for Steve, Steve Harvey's new daytime talk show, where has has had to opportunity to take portraits of some of the most notable faces in entertainment.
How did you first fall in love with photography and what has your journey been like from the time you first picked up the camera until now?
My dad got me my first camera. It was in High School. A 35mm Nikon Nikkormat, and I shot with that all through high school. For me, it was early on that I knew I wanted to do something with photography, or something in art. Photography was always the medium that I was attracted to. I was interested in it early on and immediately carried on with it into college. I went straight from High School to Art Center in Pasadena. So I suppose It’s always been what I wanted to do.
When did I fell in love with photography... I would say right away, you know working in the dark room, printing and getting to use all these processes and machines as a young kid it’s scientific and beautiful, that was it for me. I would stay in the lab at lunch and print photos, watching your picture pop up in developer never gets old. All of that dark room magic, began the love and obsession. After that, it’s all I wanted to do I found my one track.
Can you tell us about your most recent work and what the experience has been like?
So, now I am the studio and portrait photographer on Steve, which is Steve Harvey’s new daytime talk show. Before this, I was shooting all sorts of stuff. Editorially, I would work every once in a while. I might get someone famous to photograph, one month, and then not shoot any entertainment style work for months. Honestly, at the time, I was excited just to get any work shooting. Photography is a difficult business, and if you’re getting hired to shoot in any capacity, you’re one of the lucky ones. Things have certainly changed now from working on Steve. Every day, I have some of the industry's most famous and influential people walking through my studio doors. It’s been a crazy opportunity. I don’t know how to even put it. It’s kind of surreal, the volume of talent coming through. The biggest challenge is to come up with something different every day; to shoot someone in a unique way that makes them look their best, but that is interesting to me and each individual person that comes in. It’s a lot of work, but I’m having a blast.
What is your favorite portrait that you’ve taken since working on Steve?
There was something about the Floyd Mayweather shoot that I loved. I think my nerves were pretty high on that one since I knew that he was coming with a huge entourage, and I typically get around 2 minutes to shoot someone. So, there's always time constraints, but that's the amount of time I’m given, so I have to be 100% ready and make it work. What we did with him was this shot with movement that had a blurred light effect around his hands. To convey to Mr. Mayweather how the shot works technically and actually nail the image in that amount of time was nerve wracking, but we did it! I think that’s probably one of my favorites so far from the show. That kind of pressure can be really fun, followed immediately with deep breaths.
You’re always playing music during your shoots. What role has music played in your photography not only in shooting, but in conceptualizing images as well?
I was a young punk kid. Punk Rock was my first obsession, alongside photography. I’ve always loved going to shows, and found the culture of it intriguing I guess. I still do. I’m not sure if it stylistically shows up in my imagery. I think my photos are too clean for punk rock so its influence is probably more weighted towards how I concept ideas or what ideas I gravitate to in the first place.
I’m always playing music on set. A thing I’m concerned about constantly and especially considering my time constraints, is that guests walk into an environment with mood. Sometimes I’ll look up what kind of music they like before I meet them. That’s the great thing about the internet that information is out there. You google their name, what type of music they like. 9 out of 10 times, that person has done some US Weekly interview where they’ve said “My favorite song is…” or “My workout playlist is…” So, if it’s someone that I want to make comfortable right off the bat, then I’ll go to that. Sometimes it’s the opposite, I don't think It’s always important to make the person you’re photographing comfortable. So If I’m trying to get something specific the music in the room is crucial. Here’s my hope, it will be easier to get them into that mindset and give me the look and feeling that I’m trying to convey in the portrait. We’re all observers and we’re all sensitive to our environment so for me creating that is part of making the portrait.
If you could photograph any 3 people, dead or alive, who would it be?
There’s something about world leaders to me. You know? I look at a Platon photograph and I can see the weight of life on their face. Because Platon keeps it simple, you have this person with an incredible story and no distractions, I love that. Also with someone like this you already know the impact they had, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or whatever, Its history.
As a viewer it's interesting how we carry our individual emotions into a photograph and that affects how we see the image.
So here it goes they're all dead so I’m assuming we have a time machine.
- Nelson Mandela
- Mother Teresa
- Adolf Hitler (This one could be a Quentin Tarantino “Inglorious Bastards” style mission where I get the portrait and my photo crew are all allied forces ready to take him out after the picture… I don't know it’s just an idea)
You’re an avid collector of photo books. What is your all-time favorite photo book and what is on the top of your list to get?
Alex Prager, “Faces In The Crowd,” she has some other amazing books that I would like too. American West by Richard Avedon, that’s another one that I don’t have that’s classic. I remember my High School photography class, we had that book. Now it’s $250. American West is one of my favorite photo projects ever. I’d love to do an homage project to that one day myself.
My favorite book that I own, which kind of showed me what’s possible in entertainment photography, is Hotel LaChapelle by David LaChapelle. The vivid colors and the crazy antics, and how highly conceptualized it all is. Now that book is punk rock!
What is the biggest goal that you aim to achieve in your photography career?
Well, we have a couple more months on this show. After this wraps, my goal is to be shooting more editorial work. I’d love to be shooting for magazines like Wired, Vogue, Esquire, Men’s Health, and Whoevers Hiring, but shooting editorially is my next goal. That being said our show Steve got picked up for season 2 so hopefully I'll be a part of that as well. I just want to continue meeting and photographing amazing people it's what I love. So the goal is continue making pictures and just keep grinding to make work that I like every time I get a chance.
What do you think is the most important ingredient in making a compelling image?
I know I said this before but, Mood. I think you can have great lighting and composition and an interesting face. But, you can have all of those things and the picture can still be shit. The technical doesn’t matter as much, which is hard for me to say because I’m a very technical photographer, but I’m trying to loosen the reins on that recently. Technical training will help you make a more aesthetically pleasing image, but mood is something that you have to create with a connection or an environment or discomfort or compassion. Mood is the wild card factor that makes a great portrait in my opinion.
If you had to give your younger self one piece of advice when just starting out, what would it be?
I would give myself a bunch of advice, but I probably wouldn't listen to any of it...
Lose the entitlement, you don’t deserve anything. No one needs to care but you. No one is going to hand this out. Keep shooting constantly. Tell more people what you want in your career. Ask for more help. Make more work you want to make. Immerse yourself in the community. I’d give all these bits of advice to young dumb me, and In 10 years I'll have 100 more cliche one liners to give to me now. So I guess the best advice is to just get older ha!