We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Willard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Well, my love of photography began at a young age. When my father, Rodger Willard, handed me my first 35mm Film Camera, a Canon AE-1. Instantly I am hooked. I fell in love with taking photos, so much so, I quickly decided to set up a darkroom in my fathers’ basement. I carried my camera with me everywhere! As anyone around me is subject to a photographic experiment at any time. Upon graduating high school, I knew I wanted a photography career. I was on a mission to become the world’s best wildlife photographer (hey, we all have our dreams), So at 18, I packed my bags and decided to move to Africa for a couple of years. Yes, I was a very impulsive young man.
Once I got back from Africa, I applied to National Geographic in hopes they would love my work, and well, hire me as one of their wildlife photographers, and as you can guess, that wasn’t the case. But National Geographic was kind enough to give an ambitious young man with a broken heart some advice. They recommended I go to college and get a degree in photography. So, I took their criticism and attended College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan.
Fast forward to yet another pivotal time in my life when I participated in a school trip to New York City. During this trip, I had the privilege of meeting some fantastic, talented studio photographers. You could say this is when I slowly started moving away from the idea of becoming a wildlife photographer and began to be more interested in studio work, photographing people vs. animals.
After returning to Detroit, I picked up an internship with a professional studio photographer named Ameen Howrani, who has since passed away. I remember him as a kind, warm-hearted man with immense talent. I assisted Mr. Howrani while he photographed professional athletes and celebrities.
Now I found myself with a new version of my original dream—becoming a famous studio photographer. Ok, ok, I’ll settle for GREAT studio photographer.
So, here we go; weeks after graduating from college, I yet again packed my bags and headed off to pursue this new dream of mine. But this time, the destination; Los Angeles, California.
I fell in love with photography, and I knew If I couldn’t spend the rest of my life doing this, I wouldn’t be happy. So I kept going until I did. It certainly wasn’t easy, and there were many obstacles along the way, but for one’s happiness; totally worth it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a Unit Still Photographer, I focus on capturing film stills, images specifically intended for use in the marketing and publicity department in the film industry, and network television productions. I am also the head of a department, a department of one. I feel what sets me apart from others in my field; I approach every day like my first day. I challenge myself to capture emotion in my photographs while the scenes are playing in front of me. I showcase my subjects with emotional depth, so the viewer can feel what is happening, whether it be a light-hearted or profound, dramatic scene. While still changing my style depending on the story I’m telling.
Like any job, career, it has its challenges. This particular career path takes a lot of determination, pride swallowing, due diligence, immense sacrifice (I can keep going); it takes a lot of faith in oneself. Having people who believe in you helps—especially when you find yourself giving up.
I’ve learned you have to be humble, take criticism, bad or good (which can be hard for many artists), but in my industry, it’s crucial you do.
I found that a good still photographer must possess a good understanding of human behavior and tremendous patience. It is vital to be ever-so-present and invisible at the same time while on set. Not an easy task. But I got the hang of it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
EL COYOTE RESTAURANT: Off of Beverly Blvd. This place has delicious Mexican food, an atmosphere, cool history, and some of the best margaritas in town.
MULHOLLAND SCENIC OVERLOOK:
Amazing scenic views of DTLA. Great spot for visitors to take photos.
LOS ANGELES CREST HIGHWAY:
The nature surrounding this twisty mountain road is simply breathtaking. You’ll also find several hiking spots and camping grounds.
MOVIE LOT STUDIO TOURS:
With so many historic studios in the area, this option is always a great pick for friends and family visiting Los Angeles.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A massive shoutout and thank you to my life partner, my soulmate, Tannia Marroquin, for showing me so much love, support, and extraordinary patience. Without you, I would not be where I am today. A shoutout to my wonderful family. Thank you for always believing in me and believing in my work.
Finally, I can’t imagine a person who hasn’t been touched by one form or another of art. So thank you to all my fellow artists, past and present. It is a challenging and vulnerable path we take, but we will continue to inspire one more person to express themselves creatively by continuing to do what we do.