It’s almost possible to feel hot air rising from the page when you see many of Chris Simpson’s works. There aren’t any frosty mornings in November or mist-laden vistas across icy waters; most of his images originate from the central belt of the world where hard light and pounding heat predominate. A clue as to why these areas are the subject of Chris Simpson’s work might be found in a comment by him: “ Every opportunity I have, I head for the sun.”
Though he was born in the chilly heights of Switzerland, he grew up on the tropical paradise island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. And there we probably find the real answer to his devotion to these geographical regions.
Photography drew his interest during his years at art school in London in the early seventies. It was silkscreen printing that showed him the possibilities of putting down images onto paper that developed into his involvement with graphics and then photography.
Out in the world, Chris, already with commissions under his belt from his college days, became a fashion photographer. And so it was for 20 years with Elle, Vogue and Harper’s and so on, to mention a few. ‘Big Budget Location’ also became part of his life that swelled his portfolio with international brands and names. You can almost feel the sun on your face when you read Bacardi Rum, British Airways, Fosters Beer, Stella Artois, Australian and Mauritius Tourist Boards. Away from the sunlounger for a while though we also read Chrysler Jeep & Grand Cherokee, BMW, Audi, SAAB, and VW.
Aside from the weather and lifestyle, what are the foundations to Chris Simpson’s vision? Art school left a mark of course, and photographically we can note his interest in Irving Penn, Avedon, Edward Weston, Sarah Moon, Barry Lategan, Jean Loup Sieff and Flor Garduno. As personal work started to predominate Chris’ time, slinky models in an artificial world turned into the independence and integrity of indigenous peoples in a natural environment. Here the singular beauty of these people in landscapes they are integral with has a quality that is refreshing, and reassuring that commercialism hasn’t taken over the world completely yet. In the foreword to his recent publication ‘A Way of Seeing’ Chris Simpson says:
“… as I look over these last seventeen years I can see a cohesive link between all the images I have captured (and some that I have lost). And it is my way of seeing.
I like to eliminate clutter to encourage compositional lines. I like foreground interest to draw your eyes to the hero of the picture whether it is a person or a tree, a mountain or a threatening sky. I am not a reportage photographer; I am a romantic. But always I try to create a tension within the photograph and it is that ‘je ne sai quoi’ that for me makes or breaks a picture when I am editing my work after a trip.”
When either flying around in helicopters in the Australian outback for locations for beer shots or just quietly observing tree formations in Madagascar, equipment has to be ready to take the punishment from all quarters. Chris uses large format cameras and of course Hasselblad. He chooses cameras from the V and H system appreciating the characteristics of ease of use, reliability and great optics. Although 35 mm cameras were once included in his outfit, they have been replaced by an H1. He even had a Hasselblad when he was still at college. He hasn’t moved into direct digital yet though the plans are there, high resolution scans being the present method.
He has had a career in fashion photography, another in advertising photography and now a career in fine art photography. Within this latter sector, seven one-man shows appear on the list as well as posters, greetings cards, art prints and corporate art collections.
Chris Simpson is a busy man with many miles under his belt. His images provide you with the opportunity to dream about exotic places without having to concern yourself with tickets or air-conditioning.