05 May Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor, Stella Kramer, talks to photographer, Chris Bartlett
Chris Bartlett Q&A with Stella Kramer
A New York born and bred photo editor, consultant, and curator, Stella is a woman who I was introduced to by – my then husband-to-be, HJF Gallery photographer, Jason Florio, on one of my earlier trips to NYC, before relocating there from London, UK. SK has since become a great friend.
When it comes to all things photography, this woman certainly knows her stuff. Over the last few years, and countless early morning coffee meetings, photo exhibition openings, and dinners Chez Florios’, I have garnered much from SK’s years of experience in the often mercurial photo industry.
Therefore, I have a huge respect for her both as a person and in her profession, particularly in her encouragement to both emerging and established photographers, who have the good fortune to have her ear – and her eye! For consulting, editing, and curating services, contact Stellazine
So, thank you, my lovely friend, Stella, for agreeing to my request to come up with five questions for the HJF gallery photographers. We’ll be featuring Stella’s Q&A’s, with each photographer over the coming weeks.
First up we have Chris Bartlett who, along with his beautiful fine-art work here in the HJF gallery, he is a documentary and human rights portrait photographer. Chris’s projects have included military rape survivors, portraits of Iraqi former detainees who were tortured and abused by the U.S. military, and Burmese dissidents and former political prisoners. His Iraqi detainee portraits were first shown and the Open Society Foundation’s Moving Walls exhibition… read more here
SK: How did you get started?
CB: I first learned to make black and white prints when I was 12 years old in Louisville, Ky. but it was in college that I started to get serious about photography. I did not go to a photo school, I was a history major at Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school in Ohio. As my college years progressed I became increasingly obsessed with photography to the point where I decided to move to New York after graduation to attempt to start a career.
So, I blindly wrote to the New York fashion photographers that I admired, during the spring of my senior year, and the only response that I received was a personal letter from Richard Avedon, my photo hero at the time, who invited me to visit.
Subsequently, I traveled to his studio in New York that summer, though I did not get a job (I did, however, end up working with him years later when he hired me to do the lighting for a Versace campaign). But I managed to get a full-time job with Mike Reinhardt, a successful fashion photographer in the early 1980’s.
We traveled the world working on big campaigns and for many of the top fashion magazines. It was a crazy, gonzo, fantastic, and immersive experience. I left Mike after 3 years and immediately took 5 months to circumnavigate the country by car which is when I took the first of my cowboy shots.
‘I then moved to Europe and lived in Paris and Milan for 2 years starting my fashion career before moving back to New York. I shot fashion for about 10 years before switching my focus to fashion still life photography which continues today. From the beginning, I made the choice to have a commercial career and to work on personal projects on the side.
My personal explorations have always had documentary/social/political interests and always with a strong aesthetic sense. I have looked at the cowboy life, crop dusters in the Mississippi delta, toxic waste in Utah. In 2006, my work took a turn toward human rights issues with the start of my project of portraits of Iraqi former detainees who were tortured and abused while in the custody of the United States and its surrogates.
The Detainee Project was first exhibited at the Open Society Foundation’s Moving Walls exhibition in 2008. In 2014, I reinterpreted it as an installation where it was seen by nearly 70,000 people at the Photoville festival in Brooklyn, NY.
I have also worked on a series of portraits of Burmese political dissidents and former political prisoners which was shown at the 2015 Photoville. In 2014, I traveled the country making portraits of military rape survivors for an advocacy campaign for Protect Our Defenders.’
SK: Who is your biggest influence?
CB: Richard Avedon, Danny Lyon, Sebastio Salgado, Sally Mann, early Larry Clark
SK: How do you promote your work?
CB: I use social media – though it is an evolving effort. For now, everything starts with Instagram (@cbstudio) and is fed to Facebook (Chris Bartlett). My news page on my website links to a Tumblr which is occasionally fed by my Instagram. I have Twitter (@bartlettstudio) but have not fully embraced it yet and use it only sporadically.
SK: What work have you seen that has blown your mind recently?
News Update: Congratulations to Chris for his Iraqi Detainee portraits being chosen again by Photoville, NYC – this time for Photoville Fence, Boston, USA, as part of the Flash Forward Festival, May 1-8, 2016.