Introducing Chris Friel

Chris Friel is a sound recordist based in Whitstable, UK. When he’s not working the grind, he’s rambling about his local neighborhood taking snaps of what he finds.  Keep reading to find out what he loves about photography and how he achieves his signature style.

How did you get started?

I was a painter for many years. About nine years ago I bought a camera to photograph some paintings for a show because I was fed up with paying for a photographer. It was about the time that digital cameras were becoming useful. I became excited with the possibilities and I stopped painting.

If there’s not a job then I’m very happy, because I can get on with taking photos.


Is there anything in your past that foreshadowed that you would become an artist?

I’ve had various careers.  My day job now is as a sound recorder for documentary films.


Photography is a nice juxtaposition. If there’s not a job then I’m very happy, because I can get on with taking photos. It means that I don’t have to wait for the phone to ring. The other advantage is that I don’t need to sell work to make a living.

I know a lot of landscape photographers in Britain, and few are making a living doing it.

I try to produce things that excite me and fail on a daily basis.

Is there anything in your background that motivates or informs your work?

Not really, I just go for long walks and take snaps. I try to produce things that excite me and fail on a daily basis. I’m fairly prolific and things change quite quickly. I’m learning all the time and I find that amusing.

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How has your experience as a painter informed your photography?

It gave me some understanding of structure, but I wasn’t trained as a painter. When my kids were young I couldn’t work abroad as much, so I thought I would be a painter for a while.

Being a painter is a very solitary process. You paint for six months for a show, maybe 500 people turn up, you sell half the work, and you start the process over again. Photography has changed my approach to work, particularly with the use of the internet. I can take a photo and it can be seen by 40,000 people by the next morning.

Sometimes I’ll like a photo for a day.

Can you describe your photography?


I don’t like most of the work I’ve made. Sometimes I’ll like a photo for a day. Other people tell me there is some sort of coherency, some sort of lineage to the work, but I can’t really see it. It’s an attempt to interpret themes and people rather than represent them. Initially, this involved tilt-shift lenses. Over the years, I’ve experimented with long exposures and used camera movement. 

How do you find content for your photos?

Most of the subject matter is within two miles walking distance of my house. Generally, the photographs are of the local neighborhood. The advantage of taking such blurry images is that you could take photos of the same scene 50 times and it looks different every time. If you’ve got an hour, you could shoot 250 photos.


My area is not very scenic. If I lived in Scotland or some place, I might shoot sharp photos. But it’s flat and gray here.

How did you achieve the effect of your layered portraits?

They’re all done with the 5D MKIII. I was commissioned to make a photograph for an album cover for Matthew Herbert. The brief stated that they wanted to look dead. I took several individuals, mostly friends, out to practice the effect before the shoot. This is mostly what you see on the web. I generally layer eight to nine exposures with a wide-angle lens, moving the camera slightly between each exposure.

How large have you printed?

The multiple exposures will actually print pretty big. Generally, I print 40cm x 60cm. I like small pictures that people can hang in their houses, nothing too showy.

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If you don’t learn something there’s no reason to get out of bed.

How long have you been photographing and how has your process changed over time?

I’ve been photographing for nine years and it changes every year. I hope it does or I’d give up. If you don’t learn something there’s no reason to get out of bed.

How do your photographs represent who you are?

I don’t think they do.

Are you a photographer or an artist?

Neither. I just take photos cause I like them. If anyone else likes them, that’s a bonus. I’m not selling very much, but I teach a bit. I generally don’t get involved in the mainstream photography world in Britain.

Why photography?

Because I’m not a very good painter.

The serendipity of long and multiple exposures is exciting. Straight photography doesn’t interest me. My daughters take all the photos of the family.


If I can’t remember the photographs the next day then I delete them.

What makes a good photograph?

One that you can remember 24 hours later. You can visualize it. If you can’t, then it’s not working. I apply that to my photos. If I can’t remember them the next day then I delete them, which is one way of editing.

How do you know when a series is finished?

Once you run through the permutations and find you’ve done all that you can with that subject matter or technique. It’s pretty clear when it’s done.

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What are you working on now?

I’m back to black and white and going darker, more abstract. I was inspired by a show of Antoine D’Agata‘s images and it fired me up to do some more black and white work of my own. He’s a fantastic self-portraitist from France.

If I had a week to live I would keep taking photos.

What do you like best about taking pictures?

It fulfills some sort of desire to create. It sounds a obsessive, but if I had a week to live I would keep taking photos. It’s harsh on my family and those in my life, but that’s what I like most.

What do you find the most challenging about taking pictures?


I don’t like sitting at computers. So I don’t edit much. The most challenging thing is to get the image right in the camera. I batch edit in Light Room and don’t even have Photoshop.


Do you have a favorite photograph? 

The one I took yesterday.

How do you promote your photography?


I have a new book coming out in January and recently had a meeting with the publishers. It’s a ten-year retrospective. They were surprised that I didn’t have a Twitter account and offered to start one for me.

I try to put something new out most days when I am not working away.

I mainly use Flickr, but also 500px and Tumblr.

It’s amazing how many wonderful images there are available on the internet. I can sit down for half an hour and come across three people I’ve never heard of before who are making much better work than me. There are millions of people out there making great stuff, it’s just a matter of finding it. They’ve all been an influence.



What do you wish you had known when you first started photography?

What I was doing! I still don’t know! I’ve seen many millions of photos and have some idea of what I like now.

I’m more ruthless—when I first started I liked everything I shot, now I just throw away everything that doesn’t work in the field.

Take 500 photos a day for five years, then reassess the situation.

What advice would you give to budding artists?

Take 500 photos a day for five years and then reassess the situation. Keep shooting. It’s the only way to improve.

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See more of Chris’s work and follow him on the web:

Web – Flickr – Tumblr

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