Learning From the Masters – Chip Forelli Interview
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I first met Chip Forelli back in 2008 when we had a few duo exhibitions, one at Lizza Studios in PA, and the other at the Bayer Healthcare corporate headquarters in NJ. Photos and info from each are here and here respectively. Since then he has become both a mentor and a friend, and my work has benefitted greatly because of his generosity.
Chips is a world-class landscape photographer, no question about that. His career encompasses 25 years as a professional with international gallery representation. He has received top awards from Communication Arts, Graphis, Photo District News, and Luzer’s Archive. Originally trained as an architect and musician, he was drawn to photography because it shares with architecture and music “the demand for a fine balance between aesthetic sensibility and craft. If you alter the balance, you run the risk of becoming overly conceptual or preoccupied with technique.”
For me his images and prints are both inspiring and transcendent in so many ways, and there is much to learn from his craft and his character and personality. Primarily a black and white photographer, he has that rare ability to convey deep emotion and story from his images, and at the same time create visually striking compositions that are graphic, detailed, and full of rich tonalities. He also works primarily with a 4×5 film camera, and scans his work into Photoshop for post-processing.
Chip is probably best known (though many do not know this) for the black and white images that have been licensed by Apple for desktop wallpapers, and are included in every single Mac sold today. (To find them, go into System Preferences/Desktop and Screensaver, then click on the Black and White folder.) The license was recently renewed (congrats Chip) so they’ll be in every new Mac for some time to come.
I thought it would be great to interview him for your benefit, and ask him some questions that would be interesting and insightful. Take it away Chip…
1. When is the first time you realized you were an artist?
My guess is that the moment I drew a locomotive or a stegosaurus as a 10 year old and I liked it, I took the first step toward creative expression – the second step was probably when my sister also liked it. The validity and worth of that communication was as intense at that point in my life as any successful artistic expression I might experience today. So, the answer is when I was 10, unless I painted a shell at the age of 5 and smiled, then the answer is 5.
2. When someone is viewing your work for the first time,what do you hope
they’ll see in it? Or, what do you want them to say about your work?
Hopefully what I was trying to communicate – my appreciation of beauty and / or my revealing something unseen, overlooked or underestimated.
What do you want them to say about my work?
After they hopefully do a double take after first looking at an image, I like to hear people say I’ve never seen that way before. Nothing’s more rewarding however, than for me to hear someone simply say that they want to live with a print of mine.
3. Who are some artists that you admire and why? What is it, specifically,
about their work that draws you to it?
Bill Brandt, Michael Kenna, Fay Godwin – they all share a direct, elegant style of communication, with a solid craft in printmaking. Their strong graphic elements, smooth tonalities, unexpected settings and an interest in night photography all resonate with me.
4. What motivates you ?
An appreciation of beauty and again, to reveal what’s not obvious but relevant / interesting and a desire to share my response to those things has to be at the bottom of what motivates me.
5. How do you capture ideas, or where do you look for inspiration? (in and out of photography)
For me, inspiration comes through living a full life (family, friends, playing music, always visually curious about the world around me, listening to seniors tell their stories,not watching TV) all contribute to an openness to opportunities that inevitably enter my field of vision to either photograph or embrace which enriches my life.
6. What are the three elements that define your style?
Simple, graphic, rich tonalities.
7. Where do you see yourself going in the future as a photographer?
More teaching, focussing on specific industries for my commercial work for assignment work and supplying these companies with display art, and meandering down many unexplored rural roads with my camera here in eastern PA to see what awaits me.
Final Thoughts and Video
A big thanks to Chip for taking the time to answer my questions. Chip and I are in the planning stages of a few joint teaching ventures, including webinars and field workshops, so stay tuned for some big announcements coming soon!
Finally, here’s a recent video of Chip’s great presentation at B&H Photo “Straight Print to Finished Print – The Untold Story.” (I highly recommend you watch!)
Please leave your questions and/or feedback below, and either I or Chip will answer. Thanks again for reading and I always love hearing from you!