Art Producers Speak: Chris Baldwin

- - Art Producers Speak

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email:

Anonymous Art Buyer: I nominate Chris Baldwin because he is a fantastic photographer that can work in any environment. He is really professional, flexible and has a great attitude. He and his crew are a pleasure to work with.

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How many years have you been in business?
13 years. I began as an assistant, and have been shooting full time for the past 4 years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
There were a few darkroom and printing access classes, otherwise self-taught and on the set training.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
For me it is more the sum total of many great influences and teachers along the way. I was inspired photographically by National Geographic magazine growing up, and a few of my male mentors were involved with photography.

My Grandfather, and both my Bio and 2nd fathers were hobby photographers. My Dad gave me my first camera, his old Minolta XG7 with 50mm lens. My birth Dad taught me how to develop and print in his darkroom. My uncle has been an artist for as long as I can remember, and continues to be one of my greatest muses.

In my twenties, a photography instructor invited me to help him out on a shoot, and the idea of working in the photography industry became a reality for me.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with a select handful of talented photographers, from Maui to California and NYC. These experiences ultimately inspired me to transition into the business as a full time photographer.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
Fresh lifestyle = fresh Inspiration.

My lifestyle is an essential part of my process; it’s a major catalyst for my creativity and ultimately supports me in keeping my inspiration fresh.

These moments: in-between assignments; traveling with my fiancé’ and our dog; other domestic road trips; laughing with good friends and family; hanging with my two Godson’s (4/8 years); international surfing destinations; people; faces; places; vices; and a consistent yoga practice to ring it all out at end of the day. These all trigger that involuntary response in me to grab my camera and take a picture.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I’m not sure a client can ever hold me back, creatively.

My personal experience is that I have the freedom to choose my projects and my response to that project’s challenges and obstacles, regardless of circumstance.

How I relate to the client and/or project is the issue, not the other way around. Most importantly, it’s the client’s dime, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate and contribute my creative process to their project at the end of the day.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
This year I am working with Jennifer Perlmutter as my marketing consultant. We edited out imagery that best represents my personality and style, created new hard promos, email promos, and PDF portfolios, and built an overwhelming list of applicable creatives, buyers, and brands to reach out to. This marketing campaign, with it’s specific strategy, timing and methods, along with the intention to connect with as many creatives as possible, in more ways than one, is the primary driving force for getting my vision out to the buying audience this year. This spring was the official kickoff, and we have been getting a great response so far.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Follow your heart, shoot what you enjoy shooting most, and shoot as much as possible in-between the days you are not hired to shoot or are surfing, haha. Considering how many exceptional photographers there are today, I feel buyers want to see quality not quantity, authenticity, brand identity, unique perspective or style, continuity, energy, movement, emotion, integrity, and a sense of who we are as Artist’s, individual personality’s, and that we will deliver exceptional work when given the opportunity to do what we love doing.

Larry Sultan, a brilliant photographer I had the pleasure to work closely with, once told me that being a commercial photographer alone is not sustainable in and of itself. To be successful in the world of commercial photography, we have to find the Artist within us, and allow ourselves to genuinely and ultimately inspired and driven by our true artistic passions. This is something; I am still exploring today, and most likely will be for the rest of my life.

How often are you shooting new work?
As often as possible I am shooting new work, ranging from commissioned work to personal work, a spec shoot to an afternoon portrait, a surf trip with best friends, a music festival, and snap shots of all the random organic moments in-between.
The frequency of my shooting is more spontaneous than calculated, and ultimately dependent on concept, subject matter, location, and the next time I can step away from the desk and out of bounds, chasing light, capturing life, scoring surf, and seeking Gurus along the path of photographic enlightenment.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Absolutely, I’m not sure photography would be sustainable in the commercial sense, if I were not shooting for myself. My lifestyle is an essential part of my process; it’s a major catalyst for my creativity and ultimately supports me in keeping my artistic talent true. This being said, I am shooting what I enjoy shooting, looking inside more than ever, following my heart, slowing down and letting go of some sort of sense of urgency or rush mentality in my work, allowing myself the dignity of my own artistic process, vigilant personal practice, cultivating peace of mind, laughing, loving, traveling, surfing, shooting and having fun doing what I love to do most.


Chris Baldwin
2716 3rd street Studio #2
Santa Monica, CA 90405

cell: 949.228.3686

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

Suzanne Sease

There Are 3 Comments On This Article.

  1. Nick Servin

    Chris shot an important event for my daughter’s graduation. From the start, he was fully engaged and engulfed by the enthusiasm of doing the shoot with a comfortable number of people. After some shooting, others came to the event when the group started to inform others of the action (very dynamic shots) and variety with engagement of all in attendance. In short, it was a great shot, great event and memorable for all who attended and got their picture an inspiration to participate.

    Chris has a way of connecting with the subject(s) and providing ideas that may not have been thought of. Once you see him work tirelessly on the shoot and you see the result, you can’t help to wonder why he is so popular.

    Nick Servin, PE