We are ΦΩS-Athens: Chris Suspect (Judges)

Interview: Dora Lavazou

I don't have messages in my pictures...The true business of photography is to capture a bit of reality (whatever that is) on film. Garry Winogrand, once  said. What’s your opinion?

Winogrand is famous for saying “I photograph to see what something will look like photographed.” And I do the same thing. However, if I see the potential for a photograph with a “message” I will try to capture it. Whether that “message” will translate to a viewer depends on whether I captured that image well. In fact, I find images that can telegraph a message, a feeling, mystery, a point of view, etc., more interesting than those that don’t (otherwise, what’s the point?). I think what Garry is getting at here is that a photograph should be successful enough that the viewer can come up with their own interpretations of the frame without any explanation or guidance from the photographer.


Let us know your story, when and how you did you start taking pictures?

My interest in photography started around the same time I got into punk music at age 14. I really liked a lot of the images bands were using for album covers and flyers. For example, the first time I saw a Diane Arbus photo was when I purchased a record by S.N.F.U. from Canada. They had the boy with the hand grenade image for the cover and the album was called “... And No One Else Wanted to Play.” 

Later on when I joined my first punk band a friend of ours John Fox used a lot of photography for our fliers. This inspired me to go to the library to browse photobooks and then make copies of the photos I liked for flyers as well. I was primarily interested in the work of Arthur “Weegee” Felig because his images lended themselves to great promotional posters for the kind of music we played.

It wasn’t until 15 years later that I picked up a point and shoot camera to capture the birth of my son, Strummer. Often I would go out on my own and try to recreate the style of images I used to see on the records and flyers I used to love.

After posting work on Flickr and seeing what other people were doing I decided to get more serious and started to pursue photography by enrolling in a color photography class as a continuing education student at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design.


Content versus Form in street photography,  or both must be equally shared in a frame?

Content always trumps form in my opinion. But, it’s always best to have both if you can.

When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?

It’s always instinctual. I do plan to go to events or areas in the city where I know there will be a lot of people and the likelihood of something interesting happening is good. But I never try to set up a shot. Otherwise it really isn’t street photography. In fact, truth is always stranger than fiction, it’s just harder to capture.


Please, send a message to encourage young photographers to participate in Phos Athens Street PhotoFestival. 

Part of being a photographer is showing your work, looking at the work of others, having an open mind, and learning from the experience. Submit your work to PHOS Athens (it’s free after all), come and attend a workshop, join a portfolio review, and meet like minded individuals that also share your passion. It will be a rewarding experience!


Chris Suspect 

Chris Suspect is a street and documentary photographer from the Washington, DC area.

His work has been recognized internationally and has been exhibited at various venues in the U.S, Germany, Belgium, Georgia and the United Kingdom.

His documentary work on the underground music scene in Washington, D.C., was published as a book, Suspect Device, in 2014. Suspect’s work is held in the Leica Galerie Archives and the Washington, DC, Public Library Archives.   - www.suspectdevice.net