A hobby and passion for a number of years, it’s only over the last two years that Chris Saunders has worked commercially. Formally trained as a Chartered Engineer, working in the subsea/offshore industry, Saunders finds himself in the position where he earns the majority of his income as an engineer, but is also able to have a part-time career as a landscape photographer. “The two parts mesh really well for me, with engineering providing a real mental challenge and the photography exercising my heart and soul.”
Although his interest in photography was sparked at school, where he learnt to process B&W film, it wasn’t until about seven years ago that Saunders began take a serious interest, and focus on how he could improve his skills. “I think the main thing that reignited my interest in photography was my daughter, and trying to capture her growing up,” he says. But being “quite an introvert”, Saunders says that he soon worked out that portrait photography wasn’t really his thing.
Saunders hasn’t had formal training and admits that he’s incredibly jealous of TAFE students who get to immerse themselves in the subject, to get a ground-up appreciation.” A workshop he attended, run by Peter Eastway, Christian Fletcher, and Tony Hewitt, to Karijini National Park, about five years ago is when Saunders says that he truly got the photography bug. “The experience of surrounding yourself with other like-minded people and concentrating on photography and art for a whole week was a real eye-opener,” he says.
When he returned from Karijini, Saunders joined the AIPP as an emerging member and says that “this has probably been one of the most instrumental things that have helped me learn more about photography, both from a technical and commercial perspective. Without the support, mentoring, and guidance of the AIPP council and members I certainly wouldn’t have seen a fraction of the improvement in my photography over the last few years.” Saunders says that another crucial factor in his development has been the AIPP state and national award competitions. “The process of selecting, editing, and presenting four images for appraisal by industry peers and masters of photography certainly focuses the mind and challenges you to deliver your best work.”
Saunders describes his work as abstract aerial images. “I love that this style of photography allows us to reimagine our landscape and see things beyond the literal,” he says. “I try and keep my images very simple, containing one or two elements. Generally, if I’m using Photoshop, it’s to simplify an image, not to add something to it.”
Last year was for huge for Sunders in terms of awards. In 2018, he received the following accolades from the AIPP: Australian Professional Photographer of the Year, Australian Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year, Western Australian Professional Photographer of the Year, and Western Australian Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year. In 2016 he was named AIPP Western Australian Emerging Photographer of the Year.
Saunders says that he has already received significantly more recognition for his photography than he could have possibly imagined. “My joy of landscape photography started as my escape and exploration of the space we all live in. My recent award success has really reinforced the importance of this to me, although it’s taken me a while to recognise it, and I plan to continue to produce images that, first and foremost, make me happy.”