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memostothefuture

Interview with Chris Petersen-Clausen

Interviews

29 September 2014

Posted by Sally Hart

Hi Chris! Tell us about yourself in two sentences - who are you?

I am a creative director and I currently work for an advertising agency in Shanghai, China. Photography and film are both part of my job and my personal life.

QWhat's the weirdest situation you've found yourself in while taking a photograph?

AI was recently in Guiyang, China. This is a major city but it’s away from the coasts, where most Westerners are. At some point I came by an elementary school where a single teacher was doing morning gymnastics with roughly 200 children. One of them noticed me and the next thing I remember was a horde of little heads racing towards me, screaming greetings at the top of their lungs. If you ever want to know what it must be like to be a major celebrity, go to rural China. You’ll either love the stares, questions, requests for pictures, being touched and laughed at or you’ll hate it like Sean Penn hates photographers. And there are a lot of weird things you can photograph in China.

QWhat do you shoot on? What's your favourite set up?

AI have shot on pretty much anything there is, from Canons to Hasselblads to Alexas to Reds. My current favorite lens is the Canon TS-E 17mm and my favorite gear item is the Profoto B1 location kit.

QWhat's your number one tip for an aspiring photographer?

AAll that gear I just mentioned … it doesn’t matter. You don’t need it, I don’t need it. What matters is curiosity and having an opinion. Go outside, go travel, go make some memories. No discoveries have ever been made on a couch.

'I don’t really have a favorite yet but getting this shot was pretty nice, even though it caused me to miss my flight.'

'I don’t really have a favorite yet but getting this shot was pretty nice, even though it caused me to miss my flight.' Read less

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'Photography to me is a crutch that helps me remember.Let me explain: I have the amazing ability to forget nearly everything: birthdays, names, dates, phone numbers, they're all... Read more

'Photography to me is a crutch that helps me remember.Let me explain: I have the amazing ability to forget nearly everything: birthdays, names, dates, phone numbers, they're all gone in no time flat. I am an interrogations officers worst nightmare and were I just a little bit less clumsy I'd probably make a great secret agent. What I am good at is finding things again by sight. For instance: If I have been to a place once, I will find it again provided you possess above-average patience. I can also look at an image and recall in amazing detail not only where I took it but also what the surroundings looked like, what I did that day, what happened to me and even how I felt hours later or earlier. Looking at this image makes me remember how there were hundreds of Chinese tourists, who all were too shy to ask me for a picture with them until finally two tiny kids did walk up to me. I remember how once these kids had made the first step an avalanche of men and women felt emboldened to ask me to pose with them. I remember how I tried to get away and how the requests wouldn't stop. I remember standing there, people posing with me, while I was on conference calls. I remember losing the cell phone connection and in search of a signal turning around. I remember seeing this cloud with the sun behind it giving it this amazing ray of light. And I remember thinking that I'd hate myself for a week if I didn't get this shot, conference calls and nagging Chinese tourists be damned.' Read less

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'This was shot inside a hotel tower in Pudong. You don't want to live in Pudong. It's the banking district in Shanghai, the place where big corporations build soulless office to... Read more

'This was shot inside a hotel tower in Pudong. You don't want to live in Pudong. It's the banking district in Shanghai, the place where big corporations build soulless office towers, the place where you can't get a taxi after six because all the cabbies migrate to areas where people actually live or go to dinner. I had been to a meeting in one of these office towers that winter evening and I was struggling to find a way home when I remembered the hotel. So I took the elevator up, sweet-talked the security guard to let me go to the top floor and fired off a few frames while he looked the other way. I have long forgotten what that meeting was about or how long it took me to get home but images like this one make me remember how I felt that evening: overjoyed.' Read less

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'You can deride advertising all you want but that old Nike tagline is damn good advice: just do it. Just book that flight, even if it's just a weekend and there is a typhoon war... Read more

'You can deride advertising all you want but that old Nike tagline is damn good advice: just do it. Just book that flight, even if it's just a weekend and there is a typhoon warning. Just wait it out if they cancel three flights in a row. Just smile as everyone else in the plane is screaming over the bumpy ride upon landing. Just stay on that sightseeing platform as everyone else is fleeing indoors. Because at the end of the day, what is the alternative? I for one don't mind heavy tripods, I don't care if I get wet or miss the last train back down the hill. I don't want to die on a couch. I want to be someone who did it.' Read less

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'The pollution in China is bad but worse is that you get used to it. That slightly desaturated blue just is how a clear day looks. That milky, gloomy weather is just overcast. Y... Read more

'The pollution in China is bad but worse is that you get used to it. That slightly desaturated blue just is how a clear day looks. That milky, gloomy weather is just overcast. You have to get up high onto a roof to realize that no, this isn't fog or haze, it's white and grey, it's ash and smog from the coal-burning power plants and factories down south. Another way to realize just how polluted China is is to step onto a cheap plane on a supposedly clean day and arrive in a place that's actually clean. Fukuoka is such a place. You arrive and the shadows are harder, the blue sky is bluer, everything is so much brighter and crisper. These are the "oh-shit, I forgot how that looks" moments that make you wonder if living in China is equivalent to smoking a pack a day. I spent my first day in Japan just aimlessly driving around, which is dangerous when you are used to driving on the other side, gawking at the sky. Admiring the nocturnal sky was how I noticed these wires. The Japanese summer night sky sometimes is so clean you can see stars even above a city like Fukuoka. And right below it are exposed power lines, traffic lights suspended on wires and amazing little restaurants no matter where you look.' Read less

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'Should you ever visit China, which I wholeheartedly encourage you to do, a visit to Tiananmen Square in Beijing surely is in order. I recommend this even though I don't like Be... Read more

'Should you ever visit China, which I wholeheartedly encourage you to do, a visit to Tiananmen Square in Beijing surely is in order. I recommend this even though I don't like Beijing very much: too much pollution, too many rude taxi drivers, too many politicians, soldiers and tourists. Tourists, apparently, love to wait. I thought showing up an hour before the flag lowering ceremony would help me get a decent spot at the front of the crowd but there I was, six rows deep in cell-phone wielding families in an unfortunate spot off to the side.That's when this unenviable private positioned himself in front of my long lens. Not allowed to move or speak, he had to stand at attention facing the setting sun, sweating profusely while looking respectful and dignified. I like people who aren't allowed to move. I like watching their struggle between giving in and holding forth. I like waiting for that pearl of sweat to slowly torture them as it's running down their cheeks. And I like the visible relief when it's over, the elation that they get to march back inside, feet wildly swinging up as they briskly walk to what surely will be the best bottle of cold water they have ever had. Don't you think that duty and honor makes people do strange things?' Read less

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'A huge sign greets visitors to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo: no admittance to the auction halls before nine a.m. — no exceptions. But it's easier to ask for forgiveness tha... Read more

'A huge sign greets visitors to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo: no admittance to the auction halls before nine a.m. — no exceptions. But it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. It also takes more than a sign to stop my curiosity. I had been roaming around the port all night, planning to get in line for what was said to be the most amazing sushi I'd ever eat at 5 a.m. I had two or three hours to kill and huge tuna fish to find. It's amazing what you can get away with if you carry just a fast but small 50mm prime lens and walk fast enough. In the end I got a bunch of great shots, I did eat what must have been the best sushi I ever had and I flew back to Shanghai, hoping to soon do this again. And then I broke my back and spent three months in a Chinese hospital but that's another story.' Read less

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