Our 2nd Interview: Gary S. Chapman
I am excited to introduce you to our second guest on our Quarantine Interview Series! His name is Gary Chapman, and he is a humanitarian photographer who has worked for many organizations and companies around the world. What I love about Gary's work is the joy and authenticity you find in his photos. So many of his photographs shine with a joyfulness and a playfulness that show how he obviously interacts with and cares about his subjects. There is a deep respect and love for humanity in his work.
I am honoured that he took the time to be part of our interview series! So without further ado, here he is!
Gary S. Chapman
I capture compelling visual moments that engage your community with your story.
I’ve covered humanitarian stories in more than 80 countries, helping organizations create awareness, express their vision and build their community. I want to partner with you as you impact lives. That’s what you do and it matters greatly.
TOMS Shoes, Delta, World Vision, National Geographic publications, National Geographic TV and Atlanta Mission, are just a few of the organizations that have called on me.
When not on assignment, my wife, producer/assistant, Vivian, and I live in a 1936 converted soda factory loft, practicing simplicity, walkability, and community engagement in a very diverse and creative Atlanta.
Photography Related Questions
How long have you been doing photography, and how did you get into it? What kind of photography do you do?
I was majoring in photojournalism and started out doing some photography for my college newspaper and magazine. I even got an internship at a newspaper the summer before I graduated.
Right after graduation, I worked at a newspaper covering local stories, but my eyes and heart have always been drawn to the entire globe and international cultures. That desire is reflected even in my choice of life partner, Vivian, who is Puerto Rican/Mexican, and has helped me become more fluent in Spanish. She actually hired me as her photographer during her stint as our college magazine editor. We've been working on and off together ever since.
What do you love about photography?
Transitioning from photojournalism to the kind of humanitarian photography I do today has been a long and winding road, but what I love about photography is that the skill of capturing truthful moments visually is a powerful storytelling tool.
What inspires you? What do you do when you are feeling uninspired to take photographs?
What inspires me is that the world is full of good stories just waiting to be documented. I find new inspiration by keeping up with the organizations who are doing great economic development work in communities world wide. Their work is impacting and transformational. I’m inspired by every story every time.
How do you put emotion into your photographs? What makes a good photograph, in your opinion?
I think that a good photograph has a least one of these three elements: poetic light, interesting composition or an engaging moment. For me, a great photograph has all of these three elements present. Capturing an emotion is a matter of staying focused and anticipating the moment. That takes a lot of practice and for me it’s an ongoing goal.
What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
Curiosity is the first step to entering into a story. Ask questions, lots of them. Learn as much as you can about the people, place and issue you’re covering. Finally, try to put yourself in the shoes of those people whose story you’re documenting, always with respect and treating them with dignity.
Quarantine Related Questions
What are you working on during this time of quarantine? Have you found this time to be energizing or depleting?
Because of the quarantine, the international work I had scheduled is now pending. I’m staying in touch with organizations that I’ve already worked with and reaching out to new ones.
I’m also taking the time to go through photo files with a very critical eye. As with any craft, there is always room for improvement. This process of looking back is helping me see how I can do an even better job of visually documenting stories. It’s been surprisingly energizing to go through this process. I have already deleted over 200,000 photos! While a pause may not be good for every photographer, it has been for me.
What are you grieving during this time of coronavirus? What is bringing you joy?
If there’s anything I might be “grieving," it’s being back on the field, but as I said, the process of reviewing my work has been energizing because it’s important to continue learning, and growing even when I’m not actually on assignment.
What gives you hope for the future, and what are you looking forward to?
When the quarantine is lifted, the pending assignments will happen and I’ll be recharged and ready to go. It definitely brings joy to know to know there will be more stories of impact, restoration and growth ready to be told and seen. I’m looking forward to documenting the resilience of communities that have been impacted world wide.