Black Artists Print Shop: Meet Chris Hurd
About the Black Artists Print Shop: The Black Artists Print Shop is part of our ongoing work to help advance racial equity within our communities. We aim to create spaces for Black artists—places where you can find their work, hear their stories, and support their businesses. Our fourth collection’s theme is celebrating Black art. To do so, we’re elevating ten distinct voices by highlighting the artists’ answers to the question: “What does celebrating Black art mean to you?” Their answers represent a breadth of opinions on what Black art is, how we can support it, and the importance of representation.
About Chris: Chris Hurd is a Chicago-based freelance photographer. His passion for art and photography came at a young age eventually evolving into a professional photography career. After an initial trip to Iceland in 2016, Chris fell in love with the Icelandic terrain; its topography becoming the cornerstone of his landscape and aerial photography journey. Featured as one of Wildist's "7 Adventure Photographers You Should Know", Chris captures destinations with spectacular scenery from land and air.
What parts of your identity does your photography communicate?
I’ve always kind of struggled, but in the past few years, I have really started to hone in on who I am and finding what route of photography I want to go into—which has been more of that landscape, travel, adventure type stuff. But improving my focus on the details. It’s something I still work on.
In other words, why photography?
I’ve always been in the art realm of things. I initially went to school as an art major. As a kid I was always drawing—I remember entering those disposable Kodak school photography contests. And I recall winning one or two of those. But when I was in college, it kind of went away. I was an athlete. I put the art aside.
Once I got out of college and started traveling again and exploring, that’s when photography really came back because it was a way for me to see things and interpret things.
For me, it’s a way to be free and relaxed. It’s something I really enjoy—from a job to family vacation pictures to a personal project. It soothes me, I can always come back to and have peace with.
I also like discovering new things to display to the world.
What are the differences in your process when approaching commercial work versus personal work?
Working with a client and being able to understand what they want and need and then figuring out how to get what they want with my creative twist on it within their boundaries.
With personal work, I’ve really started to hone in on what I like to do, and whether people do or don’t like it—it doesn’t matter. It’s about doing something that makes me happy and I enjoy.
Tell us about your project in Iceland.
Right now, I’ve been working on a personal project for Iceland. My wife and I and a friend went back in 2015 or 2016 for the first time. We only spent 3 or 4 days there. Iceland is just this amazing place where around any corner the weather or the scene can be totally different than where you just came from. So after doing that, I thought “I have to come back.”
I am working on a photography book—probably over the course of 8-10 years—to go up every year and document Iceland from the ground and also from the air. Focusing on changes of seasons and what not.
For projects like this, I will plan out what time of year I want to go, then look at the regions or locations best to capture the subject matter I am after. Do I want to focus on Icelandic rivers? Where are the different rivers with different looks to them? Iceland is huge. You can start to see the same thing over and over again, but is there a way I can get somewhere where no one else is able to get to.
I do a lot of homework—researching landscapes and topography.
That’s a lot of impressive logistics. How are you able to get aerial shots?
Obviously you can use a drone to do that but I actually have been working with a pilot that I will go up with. We will plan out what region we want to get to, then work out a flight plan to investigate whatever subject I am looking for, like river formations or detailed mountains or volcanoes. He is a native Icelander who knows the landscape and where to go. I really rely on him to help me get me where I need to get to.
Your work is so travel focused, but what does Chicago mean to your creative identity?
Chicago is an amazing spot for creatives. You obviously have the architecture and some landscapes, things to look at. But the creative people that are around. There is a lot of art throughout the city. There are weather changes. Now that things are starting to freeze up here. I’ll probably head out towards the lake to see what things look like there.
Last year, when we had our polar vortex, I had never seen it before, but I got this shot of pancake ice on Lake Michigan. Being up close to it, it was like being on a cruise ship out to sea.
If you looked at it too long, you probably would have gotten sea sick. There’s some amazing stuff that can happen, whether it’s weather or people or the hustle and bustle of the city.
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What is your best piece of advice for somebody hoping to become a travel photographer?
Definitely focus on the experiences. You can pay for all the equipment in the world. But you really gotta focus on where it is that you want to go and what it is that you want to see and do.
Go out of your comfort zone and venture some place you haven’t gone before. You’ll either surprise yourself or learn that this place isn’t what you thought it was. Take chances!
Also, do your homework and plan ahead. If not, lean into spontaneity.
What does celebrating Black art mean to you?
Art is more so about expressing yourself than pleasing others. Doing things you’re passionate about. I love the outdoors. I love to go hiking. My father-in-law and I try and do a national park once a year.
You don’t see a lot of—at least I hadn’t until recently—Black explorers or photographers that love hiking and cycling or aerial landscapes. Those are all things I like to do, and it has been a stigma for a long time that Black people don’t do this type of thing.
I’ve started to embrace that these are the things I love to do, and it’s not about what others think. This is me, you either like it or you don’t.
How do you hope somebody feels when they see your work in a frame?
I hope people feel a sense of happiness. Or whatever feeling they have and want to describe. Whatever that feeling is—whether it is to support me, or they can relate to whatever the image is. I like to get people to think and feel like they can go out and explore, or think “I gotta go here someday.”
Photography by Julian Thomas.
Learn more about Chris on his website and Instagram.
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