Over the past year, we’ve talked to a number of photographers and a great deal of them had similar origin stories, but that is where Chris Kuzman stands far from the crowd. For it wasn’t a family member or a childhood obsession that sparked his interest in photography, but a drone. You’ll soon learn more about how that came about as well as how photography and video production go hand in hand in his world, travel shots, and much more.
Kendra: Was photography always something you were passionate about? Were you one of those kids in high school that was never without some form of a camera?
Chris Kuzman: I got started taking pictures a few years ago when I bought my first drone, believe it or not. It was when 4k camera drones were first getting affordable, so I bought one out of curiosity. I started taking video of landscapes in Arizona, and pictures as well, but I was much more focused on making videos.
It was the first time that I felt that I could use a camera as a tool to create art. This was followed shortly by purchasing my first real Nikon DSLR on a Black Friday sale and started taking random pictures of everything. It quickly became an obsession, and before I knew it I was getting hired to do graduation pictures, portraits, and event videos. It’s all history from there!
Kendra: On top of photography, you also handle video production. Do you feel you pull from one of your skills to help enhance the other?
Chris Kuzman: I make most of my living from video production, but photography holds an equal amount of importance to me. I find a lot of overlap between photography and video, especially in the majority of stuff I work on. At the end of the day, we are telling mini-stories with any visual art medium. Video often relies heavily on audio to properly convey the message, but photography only has one visual moment to do the job.
So you learn quickly with photography to focus on imagery that communicates lots of complex ideas with just one single frame. You can’t include fluff, only the important things. In my opinion, a good picture is one where the subject(s) in the frame gives you just enough information to get the message, and nothing more. So to answer your question, photography has enhanced my perspective on making videos, by forcing me to focus on minimizing unnecessary images that don’t serve my narrative.
Kendra: You deal with a lot of varying subject matter in your photos from traditional portraits to landscapes to events. Out of them all, what’re the most on-point for who you are when step behind the lens? What allows you to be the most like yourself when shooting?
Chris Kuzman: I really like shooting things that are happening, regardless of me being there or not. Doing portrait sessions and editorial work is fun and all, but I truly enjoy capturing things as they happen naturally, whether it is an event, a musician on stage, a landscape, people on the street, animals, buildings, whatever. I like being able to observe things and capture the raw, honest moment as it was going to happen, without my input. Whenever I pose a model, or light a set, no matter how cool the picture ends up, it never feels as authentic as something that I captured from a distance, unnoticed and uninvolved.
Kendra: Your landscape and travel photos are immaculate. So crisp and clean. What I like about them is that when you do feature someone in the travel shots, they aren’t necessarily the entire focus. It’s one of my pet peeves when people vacation and all their photos are close up selfies. Like, where’s the place you went? Do you feel people travel more for the photo than the experience nowadays?
Chris Kuzman: Yeah I completely fall into the camp of people who focus too much on the documentation of experiences, and can sometimes forget to sink into the moment. My rationale is that my memory is a pretty terrible way to relive experiences, and pictures are much more effective at that. So I like to take pictures that capture the vibe of wherever I am at and edit them to accentuate that feeling. The better the picture I take, the more likely I’ll be to look back on that moment and relive it for years to come. That’s my motivation.
Kendra: When it comes to travel and photography do you ever feel there are places with understated beauty photographers are missing out on?
Chris Kuzman: I think people over analyze the amount of “beauty” a place needs to have in order to justify going there and taking pictures. Most popular places to take pictures are super crowded and have a massive amount of pictures taken there already. It’s pretty easy to get a good picture of horseshoe bend, or Niagara Falls, but it’s much more difficult to bring out the beauty of a place that no-one thinks to take pictures of. My advice is to go and take pictures of neglected parts of the world, and if you can make those things beautiful, then you just accomplished something meaningful.
Kendra: Have you ever showcased your work in galleries? If not, is that a future goal?
Chris Kuzman: I have not, but it is something that I am considering doing soon! My little brother has artwork in galleries and it has really inspired me to one day do the same thing.
Kendra: What’s coming up for you as we head deeper into 2019 and soon into 2020?
Chris Kuzman: I’m continuing to refine my abilities and focus on the basics. I think that becoming more consistent in producing the results I’m visualizing is definitely my main focus. At the beginning of my photo/video journey, I feel like most of the good work I’ve produced has been a product of luck, so I’m focusing on learning how to get lucky more often.