Featured Artist – Chris Borgman – Interview

In: Artist Interviews

22 Oct 2008

Chris Borgman
The whole Rock ‘n’ Roll thing didn’t exactly pan out for Chris Borgman. But it was by choice. The Miami-based photographer/artist decided long ago to give his axe a rest in order to spend more time with his camera, but not before suffering a barrage of good-humored insults from his band mates about his growing fashion rag collection.

Boasting an extensive client list that includes the likes of Coca Cola, Virgin Records, and JC Penney, the Texas native has now made a name for himself in both fashion and advertising circles. His skill set has garnered the attention of Mexico’s premier competing photography magazines – who each featured Borgman as their cover story – while his work has graced the pages of In Style, Oprah, and W magazines, just to name a few.

So it’s a good thing he did his homework early on. Besides, it takes a real man to read Vogue.

When did you first discover your passion for the photographic medium?

There have only been three things I wanted to be – a cop, a rock star, and a photographer – in that order. As a kid, around four or five, my two favorite toys were a plastic guitar, with rubber bands for strings, and a plastic camera. The toy camera had a flashbulb on the top that had little drawings on it and every time you clicked the “shutter” the bulb would turn to show a new drawing. Twelve years later, I was playing guitar in a rock band and trying to live out the rock star dream, but I also had a passion for photography. My buddy and I would sneak in our cameras to rock concerts. I loved capturing the moment. I felt I had to capture it so I wouldn’t loose the feeling of the concert. That started my photography obsession.

I played in several bands until I was about twenty-seven. On long drives to other cities we would makes gas stops and I’d pick up a Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, or some other fashion magazine. The other guys thought I was a little weird, but I knew my future. The same week I quit the band I did two days of shooting head shots. I made more money in those two days then I did with the band all month. That was about it. I never turned back.

It seems that in the world of photography, you’re either a hardcore purist (utilizing only film), an adaptive realist (shooting digital) or you manage to fall somewhere in between. Where are you and why?

In the future – for professional shooters – film will only be used specifically for the effect of film, especially black & white. But until they can make a $20 disposable underwater digital camera, consumer negative film will never be eliminated. At this point, it’s still very expensive to shoot digital, especially medium and large format. Just like the film you use, the camera you choose, your lighting techniques, the choice of digital or film, Photoshop or Painter, Mac or PC, they are all tools that are the options of the artist and should only be thought of as options. No set rules, whatever it takes to get the image right. Of course, I don’t really consider PC as an option. HA!

Having had your work showcased in the advertising, fashion and entertainment industries, do you find that you have discovered a personal favorite?

Whatever pays the most is my favorite! I’m now moving into the upscale clientele portrait industry, so we can add that to the mix. I prefer advertising. Although my work is all fashion influenced, I feel the industry is very fake and full of self-importance. I don’t get it. It’s just clothes, right? Are we saving the world from evil? Don’t think so….

Do you have your lens on any new frontiers, as far as your subject matter goes?

As I mentioned, portraiture for an upscale clientele. I don’t see it being offered anywhere so I want to be the first to offer very personalized surreal portraits based on each client’s dreams, fantasies, or desires. I treat each portrait client just as a commercial job, offering the best your money can buy. No limit to the image we can create, it’s all up to the client and every portrait is one of a kind.


You name Salvador Dali as one of your influences and his mark is certainly apparent in your fashion portfolio. What is your fascination with the surreal?

Why not? From the beginning of time painters have shown their subjects in spectacular settings. Why are we so amazed by dreams? It’s the unreal so close to real.

A cowboy and his cowgal want to get their respective grubs on in Texas, where do they go?

Taco Cabana for the best and cheapest TexMex, cowboy hat optional. My hometown is San Antonio – very Mexicana.

How do you feel technology, specifically the advent of the almighty Photoshop, has helped shape your work – both real and surreal?

Photoshop has saved me many headaches caused by breathing stop-bath! That’s the first. Before Photoshop I was always in the darkroom (which was the kitchen, bathroom, or closet) getting high on all those fumes. I’m surprised I don’t have a brain tumor or something. I would spend hours and hours printing the same image a million different ways. I would bend the negative holder so half the image would be out-of-focus, as if it was shot with large format. I would print through plastics even toilet paper to distort the image. With one image I took the negative (no, not a copy, I’m not that bright) and stomped on it on the sidewalk. It put all kinds of nasty scratches on it. Brought it inside and continued with smaller scratches using a hand full of kitty litter. Then I ruffled wadded up toilet paper to coat the negative with small paper fibers. Cool huh? It was a cowboy walking across the field in what looked to be a rainstorm.


Eventually I wanted to distort color images. I did lots of reading in the library, which really got me thinking. I would shoot on slide film, a specific 400 ISO stock, with tungsten light slightly underexposed. I’d then bleach (with Clorox) the first (yellow) and part of the second (cyan) layers of emulsion. Then I’d use watercolor paints to paint back a deep yellow layer. When dried, it would leave brush marks and a gritty texture that was impossible to do in camera. And this was way before Photoshop.

Photoshop has allowed me to take my experimenting to the next level. It didn’t really change me cause I was always doing something to the image. Now, I just do it in a cleaner, chemical free environment. Photoshop has empowered me.

You teach Photography and Advanced Photoshop Techniques at the Miami Ad School. Do you find that being in the classroom with young, fresh minds helps inspire you?

Inspire me? Hmmm, maybe to go shoot myself! And I don’t mean with a camera! HA! Yes, there are some really talented kids with great ideas. As they graduate and hit with the real world it’s interesting to watch as they think, “Oh yeah, that’s what Chris was talking about in class.” Teaching has made me realize one big thing; I’m not ready to be just a teacher. I have too much to learn and the desire to learn keeps me fresh. It’s also the reason I’m moving back to NYC in a few months.


When you want to find beauty, with your camera in hand, where do you go?

I live in Miami Beach now, so it’s pretty much everywhere. I like to take pictures of stuff, just anything that looks interesting. I use so many odd images when putting together a final piece, so I have several gigs of random photos. Other than a beautiful model’s face, I like the sky. It’s always different everyday…or maybe I just see it differently everyday.

In what ways do you challenge yourself with regard to your work?

My mind and imagination is always growing, when it does, then comes the challenge to keep up and actually create what I’m thinking. I used to spend allot of time in the public library and bookstores looking at old master photographers and painters. Now I do more searching the Internet for creative works from other artists that inspire me.

Someone wants to take a badass photograph. What is the one thing they must keep in mind in order to do so?

I don’t know, when I take one I’ll let you know. *wink*

A client walks into a bar and asks for the impossible. How do you deal with it?

Get the FUCK out of my bar asshole!!!

Actually, nothing is impossible with the right amount of money. But if he still wants the “impossible” with a limited budget, then I will sell what I can do as the possible and not mention what’s impossible.

Lauren Hutton is smoking hot. Tell us how you landed her cosmetics campaign.

She saw my LOFT magazine “Elevator” editorial in L.A. at her doctor’s office. She liked the lighting, although it had nothing to do with what she needed. But hey, it got her attention. It’s quite a compliment coming from a former Super Model and actress. She has so many stories about working with Dick (Richard Avedon) and Penn (Irving Penn). Talking to her is like listening to the Fashion History channel, if there was one. She was very happy with the end results. That’s a nice feather in my cap.

You can only do one of these before you leave the house to go to a client shoot. Do you?

A. Brush your teeth
B. Put on deodorant
C. Wash your hands
D. Clean your lenses

Option B.

See Borgman’s work at: www.chrisborgman.com

Interview By Bridget Deenihan

2 Responses to Featured Artist – Chris Borgman – Interview


Maria del Carmen Ariza

June 9th, 2007 at 6:20 pm

Me encato su obra es un fotografo extraordinario!!!!


Lauren Hutton

November 18th, 2007 at 10:08 am

Hello webmaster…Man i love reading your blog, interesting posts ! it was a great Sunday

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