A few minutes into my first conversation with local photographer, Chris Talbot, of Talbot photography, I realized he was a little different than many still and travel photographers in the present day. No doubt, he has an artistic personality, and perhaps my age was betraying me, but something stood out that was distinguishable relative to many other professional photographers in the digital era.
Chris was born in Malibu but his family moved to Incline when he was in grade school. He briefly lived in Hawaii, and other than his years of school at USC, Incline has been his home base. Upon hearing him mention the places he’s lived, all of which are postcard worthy, it seemed only natural that he would become a travel photographer. He readily admits he was inspired by his surroundings from a young age. Unlike a lot of photographers, especially everyday photography heroes armed with a smartphone, Chris actually has a degree in photography. His minor in still photography, was ironically canceled the year he finished the degree, perhaps a bit prophetic considering the watering down of his profession by modern, extremely accessible everyday technology.
These days with everyone armed with a camera in their pocket and the ability to alter or edit photos, it can be hard to distinguish professional from amateur or hobbyist. Chris admits this has been a challenge for him as a true professional, which he defines as someone who makes 1/4 to 1/2, or more, of their living strictly on photography. He certainly doesn’t have anything against people with passion or ambition, but does feel that an art has been lost. He refuses to alter his landscape photos as it’s “God’s work, not mine,” and “If it’s not a good picture, don’t take it.” These simple phrases summarize the beautiful simplicity of Chris’ stunning images. On one particular trip to Vietnam, a place he visits and shoots regularly, Chris only took 30 frames. I was shocked by this given my own experience with every iPhone I’ve ever owned. He truly believes in quality over quantity. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Chris still uses film. He only uses digital when he is shooting for commercial purposes or contract jobs. Chris has worked in many studios over the years, today, he works in the most traditional studio of all, the great outdoors. It’s just him and his camera. While he no longer has a dark room, he is highly skilled in the process. The skill of developing images this way is largely unknown to an entire generation of photographers. Chris’ versatility in both knowing and using older photography methods in addition to his understanding of current technologies and their applications, have allowed him to stay not only relevant in a quickly changing world, but have also granted him great success. He admits he is still learning the business but after thirty years I think it is fait to say he’s ‘made it’.
Those who live in the Tahoe area have likely seen many of Chris’s images. He shoots contract jobs for multiple local real estate firms. Chris has also become quite the foodie, using his education and talent in still photography to sell and promote cuisine and cocktails both locally and when he travels internationally, which is often. Most people might be inclined to think that a true photographers job might include a lot of events, like weddings, they wouldn’t be wrong. While Chris no longer shoots weddings, he is no stranger to them, having shot 1,267 weddings over the course of his 32 year long career. He credits weddings and large events with helping to develop his eye. Occasionally, he still shoots a portrait or two for people he knows, but these days, outside of real estate and food promos, he prefers to go back to what helped him fall in love with photography in the first place, travel. One of his favorite places to shoot is Vietnam where he travels regularly and works for a handful of private resorts. Chris has some personal connections there too. His 13 year old daughter, Emma Ly, is Vietnamese and she goes to Lake Tahoe School. He speaks of Vietnam with the same affection that he does of his home here in Incline, with the love and adulation of someone who has obviously experienced the land from both sides of the lens.
Chris relationship with the camera and the scenery he shoots might not be as common as it used to be in the photography world, but there is no doubt that his images are timeless.