^ Christopher Currence, 125 and Royalty, September 16, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP Short-Forms: Christopher Currence
An interview with the New York-based film-maker and photographer.
Vulnerability, the extension of memory and waiting for God to throw an Alley-Oop.
Christopher Currence’s candid portraiture and records of public space alternate between images fuelled by explosive movement and more muted compositions underscored by a sense of sombre reflection. Stripped-down and concentrated with serendipity, his pictures present a raw and immediate perspective that highlights the poignant potential of chance encounters.
Working with both still and moving image photography, Currence graduated from the Pratt Institute in 2019 and is now based in Brooklyn. Working seamlessly across multiple formats he has released six independent publications in the last 18 months along with a catalogue of short films, music videos and fashion work for the likes of Kenzo and Supreme.
OTP How did you first get into film-making and photography? Did one come before the other?
CC When I was kid I always loved film. My grandfather had an 8mm projector and we would watch tons of family footage and look through family photo albums. When I was 12 my grandfather got me a little dv camcorder and I would run around the neighborhood making short films.
As I got older I began incorporating my friends from school. My aunt would invite me to stay with her in the summers and she signed me up for a film camp at my cousin’s school. At the end of the Summer camp we screened our films for a crowd of maybe 9 people.
I felt my film was mediocre but my family cheered and it made me feel like “yo, I can really do this.” From then on I knew I was serious about making films.
^ Christopher Currence, Clock Hand, January 28, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP A lot of your work seems to be produced outside, often in a street setting - could I ask you to talk a little bit about the relationship between interiority and exteriority in your work?
CC I find it hard to sit inside for too long. It makes me anxious. Taking up street photography was a response to that. When I’m outdoors it's more likely for me to connect with something or experience something new.
We are all guilty of living in our own bubbles. My camera is my tool to connect with the world around me.
OTP What are some of the things you have taken away from your time at Pratt? Did that experience have a large effect on the work you are producing now?
CC Pratt gave me the resources I needed to develop my own style. The material I was exposed to went beyond what I would look for myself.
I realized how important my experience is. How rare it is for people with my background to be a part of these institutions. To a certain extent I felt alienated but it just intensified my vision.
^ Christopher Currence, Pitbull Foundation, September 8, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP Is there a typical way you interact with the subjects of your photos? Do you tend more towards an anonymous encounter or do you develop relationships with the people you photograph over time?
CC A majority of the people I photographed I've met pretty spontaneously. From those interactions I’ve fostered a lot of relationships. So you could say a little bit of both.
OTP If you had to offer some criteria, what would you say makes a successful image for you?
CC For a portrait, If I can make a subject comfortable enough to show their true self that is a successful image. I admire the vulnerability.
When shooting landscape or still life I’m drawn to the feeling of the space. Oftentimes they are places or objects that bring up some form of nostalgia for me.
OTP What sort of role does nostalgia play in your work more generally?
CC My interest in photography came from my grandfather’s extensive collection of family photos. Photography has always been a practice rooted in nostalgia and memory for me.
As a kid I was so captivated by these family photos because they showed memories that extended beyond what I was aware of. Photos gave me a snapshot of my ancestors life and I could always recognize how powerful that was.
My family's emphasis on photo-documentation inspired me to document my community.
^ Christopher Currence, Old Nat, April 28, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP Whereabouts did you grow up? What were you like as a kid?
CC I was born in Macon, GA and grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I attended Kindergarten and High School in Atlanta, GA.
In school I enjoyed being the class clown. I got in a lot of trouble in school for talking too much or disagreeing with my teachers. I was never expelled but I did get suspended a few times.
Although I had some disciplinary issues in school I took high level classes and always made the honor roll. My parents put an emphasis on academics.
OTP How did you become interested in producing publications of your work? Why is physical engagement important to you in that way?
CC Producing publications allows me to physically reach people around the world. It allows the viewer to feel the work and examine the textures.
There is no need for a calibrated screen to see my intention.
^ Christopher Currence, Mike, January 27, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.
OTP How spontaneous / pre-planned and arranged do your photographs tend to be?
CC Most of the time they are completely spontaneous. It’s a bit frustrating. I feel like I’m waiting for God to throw me an Alley-Oop every time.
I go extended periods of time without capturing anything but when I do it's so special.
OTP How much post-production work is involved in your photographic work? Do you ever make your own prints?
CC I try to do everything in camera but it depends on the situation. I love making my own prints but since graduation and covid-19 I haven't spent much time in the darkroom.
^ Christopher Currence, Football Radiation, July 28, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
Born in Macon, Georgia USA in 1996 Christopher Currence completed his BFA at the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn in 2019. That same year he premiered his short film ‘Don’t Worry’ at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. His exhibition history includes: Right On at WHAAM! (2019, solo) as well as No time like the present at WHAAM! (2019, group).
See more from Christopher Currence: