See more of Gary's photography on his ASMP Find A Photographer page
An ASMP / Atlanta Member Spotlight Interview by Virginie Kippelen
Since leaving the Courier
Journal Magazine in Louisville, Kentucky in 1993, Gary Chapman has made a
name for himself in the humanitarian projects’ arena and in stock photography. When
not in his Atlanta-based home, Gary travels the world, having visited 65
countries in the last 15 years. He works in tandem with his wife, Vivian, who
does research, writing and production.
VK - You are showing a
lot of stories from India on your blog; does this country particularly interest
GC - About one-third to one-half of my income comes from the
humanitarian work I do. Recently, I've been working alongside a videographer
for two non-profits in India. This is why you are seeing a lot of this work on
my blog. If I am ever asked, my favorite country to work in, the easy answer is
India. The warmth of people and culture have captivated me.
VK - Let’s go back to
the foundation of your work. You were a newspaper photojournalist. Can you tell
us a little bit more?
GK - I started out as a marine biology major because I wanted to do
underwater photography for Jacques Cousteau. I got tired of doing more
chemistry than photography, so I switched majors. Vivian, who became my wife,
hired me to work on our college magazine. We interned together at The Fort Myers News-Press. After
graduating and working for a couple of other papers, we both got hired in Fort
Myers. It was a great experience for me. It really grew my versatility as I
covered everything from still life food assignments to hard news events. Years
later, I worked for the Courier Journal
magazine in Louisville, KY where I honed the skills for documenting stories.
VK - There seems to be
an easy shift from photojournalism to humanitarian work, as both capture
truthful moments in the life of people. Yet, few photographers take this direction,
it seems. How did you decide to move into humanitarian photography?
GK - Perhaps there are a couple of reasons that few photographers go
this route. One is that it is not very lucrative. Many non-profits run with few
staff and many volunteers. Photography tends to be done by volunteers. The
other reason is that it takes a lot of time to contact and develop
relationships with cause-based organizations. Developing a budget for
photography can be a challenge for them as well. I'd love to see more organizations
realize the value professional photographers can bring to their brands.
VK - How much work do
you do for corporation as opposed to NGO and non-profit organizations?
GC - As I mentioned earlier, I do both humanitarian projects as well
as commercial stock. This year I'm also working towards expanding commercial
and editorial work, especially Corporate Social Responsibility.
VK - Would you
recommend humanitarian photography to a young photographer who is interested in
humanitarian causes but not sure to be able to make a career out of it?
GC - I've always said that my humanitarian work is a passion. That's
why I continue pursuing it. There are so many organizations doing wonderful
work. And the stories are so compelling. So, yes, I would recommend it, as long
as the photographer also understands the challenges of patiently building a
relationship with an organization and negotiating fair compensation. It's also
helpful to have another income stream while building the humanitarian
VK - You recently
revamped your website and got represented by Wonderful Machine. What motivated
GC - While I want to continue doing humanitarian assignments, I also
want to expand my commercial portfolio. I believe my versatility is a good
asset for companies who want to tell their stories in a more photojournalist
style, so to speak.
VK - How long have you
been associated with ASMP?
GC - I honestly don't remember, maybe 14 years?
VK - Any example on how
your connection with ASMP has helped your photography?
GC - Yes, earlier this year I got an assignment from a corporate
client who saw my humanitarian work on the ASMP site. Even though it was a
commercial assignment, he said he liked my documentary style and hired me
because of it.
VK - You have a
personal project that I think is very touching. You have been photographing
visitors to your house since 2009 and five years later, still doing it. What
moves you to continue?
GC - I'm an introvert, but I really like people. I started the project
because I wanted more practice quickly coming up with portrait ideas. The
visitor gallery has three constraints: the pictures must be horizontal, must be
on white background and in B&W. To come up with new ideas each time is
really challenging and fun.