We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Koeppen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, what do you think makes you most happy? Why?
I think like a lot of artists, the act of creating brings me happiness. I feel happy when I photograph something new, something I’ve never done before, or something I thought of in my head that turned out well. But happiness is fleeting for me. It’s there in the moment, but the self gratification of a creating fades quickly. I want to shoot, edit, post my work, and start the process again almost immediately so I can feel “happy.” There’s nothing wrong with this cycle and it keeps my photography at the forefront of my mind, but deep down, it’s not what keeps me going daily. Finding peace is what pushes me forward. Peace is different from happiness for me because it doesn’t stem from just myself and my accomplishments. I feel at peace when my wife comes home from a hair appointment, and is excited to show off a new color she tried out. I feel at peace when I see someone else’s art that is beautiful that is an extension of them. I feel at peace when I am shooting for a client, and they feel free to be 100% themselves around me, without the fear of being judged. Seeing others in their element, and helping them to be more of themselves through my art… it feels like a deep breath of the cleanest air. My goal, in my career as a photographer, is to consistently push myself to encourage others in being more true to themselves, and in turn provide a resounding peace for myself.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Oh good lord… Well to start, I am still learning about myself and my own art. I recently went through a mental change while shooting and editing. While reading an interview with the person who mixed my favorite deathcore album (“Immortal” by Lorna Shore), I came across a section where he talked about how modern metal is too clean and too perfect. This effects the listener by not allowing the emotion to be conveyed through the humanity that comes through in small flaws and imperfections. After reading that, I realized that my edits were striving for “perfection” and I was pushing more and more for shots that were safe, or that would be “clean” or “timeless.” So my newest phase as an artist is pushing myself to shoot for emotion, and to have my images trigger memory in the viewer. I want my art to be surreal, but still grounded, and the way I am grounding my work is through leaving in small imperfections, motion blur, and grain that would normally be removed from photos. Right now I am most proud of myself for leaning into… well ME. I feel like I have been telling other people to be themselves, while hiding a lot of who I am because I am worried others will judge me. Because of that, my style as an artist has evolved into this blend of cinematic, film inspired, fantasy feeling, storytelling and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Hahaha nooooooooooooooo!!! Not this question!! I live in Orange County, California and I literally shoot my images so they look like they are anywhere but here. It’s hot all the time, and basically a desert that is inhabitable… and I am a notable introvert. Ok but honestly, we’d go on a food rampage. The best thing about living near LA, is that there is this HUGE mess of all types of authentic food around. We’d grab sushi, Korean barbecue, mexican food, pizza and probably go to a few breweries down near San Diego, paired with a Cigar outside, and a lot of quality time talking. I’m not much of a party person, so my hangouts usually involve conversations.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people who have influenced me over the years it is honestly hard to remember. My wife Rachel Koeppen (@rachelkoeppenphotography on instagram) has always supported and encouraged me in countless ways. Recently Robert J Hill (@robertjhill on instagram) mentored me in my photography business and helped me dig down into the reason that I continue to do this. Dayne Nastri of Infinite Future Gear (@ifgclothing on instagram) has allowed me to push my art while shooting and designing for his clothing line Both my parents & in-laws. They may never fully understand how they ended up with a kid with hand tattoos and piercings who photographs cinematic, fantasy inspired boudoir & weddings, but they have always been there to support me and say “Wow!! This is so unique” haha. I hope one day if I have a child, I can support them the same.