Through The Lens

January 30, 2013, by Dan Grant

Throughout this year, Modelresource will be devoting much of its attention to the photographers we see taking a greater stake in the industry in the years to come.

We're designating 2013 the year of "The New Crew"

Chris Steinbach

Chris Steinbach


  • @fotocs

  • /photographerchrissteinbach


    You moved here from L.A., where you were shooting for the top agencies. What are some of the bigger differences you've encountered since arriving in the Great White North?

    I felt very welcomed upon my arrival into Canada. I was accepted straight away by the agencies and artists here and it made the transition from Southern California to the North East smoother. A small, but obvious difference I've come upon is the paid testing format. In Los Angeles, the agencies that were paying me were paying me at my (testing) day rate and I would hand over the high resolution digital photos of what I selected to present from it. To a photographer that might sound like a pretty sweet deal, but I don't want to be misleading… they expect more looks, more photos and it's not easy to get to where an agency (read: model) will pay you for a test. Here in Canada, they're buying prints or high resolution digital photos individually in lieu of a day rate. I find advantages to both, but there's no doubt that in recent years, it has become more difficult for photographers to get paid for any kind of testing work.

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    LEFT: Paloma (LA Models), by Chris Steinbach
    makeup & hair: Rokael Lizama
    RIGHT: Monika (Vision LA), by Chris Steinbach

    You're married to a model (the lovely Kelleth, at Sutherland). How has that relationship changed the way you shoot?

    It hasn't changed how I shoot at all. We both get an inside perspective on what it's like to be a photographer or a successful model and she's been my biggest supporter. She understands that both my outlook and workflow are crucial to my style and subsequently make it what it is. Being a professional photographer isn't an easy job and she's always there with me through the highs and lows. She has never once told me to shut up or rolled her eyes when I insisted on talking about the same thing for the 100th time. BUT, I've learned to not try and talk to her when she's working or watching her favourite show… fugetaboutit!

    Colorado -- your home state -- is one of the best places to drink beer in North America. Tell me about a few of your favourites.

    Haha, if there's anything you Canucks like and know well, it's your beer! Frankly, I haven't had much experience with beer and have always been a whiskey drinker (Johnny Walker and I have taken many a stroll together).

    However, I have a friend back in Los Angeles that once introduced me to a small gem of a pub that was only a 10 minute walk from where I was living at the time. It was there that he introduced me to an Austrian beer called Samichlaus and what was once a 10 minute walk became an hour stumble home. Ah, good times!

    You're regarded as one of the top photographers in the city for shooting the body. How do you gain a new model's trust when she's nearly naked and shooting with a straight dude.

    Simply put, don't have ill intent in the first place.

    It has so much to do with how you are as a person. I never put on a face or an act around anyone; I'm just myself. Of course I always want people to feel comfortable around me and I think the best way to do that is to just be a real person.

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    Staz (Vison LA), by Chris Steinbach

    Steve Yzerman or Nicklas Lidström?

    Steve Yzerman brought my team out of the dark ages; a God among men.

    Aside from the giants of the photography (Meisel, Testino, Sorrenti, etc), who are your biggest influences?

    If anything, those photographers you mentioned influence me to quit. They're so good, that I can't take a long look at their work. I don't think I'll ever be able to view myself on that level of talent, so I try and draw my influences from other mediums. For me, it's the film Lost In Translation. The film was a dark chord that hit a note of personal realization for me. I lack the ability to convey what that feeling is. Its discourse is in my work.

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    LEFT: Fiona (LA Models), by Chris Steinbach
    makeup & hair: Rokael Lizama; styling: Sheree Carella
    RIGHT: Laura (Sutherland), by Chris Steinbach

    What's the best advice you've been given by another photographer?

    "Don't sell your camera, dipshit."

    In addition photography, you're quite the prolific tattoo artist. What's the wildest thing you've inked on someone?

    There's a strict right of passage in the tattoo industry when it comes to learning how to tattoo. When you're new or an apprentice, you often get subjected to tattooing things that the more experienced artists are privy to rejecting. In laymen's terms, when a tattoo walks through the door that an artist doesn't have interest in doing it'll often get passed down to the new artists or a tattooing apprentice. This often includes awful, awful, awful tattoos. I recall once when I was about halfway through my apprenticeship, I was sitting at the desk drawing a stencil for one of the senior artists, when this really big, heavy set guy walks in and up to the front counter. My mentor just happened to be at the counter at the time when I heard the customer say "Hi, I'd like to get three, 1-inch sized letters tattooed". My mentor says "Cool, what are you looking to get?" at which point the guy says "I want the word 'WET' on my right ass cheek. It's my friend's initials." I swore time froze when I overheard him say this. As this was happening, I could simultaneously see my mentor look at me from my peripheral and all I could do was sigh. I just KNEW that this one was coming my way. It was small, easy, cheap and no artist in the entire shop is going to want to tattoo this. So, as it goes in tattoo shops, instead of turning him away, let the shop make $80 and give the apprentice an invaluable life lesson and practice. So, yeah… that happened. I laugh about it now but, at the time, the only one snickering was, oh, just about everyone else in the shop. Traumatizing.

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    Fiona (LA Models), by Chris Steinbach

    Which magazines most influence your style?

    Currently, I enjoy Mirage magazine.

    My first brush with magazines was at a young age when I used to sneak a look at my grandfather's collection of Playboy magazines from the 70's and 80's. They were in a back closet, chronologically organized under his meticulously staged dress shoes. Funny as it seems now, I guess that was my introduction to the female form and perhaps an early admiration of photography. Some women might argue "That's not how women actually look!" and with most current publications, there may be a bit of truth to that statement. However, that wasn't so much the case then. Sure, they could conceal blemishes with pens using antiquated methods of photo manipulation, but their bodies were real. It took a great deal of talent from the photographer to photograph them in a way that complimented the model's figure. There was no such thing as Photoshop and the term "fix it in post" wasn't thrown around like loose change. I think there's something to be said from that and I still have great admiration for real (vintage or modern) photography of beautiful women and otherwise. That's why I'll always be partial to film photography. It's forgiving, but it's honest.

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    LEFT: Ashtyn (Sutherland) in Contra, by Chris Steinbach
    makeup & hair: Jordana Maxwell (Judy Inc); styling: Rita Fiorucci
    RIGHT: DJ (Sutherland), by Chris Steinbach
    makeup & hair: Vanessa Melanson; styling: Dani Levi

    Most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on set?

    Two hours of prep time and my shutter died on the first frame. The look on my face must've been priceless.

    What about you would surprise people?

    I served in the United States Marine Corps.

    What else would you like people to know?

    Being a photographer is not a cash grab. I'M BROKE!

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