A Conversation with Chris Gordaneer

Chris Gordaneer is Canadian advertising photographer and director renowned for creating mesmerizing images that teleport viewers to other worlds.

Last year, Chris became a partner of Toronto’s Westside Studio. Founded in 1985, Westside Studio represents award-winning commercial photographers, including Chris, under the roof of Canada’s largest commercial photography building. In the United States, Chris is represented by Randy Cole Represents, a New York-based boutique agency promoting commercial photographers, directors and CGI artists.

Chris’ signature style – surreal with a soft color palette – has earned him more than 250 awards in the past 18 years and has gained the attention of a wide range of clients, many of whom ultimately commission Chris due to his love for the giant vista and the way he’s incorporated it into his personal work.

The energetic images Chris produces are the result of the intimacy he creates on set. “I always try to make people feel invited and welcome when I’m shooting,” Chris says. Combining his talent and vision with top-notch production, he always attempts to get the most out of every shoot.

We caught up with Chris recently to chat briefly about his background, the evolution of his style, and the relationship that’s developed between his personal and commercial work.

Chris Gordaneer - Composite Image

Composite image; background photographed in Scotland and model shot in studio

You recently became a partner at Westside Studio (Congrats!) Tell us about some of the salient points in your life and career leading up to that moment, and what this new role has meant for you.

Westside gave me a place to grow and challenge myself as a photographer, but even more valuable was that it helped foster the relationships I have in the industry. I went and did my work placement at Westside as an assistant and never left. I could see the opportunity to work with so many talented and creative people was right there in front of me, and I knew it was for me.

Chris Gordaneer for the 2015 Pan American Games

Olympic bronze medal winner and Canadian flag bearer Mark Oldershaw photographed for the 2015 Pan American Games held in Toronto

Describe your style and how it’s evolved into what it is today.

There’s definitely been a transition from analogue to digital, but I still like to try and capture as much as possible in camera. I like to create a certain mood with my photographs, not just a straight capture. I like my images to tell stories, to have a heroic feel that is direct and clear. Clear visuals are very important.

Chris Gordnaer - Composite Image 2

Composite image; background photographed in Alberta and model shot in studio

Tell us about your personal work. What has been the primary focus and why is it important to you?

I enjoy the outdoors and I think that comes across in my work with big skies and epic landscapes. Getting into remote areas is where I enjoy my location work the most. It’s important to me as a personal reset to spend some time being in nature. There are no distractions and it helps me focus on what’s around me and capturing the details I deem important.

Chris Gordaneer - Golden Ears Park in BC

Personal work, photographed at Golden Ears Park in British Columbia

How does your personal work relate to your commercial work? Have you noticed that clients commission you based off personal projects?

I try to travel to a remote area each year on my own to shoot a creative and explore. My personal images are often what I think attracts clients to me. They want that majestic and epic feel for their ads, which is great and makes most projects feel like they are tailor made for the marriage of my personal and commercial work.

Chris Gordaneer - Subaru

Image for Subaru Campaign, photographed on Vancouver Island

Where do you see photography going in the next few years and what kinds of things are you doing to stay current?

Most photographers now are expected to have a mix of photography and motion skills. The technology has changed at such an exponential rate that it seems like a natural progression to become a director. Understanding how to make powerful single images is very helpful and maybe even an advantage when creating motion work. I’ve really enjoyed the evolution.