Christian Patterson

Christian Patterson (https://www.christianpatterson.com/) Christian Patterson was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and lives in New York, New York. His conceptually grounded, narratively driven, visually layered work has been described as novelistic, subjective documentary of the historical past, and often deals with themes of the archive, authorship, memory, place and time. It includes photographs, drawings, paintings, objects, video and sound. Patterson is the author of three books, including the critically-acclaimed, award-winning Redheaded Peckerwood (2011, Recontres d’Arles Author Book Award) and Bottom of the Lake (2015). Patterson is a Guggenheim Fellow (2013) and winner of the Grand Prix Images Vevey (2015). His work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and J. Paul Getty Museum among others. He has lectured, mentored and taught widely. He is represented by Rose Gallery, Santa Monica and Robert Morat Galerie, Berlin.

Christian Patterson Portfolio

Christian Patterson

LACP asks Christian Patterson ten questions about their background, career in and beliefs about photography

LACP: What kind of photographer are you?

Christian Patterson: A lot of what I do is grounded in research, concept and narrative, and leads me to pictures that respond to those interests while also trying to simply be good or powerful images. Ultimately, I’m equally interested in ideas and images, and how photography, concept, narrative and the book form can work together in concert, to empower one another and create a unique body of work that feels like a world of its own.

LACP: How long have you been shooting?

CP: I moved from small-town Wisconsin to New York City in 1998, and began exploring the city with my camera. I also visited bookstores, galleries and museums and began seeing photographs that inspired me to try to make better pictures. Over the course of a few years, I became increasingly obsessed with photography, and began pinning pictures to the walls of my tiny apartment. In 2000, I discovered the work of William Eggleston, and that was a lightbulb moment. Then, in 2001, I was out taking pictures on 9/11, and one of the effects of the events of that day was to compel me to do what I most wanted to do with my life at that time — which was photography, and has now simply become a desire to be curious, creative and generous.

LACP: Where did you get your training?

CP:In 2002, I moved from New York to Memphis to work closely with William Eggleston. I spent a few years working with the Eggleston Trust, and that is the closest I’ve come to learning anything directly from another artist, but Bill was more of a friend than a mentor, and we spoke far more about Memphis, barbecue and music than pictures. I have no formal training; I learned the most by looking, by going out into the world and making pictures. 

LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?

CP: Not yet.

LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

CP: The thoroughly unsatisfying career of a corporate accountant, with a matching 401K and two weeks’ vacation. I chose to be an artist and have holes in my shirts. The shirts are comfortable. I’m also very fortunate to be able to do this.

LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?

CP: A sense of self, and creative challenges that continue to inspire. And a number of great friendships. 

LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?

CP: “Photography, Concept, Narrative and the Book Form” 

LACP: What do you love most about teaching?

CP: Meeting and hopefully inspiring others who are open to ideas and methods, helping them to think differently or move forward in their own work. I usually end up learning a bit about myself in the process, which is an added bonus. 

LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

CP: Live a well-rounded life. Photography isn’t everything. But don’t “play it safe” creatively.