| Chris Barrett Blog
Blog of architectural photographer and cinematographer, Christopher Barrett.
Architectural Photography, Interior design, Architecture, Arca Swiss
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One Point Perspective

a day in the life of...

We had a large project this year helping out our friends at Thesis with the launch of Nemschoff’s new line of healthcare furniture, Palisade.  We began by shooting motion and stills at Herman Miller’s Greenhouse location in Michigan.  Our motion footage was all shot on our RED Epic (of course) while the stills were captured using the Sony A7r.  I typically use my Phase One IQ 260 for all of my furniture shoots but there were some interesting workflow things we could do with the Sony that intrigued me (more on that in a coming post).

One of the more fun aspects of this shoot was an interview that we filmed at the Eames Home in Pacific Palisades, and by “fun”, I mean transcendent!  For any fan of Mid-Century Modern design, spending a day at the Eames Home is something of an architectural pilgrimage.  We had the pleasure of filming Palisade’s designer, Jess Sorel as interviewed by Eames Demetrios, the grandson of Ray and Charles.  Yeah, pretty cool.

The Palisade line itself represents some of the most thoughtful design I have come across within the healthcare field.  They’ve actually just won Best of Competition at Contract Design’s Nightingale Awards.

Anyway, here’s the little film we did and a few of our stills beneath.

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Our little crew


I can’t really explain why, but I’ve been intrigued by the weird 4×10 format for at least fifteen years now.  Having always been drawn to panoramic images, my appreciation of the long ratio has been recently compounded through doing so much cinematography work.  I always seem to be framing those projects to 2.4 or 2.35 which is very close to the 4×10 ratio. I’ve shot a lot of film over the last year on personal projects, have resurrected my drum scanner and am really enjoying the mystique and the workflow of shooting analog again.  About a month ago I caved in and purchased a 4×10 camera from Chamonix View Camera in China.  The Chamonix is a lightweight field camera constructed of teak, aluminum and carbon fiber.  Hugo Zhang, Marketing Rep for Chamonix and a large format shooter himself, was very helpful in getting me set up with the right kit.  The craftsmanship coming out of the Zhejiang Province studio is exceptional.  The Chamonix is light to carry, quick to setup and easy to operate from under the darkcloth… not to mention, it’s damn cool looking.

I’m processing the color negs (which I have to cut down from 8×10 stock) in Unicolor C-41 chemistry, which I’ve never done before.  It’s actually just as easy as souping black and white.  Today I’ll be receiving Jobo’s new CPP-3 processor which should give me very accurate and repeatable results with their Master Drums that I’ve already been using.

Whenever I’m speaking to a group of photographers (or any other artists for that matter) one of the things I talk about in my work is the importance of striving to maintain a balance between your art (or personal work) and the work you do for hire.  This was one of the first lessons I learned from Marco Lorenzetti whom I assisted for about a million years ago.  I’m not saying that it is actually possible to maintain a perfect balance between the two… but it’s something one should definitely strive for.

Here’s how I explain the dichotomy:  commercial work is something working artists do on a nearly daily basis (I’m talking about people who support themselves with their art).  Some see this daily grind as selling out, or drudgery compared to the pursuit of strictly “personal” work.  I, however, see my commercial work as a way to hone my craft.  My vision has become much more refined through the constant exercise of composing and lighting images for my clients.  Collaborating with other artist (art directors and architects) has allowed this development to proceed exponentially faster than it could have in an isolated practice.  It also certainly helps that my “job” requires the use of high-end tools that most fine artist could never afford.  When I do focus on my own art work, I have wonderful tools at my disposal.

The balance I have found can best be described thusly: my commercial work has trained me to be a better artist and given me the tools so that that work becomes a joy to do.  The fine art work keeps me moving in fresh directions.  It feeds the soul and reinvigorates the work that I do for hire.  While the two are often very different, both in subject matter and in aesthetics, they form a symbiosis that is a delicate and beautiful thing.

Below are the first few of a new series of personal work that I have just begun that is actually very closely aligned with a series of commercial work that I do for Cumberland Furniture.  It has evolved from images that I have pursued under the art direction of Michael Barile, who has been a tremendously inspiring influence.

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A favorite client of mine, Cumberland Furniture, recently had us up to their studio for a few days to photograph their new Solitaire line.  We always have a lot of fun working with Rob from Cumberland and Art Director, Michael Barile.  I got to play architect for a few days, configuring walls and floor panels to suit our compositions.  While we most often shoot with HMI and Strobe, I always do these studio shoots with tungsten lighting as it gives us more tools to work with.  I find in general that tungsten sources are easier to create really finessed lighting with.  You can be so much more “surgical” with them than you can with strobe. Everything was shot on our new IQ 260 back with the Arca view camera.


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I’ve just heard that a short film I DP’d, Best If Used By, has been nominated for five awards at this year’s Midwest Independent Film Festival right here in Chicago!  We’re up for Best Short Film, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay & Best Director!  Phew…  The short has already won numerous awards across the globe and we had an earlier nomination for Best Cinematography at the Madrid International Film Festival.  It’s incredibly awesome to work on something that is a wholly collaborative experience and have it so well received.

If you feel like heading over to Midwest’s voting site, Aemilia, Ed and I would definitely appreciate your vote!

Here is a trailer of the short…



My friend and one Mad Finn, Andy Jarosz recently asked me to DP a short film he was writing with Brian Hamilton. The plot involves murder, infidelity and time travel. Count me in! We had a lot of fun on this shoot. It was pretty low key, lot’s of available light mixed with some moody interiors. It was the first time I really got to dig my teeth into my new MōVi stabilizer which I’m pretty damned fond of now. All shot on my Epic and Cooke Mini S4’s (of course).

These are all one lights out of RC-X. RC3 / RG3 with very little manipulation.


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and a goofy BTS TimeLapse…


We’ve recently wrapped production on a new short film with Aemilia Scott, titled For a Good Time.  Aemilia wrote and directed last year’s Best If Used By, which I also shot.  BIUB has been tearing up the festival circuit since its release, most recently screening at the Madrid International Film Festival where I received a nomination for Best Cinematography.  The new short was shot almost entirely with available light and I found it really interesting to have so little control over the lighting.  We did somehow manage to stage almost every exterior scene with gorgeous back lit sunshine.  I chose to leave my Cookes at home on this project and utilized all stills glass.  On the wide masters I used my Canon 17 & 24mm Tilt/Shifts and for the remainder we worked with Leica R series Primes and Zooms.  Though the mechanics of the stills lenses were not as nice as cine lenses, I think the look speaks for itself.


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We’re currently nearing the tail end of a production marathon for this year’s NeoCon. The show is THE BIG annual furniture expo held here in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart. The weeks leading up to the show are always filled with planning, design, construction and outright panic. Every manufacturer works to put their best foot forward while launching new products that are exhibited within stunning showrooms. Thousands of architects and designers converge on Chicago every year for this event. It’s kind of a big deal…

Among a few other showrooms this year, we’ve been spending a lot of our time documenting Herman Miller. It’s a huge year for them with new product launches of some really inspired lines as well as a freshening of the showroom that makes it feel lighter, more airy and open. All that work hasn’t gone unnoticed and they’ll be taking the awards of Best Large Showroom and Best of Competition back to Michigan with them.

During the first 4 days we shot for about 50 hours and produced 20 images. All of which had to be turned around sunday afternoon to launch their website monday morning.  Here’s a bit of our handiwork… and while it’s not quite straight out of camera, each image has only about 15 minutes of post work on it (managed on very little sleep).



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Public Aluminum Group Rainbow Tuxedo Sofa

130603_005 Eames Molded Fiberglass is Back!

New for this year was a series of lectures hosted in the showroom.  We had the opportunity to film these wonderful presentations by Eames Demetrius (the grandson of Ray and Charles), Studio 7.5, Yves Behar and several other brilliant presenters.  I really enjoyed hearing about the conceptualization behind many of the products I’ve been photographing and filming the last few years.  I think these forums were an amazing addition to the experience of NeoCon and hope to see more in the future.