I’m Chris Harrison from Brighton, UK. In the summer of 1987 I opened a magazine and saw Elliot Erwitt’s ‘Great Dane Legs, Boots and Chihuahua’ for the first time. I was mesmerised. Shortly after that my mum bought me a second hand 35mm camera (thank you Mum), and I went to art college to study graphic design and photography. I occasionally made some ‘OK’ photographs, but it took my naive and impatient 16-year-old self a long time to realise that candid photography (as it was called then) was much, much harder than Elliot Erwitt made it look. Since then photography has always been a part of my life. Sometimes being immersed in it (building my own darkrooms and printing my own work) while other times my cameras have gathered dust or been sold to pay for other things. In 2016, after a 15 year hiatus from photography and a chance visit to Arles, I rekindled my commitment to photography. I’m still plugging away.
I’m driven by a sense of curiosity. I like going out and not really knowing what I might find – that’s part of what makes it fun for me. If I knew what I was looking for, I’d get bored quite quickly. For me there has to be a sense of uncertainty, discovery and surprise. That has its downside too – it can feel quite crushing when there are no surprises and nothing feels new. But that also drives me on and makes me want to keep working on my approach and trying new things.
90% of my work is made in my home city, Brighton, on the south coast of the UK. Brighton is very much a ‘seaside city’ with a vibrant tourist industry that attracts over 10 million people each year, which can make it a very buzzy place during peak season. I tend to find the hustle and bustle of busy summer streets and bright days a bit overwhelming and distracting. I’m much more drawn towards Brighton’s low season, when city life slows down a bit in the winter months. I tend to slow down too. The spaciousness of the city and the beach feels more ‘me’. Most of the pictures I take in Brighton are usually from the same one mile stretch of seafront.
I’m a full-time brand consultant and designer, so whenever I’m not doing that I’m usually out with my camera. I fit in photography around my consultancy work. I take my camera with me absolutely everywhere I go. Sometimes I take photographs in London, Bath, Bristol or Hastings – towns and cities that I often visit for work or pleasure. If I’m not motivated to get out and shoot, I try to stay on top of my archive and keep it reasonably well organised (a never-ending challenge).
I really, really love making photographs. It’s an itch that needs to be scratched. It’s the sheer joy of coming home with something that feels special to me and that wouldn’t have existed if I’d stayed at home. All of that obviously comes with a large helping of frustration, confoundment, and trial and error (and error and error and error). But that’s part of the work. There’s a great line in the Bhagavad Gita that goes: “You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working”, which is a very poetic way of saying “Just do the flippin’ work. Let go of the results!”. Obviously, waaaay easier said than done. But it’s something I (haphazardly) try to remember when I’m out on the street.