(More than) 10 Questions: Award-winning Graduate Ché Chorley

There are a lot of different outcomes for students who have studied at the CCP. Today’s episode talking to Ché Chorley illuminates his novel and successful approach to negotiating the fine art photography world, as well as commercial practice.

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Ché commenced his studies here at the beginning of 2009, took a two year gap from 2010 after the completion of his Certificate IV qualification, and resumed his Diploma studies at the beginning of 2012. Ché graduated the following year and rented an artist studio space at the Mill on Angas street where he now “resides” operating as Ché Chorley Photography.

A passionate surfer since long before I’ve known him, Ché Chorley has maintained his passion and affinity for the ocean while also becoming an award winning photographer—his was the first photograph to win the Heysen Art Prize and also had the first photograph to win the Emma Hack People’s Choice Award.

Ché says he is blessed to be able to pursue such an “accidental art-form”, referring to how his photography simply grew from his passion for the sea. He likes to say he takes his imaging seriously, but does not necessarily beat himself up by always expecting serious results.

Photography has been a natural accompaniment to his travels and he continues to strive to convey the beauty and uniqueness that surfing, adventure and travel allow.

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This was epically put to use (and no doubt put to the test as well) in his Land Sea You Me project. He “put his first pedal down in anger on August 4, 2016 on the other side of the Western Australia border, and almost five months later, crossed the finish line in a small town in Victoria on the Glenelg River”.

From Eucla to Nelson, over 4500 kilometres in the saddle and a world apart in landscape and even further apart in his mindset, Ché made over 12,000 photographs of this journey completely on bicycle, and with trailer in tow and accompanied by nothing more than his camera.  The result of this half year “odyssey” is his first publication titled “Land Sea You Me”, a book illustrated with a range of incredible images from his experience along with his ruminations from his journey.

You can read more from the blog he kept along the way, starting with the ending.

Funnily, Aaron tells me that Ché likes to tell a story about some feedback I gave him post-Diploma just as a catch up and probably over a beer or two. He had some images which, though not the ones in his upcoming book, were one nexus leading to the project. He was very proud of these photographs and considered them to be more or less finished. Knowing Ché’s determination to resolve his work as well as realising his splendid eye, I sincerely told him he could do better than that! I respect Ché, his artistic bent and motivation for his work so I felt a bit of “tough love” for the big guy was in order.

With Ché feeling a bit knocked back, (gutted I think in his words) I knew he would, and did, soon see this was actually a vote of confidence in his very evident talent. Ché soon took this observation in stride and started working on something… else. These later reconsidered aquatic images went on to become the celebrated series “The Sea and Me”, a precursor to his book which will be launchéd on 25 August at Chateau Apollo at 74 Frome Street at 6:30pm and I hope to see you there to celebrate with him.

I am so thrilled to have been a small part of the germ of this work and to hear that Ché even tells people as much, which only goes to prove what my mentor John Weiss (1942-2017) very wisely told me when I was his student in Graduate School at the University of Delaware in 1988: “Always be kind to your students as you’ll never know when you’ll be working for them!”. And with that anecdote I give you the answers to more than 10 questions I sent Mister Chorley and so Ché, over to you…

MORE THAN 10 QUESTIONS Ché Chorley

What first interested you, or made you fall in love with, photography?

Floating in the ocean and watching the dance of light on the sea surface. The elemental interaction of colour and water. These fleeting moments that can never be repeated are what inspired me to pick up a camera and from there my interest blossomed.

Why did you choose to study at the CCP?

I had a friend studying at the CCP I admired his work. He took me in and introduced me to the crew and that was it, I felt at home immediately.

Are you making personal work?

Always. I can't emphasise how important I feel personal work is to my professional development. Both my clients and I benefit greatly from any work I make outside of my commercial practice. Every time I make a photograph I'm learning more about light, trying new techniques, solidifying my style, and practising in different conditions.

What inspires your work at the moment?

My family, my partner Myf, my daughter Juniper and son Comet. We are a team. It takes a team to build a photographer.

What have you done since you studied at the CCP, and what are you doing now?

I finished with the CCP in 2013 and began my commercial practice in 2014. I've been working for myself since then with commercial, editorial and lifestyle work. I work out of a shared studio space in Adelaide city where I balance my personal work and clients. I have a great and diverse client base who challenge and inspire me to make great work. Currently I'm working on a major personal project named LAND SEA YOU ME, a photographic expedition, book and exhibition, launching in August 2017.

How has photography changed since you commenced your studies?

The fundamentals of the art form will never change. The emotion and importance of the message remain the same, regardless of technological improvements, styles, movements or medium.

How has photography changed your life?

My experiences with photography have been extremely positive. The camera has taken me around the world, opened doors otherwise closed to me, showed me sights otherwise inaccessible, introduced me to some wonderful friends and colleagues and given me the freedom to determine my own future. The camera has allowed me to explore themes I couldn't articulate any other way, to capture emotions and moments I would have otherwise missed.

How have you changed since you were a student?

I still consider myself a student. There's not a day that goes by that I don't read a blog or watch a video exploring new techniques or flick through other photographers work who I admire. I try to focus on one aspect of my photography each year to improve on. Last year was landscapes, the year previous studio portraiture, and this year is food.

Which photographers - past or present - have been major influences on your work?

Frank Hurley, Ray Collins, Jon Frank, Bill Henson, Narelle Autio.

Who are the people who have shaped your work and career?

I tried to get assisting work with as many photographers as possible whilst I studied at the CCP. I worked under a few but perhaps most notable were Adam Bruzzone, Nat Rogers and Peter Fisher. Nat Rogers has been an important person in my continued professional development. I can't recommend enough building relationships with established photographers to gain an invaluable insight into the real world of commercial photography. Between my formal education at the CCP and assisting work, I gained well-rounded and real-world insight into what to expect and the levels of professionalism required to succeed in today's commercial environment.

Is there a person (from anywhere, dead or alive) you admire most?

Not an individual per se, more qualities of individuals that I admire. Photographically, I'm drawn to individuals who consciously undertake unique projects, take real risks or chase adventure with the camera as a partner.

Any surprises - good or bad - as you have progressed in your career?

Having a camera in hand has opened up so many new opportunities. It's surprising where a camera can get you if you just ask.

Do you have any advice for student photographers?

Get into a shared spaced with other artists as soon as you can. Photography is all about relationships, the photographs are secondary. If you want to make interesting photographs, put yourself in front of interesting subjects.

What is the best job you've done since you've been working in the industry?

So many jobs have been good for many different reasons, but generally jobs where I can convince the client that we need to do the shoot in-water are the most rewarding for me.

What are your passions outside of photography?

Adventure, surfing, family and cycling. If I can combine the lot, (LAND SEA YOU ME) I'm extremely happy.