Every once in a while I find someone who is running their life wholly on their own terms. And every time I wonder how they do it, where’d they come from, and how is it sustained? I caught up with Ben Christensen, asked him questions about his travels, family and work. He was gracious, smart, and busy. I’d already been taken by his work for some time; large brand name campaigns with the magic of a backyard shoot, a summer afternoon, a long overdue road trip. His commercial work doesn’t feel commercialized. It has an honest storytelling feel to it, and lacks gimmick and puppetry. I want to live in these pictures. Everyone is so warm and in love. And I mean Love in the biggest sense of the word – in love with the entire world. And I think the trick is, so is Ben, and it shines right through.
LF: I am always fascinated how we end up being who we are. So, why photography? I get wanting to still and capture time. But, is there more to it for you? Not that there has to be, but somewhere we make a choice, I think.
BC: I never knew what I “wanted to be” when I grew up. All I knew was I wanted to be me and somehow keep getting checks in the mail. Was it to be someone famous? To be cool? To be important? No. It wasn’t about that at all. All I wanted was to do something that gave me the freedom to be me and to be able to provide for the lifestyle I wanted for my beautiful wife and two little kiddos. Through my love of the outdoors, interest in cultures, and the journey of life; I naturally found photography. It has given me exactly what I was searching for, the freedom to be me.
LF: How long were you searching? How long has this been your life?
BC: I have been shooting full time now for about 6 years. It felt like I was searching for what I wanted to do forever until I realized it was right in front of me. I decided not to fight it and just run with it.
LF: You have an impressive commercial catalog with brands like Free People, Dockers, Declan, and Prana. The brands are diverse but you have an attention to story telling and a zest for living. What goes into creating a campaign like these?
BC: The most important part for me is to create real moments. I capture the things I hold most precious: personality, movement, scene, feel, the journey and style.
LF: What are you working on right now that you are very excited about?
BC: I have been recently shooting for Stetson Hats and they have been great to work with. They have really given me creative freedom allowing me to capture their hats the way I see their brand heading. We have been shooting in all of my favorite locations in Arizona while keeping the history and style of Stetson. 2016 is a good time.
LF: What sort of relationship do you have between digital and film photography?
BC: I shoot 95% film, (medium format and 35mm) and the 5% remaining is Digital. I shoot a lot of Film. All my weddings I shoot are all Film and most of my lookbooks are all film as well. I feel way more confident and way more passion when I shoot film. The only reason I shoot digital as well is because there are still companies out there that just need digital imagery, or digital images just fit their brand a little better.
LF: Do you think some of the magic is being lost with the popularity and creation of digital photography?
BC: I want to say yes but at the same time I don’t think it has. There are many digital photographers out there who are living proof that the magic lives on through their beautiful imagery. We all express ourselves differently and for some it’s easier to show their creativity through modern digital images, and for others it’s through the art of film. So whatever feels right, run with it.
LF: What is your dream assignment?
BC: This is a tough question, but for now my answer is: An assignment that never ends and allows me to keep shooting for the rest of my life.
LF: Are you a life on the road, or a man of routine?
BC: Life on the road sums it all up. All I need is my caffeine and I can go for months; Diet Coke or Red Bull. I’m not a coffee person .
LF: Not a coffee person?! Then what else keeps you going, literally and metaphorically?
BC: Being active. My family, that’s what keeps me going every day.
LF: Where are you living right now? Tell us about home.
BC: My home resides in the desert of Arizona located in a town called Mesa, 15 minutes east of Phoenix. It is 15 minutes from everything and I love it. I can get to the river, lakes, mountains, open road, desert, city, entertainment, all with in 15 minutes. People ask me all the time, “Why Arizona? Shouldn’t you be in LA or New york to make it as a photographer?” The answer is Arizona is the route from where my creativity began. Each day I live and explore this beautiful state and all it has to offer. I feel my photography better represents who I am and what vision I am trying to capture. Even though most of my shoots are out of state, coming home to my special spot with my little family is what its all about.
LF: How FAST do you live?
BC: However fast my Harley takes me to the next shoot, so about 120mph and 60mph on curvy roads.