Interviews Photography

An interview with Chris Willson

A few months ago I got to meet photographer Chris Willson and now I consider him a friend. You can follow him on, on his blog and on his flickr.

Your life in three sentences
Grew up in England. Traveled a lot. Now live in Okinawa where I take photographs, write and teach.

Why did you end up in Japan? and why in Okinawa?

I’d just got back home after working in Peru, and wanted to go somewhere completely different. I’d never been to Japan so thought it would be an exciting adventure. I lived in Niigata and Hokkaido, then moved to Okinawa because I heard it had good SCUBA diving. I stayed in Okinawa because it has an interesting mix of people, good weather, fascinating cultural events, sandy beaches and coral reefs.


When did you start taking pictures?

I used a point and shoot camera when I was a teenager, but it wasn’t until I got an SLR back in 2000 that I started taking photography seriously. Not long after I managed to get some photos into a local
newspaper and things grew from there.

What do you love most about capturing the world in pictures?

Planning my trips and the anticipation that comes with it. Visiting new places, talking to people, having surreal and exciting experiences, patiently waiting for the right moment, getting the shot.
Picking up film from the lab, then looking at the transparencies on the light box reliving those brief moments in time.

What camera do you use, are you thinking of changing or not really?

For the last seven years I have used a Pentax 67II. It’s a medium format film camera that produces transparencies about 4.5 times the size of 35mm film. I use Fujifilm Provia 100F most of the time. I
haven’t made the switch to digital yet, but the Pentax 645D looks like it will be a great camera, and I’ll be able to use my 67 lenses with it.


From all the pictures that you have taken up until now, which ones are your top 3 favorites? Do you have them at flickr?

These are three of my favorites. They involved a certain amount of planning combined with a good dose of luck.

Rising Sun

After securing the perfect location at 8 AM I waited 12 hours before the firework festival began. Pressing the shutter a little late in one frame and capturing the glowing embers was luck.

Into the Mist

I knew I wanted to get a shot of the world’s longest suspension bridge. Having sea fog rolling in off the ocean was a case of right place right time.


I was walking back to the subway, having taken photos of Notting Hill Carnival, when I saw this fantastic mural. I knew it was just a matter of time until someone walked past. The fact that the man is staring down at his feet really made the shot.

Tell us about your online strategy and how do you sell your art on the net.

A few years ago I set up my own website My friend Nick built the site and keeps it up to date with new articles and images. It is a good portfolio of my work, and through the site I have had several commissions from in-flight magazines and newspapers. A couple of years ago we added an area where people can buy limited edition prints of my photographs. I have however sold more prints at exhibitions than through the website. As the number of visitors to my site increases and the global economy recovers I expect sales to increase. Six months ago I started a blog and although it isn’t fully integrated with the main site it gets several hundred visitors a day.

What do you love the most about Japan?

The weird and wonderful festivals. From Okayama’s Hadaka Matsuri to Okinawa’s dragon boat races they are a great opportunity to see people relaxing, having fun, and celebrating their cultural heritage.

On a practical note I love the fact there is so little serious crime in Japan (however two of my bicycles and several umbrellas have disappeared).

What do you hate the most about Japan?

Nothing I really hate, but there are plenty of things that annoy me. Power lines, ugly buildings, taxi / bus / truck drivers, kids not in child seats, anyone with a loudspeaker, road works, lack of awareness
of cyclists (or vegetarians), most Japanese television.

Tell us something we should know about life that you have discovered lately

Our perception of the world is distorted by the types of maps we look at. Check out the Gall-Peters projection for a more accurate representation of our world. I discovered this delightful fact while watching The West Wing season 2 episode 16.

Greeting to all Kirainet readers and see you at flickr!.