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Dream images: Chris Crossley gains international recognition for his stunning photography

by Yvette Maurice

Chris Crossley is developing his photographic skills and getting attention for his haunting, engaging and unique images which capture the emotions of his varied subjects to stunning perfection.

A life in art

“I’ve always had an attraction to photography,” muses Chris from Talbot, Victoria.

“I have a vast range of work that shows I am capable,” Chris says, “but I never had some sort of certificate to show people that I can really do what I say I can do!” That’s one of the reasons Chris has signed on to study with Open Colleges.

“Another reason I did this course way as a way to get into the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP). I wanted to enter some of their competitions.” Judging by these examples, his work certainly demonstrates unique creativity and artistic depth.

Digital skills for a digital world

Commercial art is increasingly reliant on graphic programs and post-production techniques. That’s why Chris wanted to gain some additional skills by doing an online course. Chris decided to study the Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging, created by John Hollingshead, a well-respected industry photographer and Open Colleges course coordinator.


“I’m a qualified graphic reproductionist,” explains Chris, “which is a role involved in the printing trade.” He speaks of his former career in graphic reproduction in the 80s and 90s.

“I started in 1981 and the system was analogue back then,” he says, “Everything was done by hand – on tables, with paintbrushes, lightboxes, cuttings and masks,” Chris remembers. He began his graphic career creating imagery for popular Australian novels, bringing the authors’ ideas to life.

“The work I was doing for book covers and illustrations were the bits that the illustrators couldn’t get to ‘work’,” he says. “Often, they would have the concept in their mind and they’d have some of the work done, some of the pictures. But to make it ‘how they saw it’ they needed a graphic reproductionist to do it.”

Some potential students today might have trouble remembering a time when all photography was done on film, all developing was done in a darkroom and all edits were made by hand.


“I was Photoshop before Photoshop existed,” laughs Chris. “So I had a fairly good grounding in the use of cameras, enlarging and colours and all that stuff.”

“For my former work, I had to use a process camera and I had to use enlargers – that was what we termed ‘basic camera craft’.”

Chris says that he has always had a love of cameras, since about the age of nine. Although he dabbled with imagery in his career, he says that he always only considered himself a hobby-ist.

“I haven’t really taken it seriously, really, apart from the last three or four years.”


Working with Parkinson’s disease

Chris has a unique story, in fact. Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Early in the course of the disease, the most obvious symptoms are movement-related; these include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait.

“I started to take my work more seriously,” explains Chris, “because I got the ‘joys’ of Parkinson’s,” he jokes. “My symptoms have been noticeable since 1996 or 1997. Once the financial crisis hit the work I was doing wasn’t done quickly enough.”

Chris was used to working in a time-pressured environment, but he explains that the pressure, coupled with his increasing symptoms made work more difficult. He could still do the work, he was just slower than he used to be.

“They reduced my hours at work,” he remembers. “Even though I could still do the work, I wasn’t as fast anymore – you have to do the job and you have to do it fast.”

“When I was an analogue combiner I used to get three or four days on a decent book cover, now you’d expect that cover to be done within a day, or even within a few hours! That’s just how the trade has progressed – it’s now more client-driven,” Chris explains.


Chris believes that the industry has always been client-driven to a degree, “but the client used to have some respect about the amount of artistic time that was needed for a project – now you might get a brief that says, “We have this job, it has this many pages, it needs to be this colour….and you have to get it done now.”

“Unfortunately, Parkinson’s affects fine motor skills – so even though I can still do things – even though I am still quite capable – the condition has affected my right-hand side and I am right-handed. So I do things slower.”

Guidance from Chris’ trainer and assessor, John Hollingshead

John Hollingshead, Chris’ trainer and assessor has described his work, saying, “From the moment I saw Chris’profile in the student gallery I knew there was something extraordinary at work. Once his imagery was revealed to us, we were all equally impressed by the creative directions and technical ability exhibited. Now seeing his work become directed with purpose, it is just a mater of time before he achieves the recognition he so surely deserves.”

Chris describes his graphic workstation as having two distinct sides. He has all his computing equipment set up both on the right and the left hand sides, so that when his tremors become too severe to work, he can simply switch sides of his station, and continue to work with his left-hand side.

“When the prescription drugs kick in, I am right-handed, so I work right-handed,” explains Chris. “But when the drugs are at their ‘low-ebb’, I then become left-handed. So I have taught myself to type left-handed and I have taught myself to edit left-handed out of necessity.”

Chris has had his working hours reduced, although he remains “on the books” as being a full-time/part-time employee. “I have basically had to do everything left-handed even though I am right-handed,” he says.

Chris’ story does not end there. He is now studying an Open Colleges course online, the Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging.

“I wanted a way to study that would act as a way into the AIPP,” says Chris. “I wanted my qualification to show that I am capable!”


Gaining accredited skills even when a person has significant experience is not uncommon. Many Open Colleges students have had successful careers and are studying online while working to gain additional skills that they can use.

“My range of work shows that I am capable,” Chris says, “and this certificate is there to show people that I can do it.”

International success at Be Human Gallery

Chris has had recent reassurance for his photographic images, having just had some art pieces accepted by a well-known gallery.

I’ve got three works that have been accepted to the Be Human Gallery in Houston, Texas,” says Chris. “Basically I created some images – I am a member of a fine arts group on Facebook – and I showed the images to some of the people in the group.”

His Facebook colleagues then encouraged him to enter the competition, “So I took a punt, paid that admission and then they accepted three images.”


Once the Be Human thing has finished I have also placed the same images to an online and published magazine called Dark Beauty.”

So, what’s next in the agenda for this talented artist? “A friend of mine, George Gianio, has involved me in the Day of the Dead. He and I are basically collaborating on the whole thing,” explains Chris.

“We are creating sugar-head posters and images and we will do a gallery show in November – so we have to get all our stuff ready for that.”

To find out more about Chris’ work, check out his Flickr stream: Chris Crossley

Want to do the same course?

The the Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging allows you to create a digital photographic diary as you travel through the course. Upon completion, you’ll also have an industry-standard portfolio to potentially enhance your career prospects.

If you’d like to read more about the course, go to the Open Colleges main site.

Credit: Thanks to Leod Pavia for the header photograph and the internal classroom shot

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