Chris Helgren

Chris Helgren

Based
Toronto, Canada
Born
Vancouver, Canada
Status
Photographer
Camera
Canon 1D Mark IV, 5D Mark III
“Although for much of my career I have travelled and covered foreign issues, I love doing compelling human-interest stories in my own backyard.”

Beat

I cover news, politics and features.

One Shot

. BASRA, IRAQ
A family flees past a destroyed Iraqi T-55 tank after a mortar attack on British Army positions in the southern city of Basra.
“The family made it to safety, but it was one of those moments where action, context and emotion all worked together. I was with reporter David Fox and cameraman Fedja Grulovic and we were the first journalists to make it past Basra’s city limits – but then had to dive for cover under that same tank during an Iraqi mortar barrage.”

Profile

I was always fascinated with cameras and at the age of 10 and armed with my mother’s old Kodak Instamatic, we travelled to Leningrad, Russia. We wandered through the city and I became preoccupied with taking pictures of riverboats, museums and the circus.

I joined a darkroom club in junior high school, and started learning all the useful technical details. It certainly was an incentive to skip a few classes to work on the school annual book, and hang out with cheerleaders without being a ‘jock’.

I was attending a photography college in British Columbia, and decided to get accredited for the tour of Prince Charles and Princess Diana to the province. I made a deal with the local weekly newspaper to do this, and was thrilled to be formally greeted by them at a reception in Victoria. However, I was given 15 minutes notice and only had a ridiculous colourful 80s-style shirt and linen jacket, and no tie. I was later berated by their press chief, who threatened that I would never cover them again if I didn’t conform to the dress code.

Bosnia was a very important story to most journalists covering the war, in that we actually thought we could make a difference. A whole generation of photographers, reporters and television crews came of age during that conflict. For four years we kept the issue on the front pages until Western governments finally decided to step in, and in the end we felt vindicated. The war’s end came too late, however, for its thousands of victims.

Although for much of my career I have travelled and covered foreign issues, I love doing compelling human-interest stories in my own backyard. I also love to experiment with audio, video, panoramas or any other tools.

Besides the pictures that I make to satisfy my own curiosity, I always had the motto that I wanted to take pictures that people would pay to look at. That still holds true whether they see the images in a newspaper, magazine or online.

My biggest lesson? Issues are never black and white, they abound in nuance.

I respect Philip Jones Griffiths for giving us depth in conflict reportage, Bruce Gilden and Tony Ray-Jones for injecting playfulness into photography and Fred Herzog for documenting my own hometown before I was born.

Behind the Scenes

. New York, United States
Chris Helgren covers the Titanic Memorial Cruise entering New York harbour at dawn.