We had the good fortune of connecting with Phil Chavanne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Phil, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born in the small medieval town of Chinon, France. My sisters and I were raised in a family of artists and small entrepreneurs. We were very fortunate to benefit from a strong classical education: literature, history, music, painting, languages, etc. Many of my childhood memories have to do with reading books on the floor of our living room, while listening to Bach and other classical composers. Most of my family was into playing classical music. My father was a photographer; my grand-father (who raised me till I was 5) was a motorcycle mechanic. Today, I make a living as a web designer and photographer, and my only mode of transportation is my motorcycle. That’s how impactful my upbringing was. France has such a rich artistic heritage and tradition, there is always a point of contact with art and history, wherever you go, whatever you do and learn. I am a case of split identity: I deeply love America, where I moved 25 years ago, but I could never separate myself from my French heritage.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
There are so many extremely talented artists who have mastered their craft to the nth degree, I can’t say: “I have set myself apart because…”. I always feel like a student, and I am constantly in awe at the work created by accomplished professionals. I used to compare myself to “my betters”. I have somewhat overcome this challenge by focusing instead on conveying the message I want to convey, at a level of technical proficiency that feels good to those involved. By way of examples, when I am working in post-production on a portrait shot, I look at the work in terms of “Does this make the person look (quality I see)?”. In my web design work, I strive to make my corporate client look “better” than the competition, and to help them make more money. I shoot real-estate. A house has to look spacious, open, welcoming, ready to become someone’s home. Typical challenges are cramped space and stark contrast in lighting. These are resolved with proper shooting techniques, post-prod work, and knowing your client. When I shoot architectural work, the challenges are completely different, we don’t focus on the same aspects. What makes this building special? I discuss with the architect to find out. A lesson I learned in portrait photography: I only photograph people whose story I connect with. If this connection doesn’t happen quickly, I turn down the shoot. Better leave the money on the table. I don’t photograph babies, for instance. A photographic legacy I would want to build would be portraits of Pastors doing the work of God. I would also like to leave behind a few good photos of poignant humanity transcending hardship and misery. And I love to photograph musicians, so more of this.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would first consult the druthers of my friend. If he would give me free rein, we would hop on my motorcycle, and I would show him our Arizonan nature: Sonoita, Keat Peak, Tonto Forest, Mount Lemmon, Dragoon and Cochise Stronghold, the Tucson Mountain Park. In no particular order, mostly depending on weather and temperatures. It’s not in my nature to do itineraries, so we would probably ride around Tucson to show him some of the older neighborhoods, and stop here and there to eat Mexican food, some Chinese food too. I would stop in small taquerias, and other spots like El Charro Cafe and Taco Giro. I would want him to taste some good BBQ too, like Brushfire Grilll or Ken’s Hardwood BBQ Truck. For Chinese, I would go with Ba Dar and The Panda House on 6th Ave. I don’t drink alcohol, but if he wanted a beer, I would probably go to Barrio Brewing & Co. For a steak night, I would go to Lil’ Abner, and to the Steak Out Restaurant in Sonoita (with a good local blue grass band). Places I would want them to visit in Tucson: the Pima Air & Space Museum, San Xavier Del Bac, the Botanical Gardens. If we had time, we would ride to Winslow to “stand on the corner”. And given enough time, we would ride to Lake Havasu. I would also want to get him on a horse at Sunkist Stables, and go around the back of Catalina. Depending on the time of the year, I would check on attending a pow-wow on the Indian Reservation, and a car show in downtown Tucson.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This would have to be my mother. My mother’s footprint is intricately woven in my development and my life. She was the one to tend to my education and instruction day after day, to instill core values and help me develop them, to encourage me when I wasn’t up to standards, to show me the right way when I was on the wrong path. If my father was instrumental in helping me to aim for quality and excellence, my mother was the one who walked with me step-by-step along the way. She paid the price for what I have gained. She also had a foundational influence in my faith in God.