The Creative Parents: Christopher Pledger, photographer

“I remember the first photograph I developed and printed myself. It was a black and white picture of an underpass. It wasn’t particularly good but there was a satisfaction in producing the image myself,” says landscape and fine art photographer, Christopher Pledger…

Christopher Pledger, 34, lives by the coast in Sussex with his wife Vivienne and two young children, Linus and Adeline.

Do you remember your first piece of artwork as a child?
At primary school I remember finishing a sewing of a bee I was particularly proud of. As I was waiting to show it to the teacher the boy sitting next to me was sick all over it.

What inspired creativity in you when you were growing up?
I was inspired by the brilliant photography and photojournalism I’d see every week in the Sunday Times Magazine while my dad read the paper.

Were your parents artists?
No but my dad dabbled in watercolour landscapes and my mum made creative textiles.

What was your childhood home like?
We were a family of five living in a very small house; it was always very busy, noisy and lively. My parents encouraged us to be as creative as possible so between musical instruments, dancing and art there was always something going on.

Did school nurture you, artistically?
Not unless you count creatively avoiding lessons and homework.

Spiral Wrack, Fucus Spiralis Linnaeus. Worthing Beach, Sussex. 04/05/2017. Picture by Christopher Pledger

What piece of artwork do you remember feeling particularly proud of as a child/teenager?
I remember the first photograph I developed and printed myself. It was a black and white picture of an underpass. It wasn’t particularly good but there was a satisfaction in producing the image myself.

Did you go on to study art?
I didn’t study art. After studying for a City & Guilds in Photography while doing my A Levels I went on to study for a technical qualification in Broadcasting. I regretted not choosing a more creative course and returned to photography as soon as I left the course.

When did you begin focusing on art as a career?
After leaving college I decided to try working as a professional photographer. I started with my own market stall gallery business selling fine art and landscape pictures with modest success and my career developed from there.

Worthing Beach, Sussex. 19/04/2017. Picture by Christopher Pledger

Can you describe your work?
I am a landscape and fine art photographer who specialises in seascapes and coastal art. I aim to produce poetic seascapes that at first look could be taken for paintings, particularly when printed. I prefer muted colours and aim for a sense of movement to match that of the tides. I often set up my tripod in the sea, allowing the waves to add extra movement to my pictures.

Is it difficult to make a living as an artist?
Yes. Alongside producing art most artists supplement their income with other related activities. As well as selling my fine art prints I run landscape photography workshops for people looking to improve their own photography and experience the landscape in a different way.

When did children come along and how has this impacted your practice?
My little boy was born eighteen months ago and our little girl earlier this year. Linus loves the beach and the sea. He often comes out to shoot and collect seaweed and plants with me as a tiny assistant. It’s nice to include the children as much as possible when out photographing; everything just takes a little bit longer than it used to!

Gut Weed, Ulva Intestinalis, with Sea Water. Worthing Beach, Sussex. 04/05/2017. Picture by Christopher Pledger

Where do you look for inspiration now?
Living by the beach I’m inspired by the coastal landscape around me. I am lucky enough to be able to step out my front door and see the green and gold of the South Downs rising above the houses while hearing the waves crashing on the beach at the end of the road. Most of my inspirations and influences come from outside of photography. They include poetry, such as Virginia Woolf’s writing in The Waves, or from painting the movement of Turner and the big skies of Constable’s seascapes. It’s not only the coastal landscape that inspires me. I also produce fine art photography based on marine life. My coastal art is influenced by Victorian botanical and scientific illustrations.

In what ways do you encourage creativity with your children?
As well as painting and drawing they love books so we read to them as much as possible. We always have music playing and Linus has his favourites like ‘Chuck Guitar’ (Chuck Berry).

What is your home like now?
We are slowly refurbishing our 1930s seaside home, trying to put back all the original features right down to the Bakelite light switches. Before we knew we were going to have children we found lots of period furniture at auction and on Ebay. Luckily the walls are painted in dark colours that hide small sticky handprints, but the furniture has some new dents and scratches from a small cheeky toddler on a ride-on-car…. “craaaashh!”.

Worthing Beach, Sussex. 14/04/2017. Picture by Christopher Pledger

When do you spend time on your artwork?
On a practical level having children has meant shifting work around nap and bed times to spend as much time with them as possible.

Can you describe your workspace?
When I’m making photographs I work mainly on location. I’m normally standing on a beach up to my knees in the incoming tide. It’s wonderful to work surrounded by the sound of the crashing waves and smell of the sea air.

Any tips for creative parents looking to make a living from their work?
Try to develop your own style and consider whether making art your work won’t ruin your passion. Be prepared to spend more time on the business of being an artist than you will get to spend on producing art.

Future goals/dreams?
To get more sleep and persuade Linus that eating a carrot isn’t a danger to his health.

To see more of my landscapes or enquire about workshops please find me at www.christopherpledger.com or cchpledger on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.