An Interview with the American Photographer Chase Hall in the East Village, Manhattan
Raised across Minnesota, Chicago, Las Vegas, Dubai and Malibu, the multifaceted photographer and painter Chase Hall now lives in the East Village, New York. Before moving to Manhattan to be surrounded by fellow artists, he worked in LA as an assistant on fashion shoots and did some commercial photography. We first met in the East Village live/work space in which he maintains a disciplined routine, waking up at dawn to work on his ongoing projects and self-taught skills, which are often learnt on YouTube. Known for his work’s optimism and carefree aesthetic, Chase is all about the process, and believes we ought to see more of the effort behind even the most spontaneous works of art. Although he doesn’t work directly within a collective, he draws from contemporaries Reed Burdge, Tucker Van Der Wyden and Grear Patterson with whom he has often discussed ideas and shared his work.
Using film cameras like the Leica M6 and Mamiya 6, Chase chooses a monochrome palette when working in the urban setting and takes colour photographs when travelling. When I looked through his portfolio there were gritty street scenes, colourful shots from the Jamaican jungle and simple compositions taken in California – he isn’t afraid of diversifying his subject matter. When in New York, he’ll set out each morning and walk up to 15miles around the city, capturing people on the streets, whilst hoping to communicate a sense of optimism in his work. In fact, Chase is developing his street photography into a simple documentary about the effects of smiling on the streets. With each of his subjects, he writes journals about their stories, but also makes voice recordings so that he can remember the narrative behind the people in his portraits and can really take the time to get to know them.
As both a photographer and artist, Chase draws from old interviews with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ken Price as well as the artwork he encounters at respected art institutions in New York like Hauser & Wirth, Lisson Gallery and MoMa. Like many of his generation, Chase also finds new talent and inspiration on Instagram, where he is known for publishing cutting-edge street photography and engaging with new artists and collectors. As a multi-disciplinary artist, it’s interesting that when he’s painting it’s all about textures, and when he takes photographs his focus is more figurative. But for Chase, the subject matter is less important than the feeling behind the work of art he is creating, because he believes in letting the work speak for itself. Follow @hallchase
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
Creation, photography, painting and other forms of art have all been with me as long as I can remember. I believe that it comes down to having a lot of ideas and working hard to share them.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
It's like two engines are constantly revolving in my head and if I don’t take them to the raceway, I’m kinda just burning gas. My process is constant, persistent, passionate and all about practice.
What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
My brain, my intellectual property.
If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?
I really enjoy right now, because there's lots on my mind and lots of questions with very few answers. If I had to choose an art movement it would be the Harlem Renaissance. This movement was huge in terms of loving yourself and appreciating the struggle with an overwhelming sense of careless optimism no matter what the circumstance. Those are values I carry with me every step of the way.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
A passionate, loving, confident, optimistic entity.
Do you have a favourite photograph or painting, which inspires you?
I don’t have a favourite; I’m more inspired by the hunt, the ideas, the walk and the vision.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Travel, seeing new things, sharing life with new people from new places with brand new smells and foods. The knowledge gained from travel has to be my greatest indulgence.
Can you offer some insight into the culture of New York vs. Los Angeles?
New York is self-sustainable in the sense that if you want it, you can make it happen. People treat New York like an extended rager and sometimes getting caught up in that light will leave you dusted. LA is more about you, your car, your friends, your house, your music, your smells. You cannot control these variables in New York. Both places are unbelievable to live in, either place is a WIN-WIN.
Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?
Pablo Picasso, his spirit, his brain…I have a lot of questions for him.
Do you interact with the digital world or technology in your work?
96 percent of my content derives from personal thought, struggles and imagination. I can’t seem to have a good time shooting digital, therefore I’m strictly film driven. A lot of new age tech-driven art is hard for me to feel, so overall I try and showcase my imagination and my struggles rather then regurgitate some internet mumbo jumbo.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Success is love, knowledge is power, its not about the job, the white picket fence, it’s the imprint, its what you truly want to leave behind.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
People question themselves because of fear, but I’m not worried about financial status or anyone’s opinion. This is my life and my vision, sharing that is my career…I have never doubted that.
What is your favorite art gallery in New York and why?
To be honest, I will go to any gallery based on the exhibition on show. I am not a political person, things make me feel or they don’t.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
My father, because he left me and my mother when I was young, but lately art has been re-kindling our conversation. I would love to collaborate on a piece with him.
Why do you make and receive studio visits?
It's like a big business making meetings about the future, about why you do it, sharing goals and ideas, feedback overall to learn and create a better outcome
What visual references do you draw upon in your work?
People in the street, history books, my old converse, cartoons.
What is your daily routine when working?
I wake up and take my Great Dane Paisley to the dog run, then make coffee, a smoothie and some oatmeal. I'll then grab my cameras and walk between 5 and 15 miles everyday shooting whatever catches my eye. Once I return to the studio I begin unfurling my thoughts and begin creating, painting, building, scanning, testing, researching…all that jazz.
What advice would you give to a young artist following in your steps?
Listen to yourself, that horrible shit that happened…that’s okay, but get it off your chest. You believe you have a gift, then prove it and play the hand you were dealt. No excuses, no down time.
Do you find that New York’s art scene inspires or influences your art?
I'm very focused on my vision and don’t let much interfere with that. A lot of the art scene does not inspire me, but New York and the humans who are here, that struggle, that ambition, that pulse, that resilience, that inspires me.
Do you love what you do?
Because it’s everything I’ve wanted and more, I am my own boss. I have my own entrepreneurial endeavours and my overwhelming plan/vision…working towards that everyday makes me smile ear to ear.
To see Chase's paintings, see his website at: http://chaseahall.com/artwork/
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com