Christopher Baker was a botany major at the University of Wisconsin before deciding to study photography. He went on to receive a BFA in photography from Art Center College of Design. After graduating he moved to NYC, assisting the fashion photographer Steven Meisel before starting his own career. He has worked as a photographer for most of the major magazines, including American Vogue, British Vogue, House & Garden, The World of Interiors, Architectural Digest, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, British Conde Nast Traveller, Travel & Leisure, Martha Stewart Living, and The Sunday New York Times Magazine photographing cosmetics, gardens, botanicals, interiors, food, travel, and fashion still-life for over 30 years.
His photographs have appeared in 17 books worldwide. La Nature Dans L’Assiette (Georges Blanc), Chateau Cuisine(Ann Willan), The Glory of Roses, and Tulipa, A Photographer’s Botanical being his most celebrated titles. The New York Times Book Review called his book Tulipa, A Photographer’s Botanical, “one of the most lavish photographic visions of the plant world ever published”. He has received many accolades in the industry. The Spanish production company, Fantastic Orange Tree (El Bulli Documentary), considers him one of the most influential food photographers in the history of food photography. The French TV show Apostrophes designated him as one of the most important food photographers of his generation upon the publication of Chateau Cuisine.
In 2012 he started working with motion as a Director/DP. He has worked on narrative, documentary and commercial subjects. He is currently in development on a feature documentary about the world of plant collectors.
Christopher Baker is a NYC based photographer, dividing his time between his house in Brooklin, Maine, NYC, and London. In 2019 he launched the design atelier The Field Lighting making custom interior lights. He is married to the ceramicist Odette Chatham-Baker. He has 2 daughters, both immersed in the film world.
Christopher Baker, by Mary Shanahan
The beauty of Christopher Baker's photographs resides in a place that reveals that strangeness is a part of beauty. His photographs crystallize seemingly contradictory qualities that make a pure and simple picture reveal a complex and sometimes strange truth. His still life, more paused that still, are a cinematic approach to an arrested moment.
Like many of the greatest photographers his vision translates to any subject, in the studio or outside of it. He has worked on garden, interior, jewelry, cosmetic, beauty, flower, and travel stories for me as a creative director. His point of view, his perception and distillation of each subject into a photograph or series of images I have never found in anyone else. I find his work somehow timeless. His books often have a cinematic construction with the relationship between images working on many levels. In designing his book “Tulipa, A Photographer’s Botanical” I was struck by his obsession with the botanical perfection of the plant. Because of this he was able to achieve such strangely beautiful images using only a single light and a few backgrounds he painted. He had fused the history of botanical painting with studio fashion photography into a new vision of the plant world. A strict revisionist botanical book on the Tulip family yet The New York Times Book Review called it “one of the most lavish photographic visions of the plant world ever published”. This work is a perfect example of the contradictory qualities that make his photographs so compelling.
Baker’s high regard of "the thing itself", a distilled and distinctly unsentimental view of his subject, achieved through simplification, elimination and fierce dedication, reveal a clarity of vision that defies definition in words, using an "eye language" that does not translate to literature, thus remaining purely visual.
Photography is not just a record of a physical presence but for me a documentation of the encounter between the subject’s energy and myself. While one can define this as beauty, or some other ideal, I find it to be more complex. What draws me to a subject is something atomic, something elusive to words and beyond explanation. Yet the camera captures it without effort. While I may use styling, situation, and technique to enhance this attraction I rarely attempt to alter it.My perception of what this energy is defines the process I use in creating photographs and films.
The subjects in my best photographs have the feeling of existing in a perfect state. You somehow deeply understand it but what “it” is remains elusive to definition in words. The image compels the viewer to consider a larger unseen reality not based in literal logic.
Images created by European cinematographers have always been my strongest influence as an artist. Lighting, color, composition and the way images are combined to create stories in my work have always come from cinema. The use of a broad light source mixed with a point source is the driving force in my lighting. To stand in a beautiful garden with a fine mist still lingering in the air at sunrise is to understand my ideal. Color balance is very important in my work. In the studio I recreate light drawn on memories of images I have seen. When I have gone in the direction of strobes and artificial light, it is the soft light of twilight purified I am after.