“Oftentimes, when I’m approaching a subject, whether that’s a concept, a person or an object, I feel a bit like an alien trying to understand and document it,” Christaan says of his portrait style. “My goal is to always get to the core of the subject and to do so, hopefully, in a way that is beautiful.” To do so, Christaan evokes colour palettes from the 50s and 60s, drawing on muted but warm tones to elevate his subjects out of the frame. “I’ve probably developed this style from multiple sources,” Christaan explains. “From my documentary inspirations such as Mary Ellen Mark, the color of artists like Stephen Shore and Jackson Pollock, to the writing of creative nonfiction writers such as Ted Conover and Truman Capote.” It’s these kinds of techniques which Christaan loves applying to his portrait subjects, often finding it most engaging to photograph people over objects.
One of Christaan’s favourite shots during his career was the one he took of the late rapper Mac Miller, which by some fate of chance became the last professional photograph ever taken of him. “I never knew much about him, but this image has now forever been linked to him,” Christaan says. “I have people regularly sending me tattoos they’ve gotten of this portrait. It just goes to show you the power of photography and its ability to freeze a moment and person in time.” These kinds of human connections resonate with a photographer like Christaan, who even still maintains a friendship with The Vaccines today.
“Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to ‘flip the script’ on photography,” Christaan concludes. “The world feels so saturated by images and they all feel very curated.” The photographer isn’t exactly clear of what the next steps are, but he’s working on images that reflect “his own internal world as opposed to documenting the external world.” And in the words of Christaan himself: it’s challenging.