Feature Artist: W.D. Chandler Smith

Feature Artist: W.D. Chandler Smith
A Good Cause: Grand Rapids Culinary Revolution
TSP Talks to Mariela Griffor
TSP Talks to Linda Merlino
TSP Talks to David Poyer
Kalamazoo & Beyond
Novel Excerpt
Zinta Reviews
Tim Bazzett Reviews
Links & Resources
TSP Talks to Authors: YOU?
Submission Guidelines
The Editors


W.D. Chandler Smith

A recent graduate of Kalamazoo College, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, W.D. Chandler Smith found a passion for photography early on during his freshman year there, taking English and Photography courses in hopes of becoming a photojournalist.

A sincere interest and understanding of the documented subject, he believes, is the most important way to go about creating stories through photographs.

W.D. Chandler Smith's photos appear on most every page of this issue ... enjoy!


Artist Statement

This collection of images in The Smoking Poet's Summer/Fall 2013 Issue, from both home and abroad, is linked together through a common emphasis on composition.

I have always believed that composition adds visual depth, allowing the photographer to isolate or emphasize a photograph's details that then can be viewed in combination with other photographs to reveal a greater narrative.

A portion of these photographs are from an ongoing project entitled "Straight Outta Cairo: Dispatches from the Ongoing Egyptian Revolution". Originally started with help from a grant from the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, I will be returning to rural Egypt in August to continue work as the 25th of January Revolution changes course.

                                                     ~ W.D. Chandler Smith

Stefano Cagnato, TSP’s Kalamazoo College Intern Fiction Editor, talks to W.D. Chandler Smith


Stefano Cagnato for The Smoking Poet: How did this project come about?

W.D. Chandler Smith: I want to be a photojournalist. I got into photography because I saw this photographer named Gilles Peress, and he is a Magnum photographer. He was in Bosnia during their civil war, during the very beginning. His black and white images—at that time I was taking a class in International Politics. I never really understood it until I saw his images, the way he expresses thoughts without words. I was drawn to photography in a war zone, and Egypt was the place for me to do that. I decided to go for it and see what I could find, what answers I could obtain from this trip. I went back to Egypt, because the first time I went I didn’t do a good job of answering the questions I had. Now I’ve realized I have to give it a third shot, so I’m returning to Egypt to continue the project.

Stefano: Where were these photos taken? Why is the location important to you?

W.D. Chandler: Some in Kalamazoo. Most of the other ones were taken in or around Cairo. I’ve been able to travel a lot through Ecuador and Egypt, which helps me develop a sense of the place and capture what I want to capture. One of the photos from Ecuador is of Lucho in the mangrove. I was inspired by a photographer named Sebastião Salgado, who is a really famous Brazilian photographer, and he focuses on manual labor jobs around the country. There are these beautiful stark black and white images of people just doing their job, and they look exhausted. I went with some friends into this coastal town in Ecuador and they taught me how to find clams and I photographed them. It’s important to me to shoot people in places they are used to.

Stefano: Some photographs are portraits or feature people as the center of focus, while others are more about architecture or objects. How do the people in the photographs inform the subject matter? Why did you choose the portraits and the specific people you photographed?

W.D. Chandler: You can take a picture of anything, but in order to actually make a photograph, you need to put something more into it, and the picture of the guy on top of the bus—I like composition a lot. Composition is what I aim for most in my photographs. In this photograph, there’s someone leaning on the bus, and there’s a flag obscuring a large part of the photograph, and this represents the feeling of the situation when Morsi was elected. It brings together the emotion of the time period and the way the people themselves are celebrating, away from the square and away from the television cameras. It allows you to feel what was going on. I’m all about the Cartier-Bresson technique, the decisive moment, the one millisecond that explains the minutes before and after it, and I think that happens, especially if it’s a revolution or a protest. But it also happens in my portraits. With the photograph of Abdulatif, I aimed for a dark photograph in a beautiful city street of Cairo. Compositionally it’s fairly basic, but the light behind him that reaches his kneecaps focuses the viewer on his body.

Stefano: What connects these photographs?

W.D. Chandler: The composition. There is a common thread with how I play with traditional composition and mix it up depending on the situation. I work a lot in order to highlight something that’s going on. I don’t like to do it with depth of field; I like to do that with composition. It adds a lot of complexity to the photo.

Stefano: What is one thing you want the viewer to get from experiencing your photographs?

W.D. Chandler: With the Egypt photographs, I want the viewer to understand how dynamic the situation is. The photographs look similar, but in every photograph, the people are always protesting for something different. That was the focus of my project: trying to document and explain how all these alliances work and how the protests themselves function. One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Egypt is because I saw all these images of Tahrir Square, and when I actually ended up going, it was completely different than what I thought it was. Trying to bring that experience to people who haven’t seen it is a really difficult path. So that was my goal: to try and bring this experience to people who have not experienced it. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I’m not done trying.

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