“I want to make everyone looking at these images feel what I’m feeling.”
The entertainment industry isn’t particularly known for predictability and calmness. But photographer Christopher Polk likes it that way.
“I thrive off chaos. To be able to create amazing imagery with all these elements stacked against you is so rewarding,” he said. “I fuel off the energy of the unknown.”
With a background in news and sports photography, Polk learned early on how to work in an uncontrolled environment.
“I enjoy finding the moment. A lot of photographers want red carpets to be structured, but I like it hectic and messy,” Polk said, “It gives me the opportunity to show people being real rather than a posed, contrived version of themselves – that’s the editorial side of me.”
This authentic nature of Polk’s photography allows viewers to feel as if they are standing next to him, experiencing each moment.
“I want to make everyone looking at these images feel what I’m feeling,” he said. “I channel the performer’s energy to create an image that tells their story.”
A perfect example of this is Polk’s electrifying image of Kanye West’s performance during the DirectTV Super Saturday Night concert – a standout image from 2015 which features prominently in Getty Images’ Year In Focus book.
“The energy at this concert was through the roof,” he said. “It was really exciting.”
Always looking for a unique vantage point, Polk started roaming around the arena when he noticed the lights.
“Kanye was backlit so there wasn’t a lot of light on his face and it created a silhouette of him, but it wasn’t consistent,” Polk said. “There were strobes and the lights were flashing and had different exposures. Plus, he kept jumping, so it was very difficult to actually get a shot.”
Despite the challenge, Polk saw the potential for an amazing image.
“It was chaotic, erratic and surprising,” he said. “It was so exhilarating to me so I went for it.”
All the elements seemed to align, and once he started shooting, he knew he got the shot.
“You could be the best photographer in the world but to make an amazing image you need all the elements to come together — even the uncontrollable ones. But that’s what makes it exciting,” Polk said. “You never know when that’s going to happen.”
See all best entertainment photography from 2015. Explore our Year In Focus, now available on iBooks.