I have been using Dynalites for fifteen years. I have four 2000’s, one 1000, and ten heads. They are real work horses, I use them almost every day. They don’t have all the bells and whistles, but they work…and work. I have also recently started using the Comet CBW 2400 and 1200’s for traveling, and I have been using Comet PMT 1200’s since they came out; I can now travel with 5000 watts in one Tenba aircase.” Simons shoots with a variety of equipment, depending on the assignment and the effect he wants to achieve. His cameras range from the rugged Nikon F5 to medium-format Hasselblad and Mamiya, combined with his signature fisheye and wide-angle lenses. His film of choice is Fuji RMS.
Closing comment: “Timothy Leary called me a ‘Shamanistic light dancer,’ most people just call me ‘weird’…as long as they just call me….it’s ok.”
Chip Simons shoots photos that are “conceptual, surreal and humorous,” though not necessarily in that order. “I have to make it fun, otherwise I can’t do it,” he says. Publications such as Men’s Journal, Forbes, Newsweek, Business Week, Bicycling, Details and Family PC have all signed on for some of his zaniness, as have corporations such as Activision, American Express, Apple Computer, Coca-Cola, Comedy Central, Microsoft, Miller beer, Motorola, MTV, Nabisco, Nikon, Reebok, and Seagram’s. FPG International handles his stock sales, which now comprise about a third of his business.
Though primarily a self-taught photographer, Chip received a BA from UNM in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He began his career in New York and made his name there in the 1980’s, working for Rolling Stone and shooting CD covers for the likes of Branford Marsalis and Cindy Lauper. “I have been taking pictures non stop since I was 15 years old. I think that Dr Seuss, Magritte, Meatyard, Arbus, Hiro, and Guy Bourdin are my favorite image makers. These days I am completely out there, living on a little farm in the Rio Grande valley south of Albuquerque, riding around the forest on my motorcycle with my dogs, taking pictures for people all around the world… everyday.” In keeping with Simons’ sense of playfulness, he often uses “real” people, as opposed to professional models in his images. Dogs are another favorite subject, in fact it was Simons’ colorful “I am a Dog” series of photos that initially brought him notice.
Chip now uses an Imacon flextight scanner for his digital productions: “I never thought that I would go digital, but the scans are so sharp, and the computers are so fast , that I can actually stand to sit there. It’s become a digital darkroom, another tool for creating images: just like a new lens, a light, or film.” “The standing joke around here is that ‘you don’t need to light it…we can fix it later’. It’s the very reason that so much digital photography looks like cheap cut and paste illustration. If you pre-visualize the shot and light it …and every element that you plan to put into it, as if it were really there, then your retouching will be ten times easier and your final image infinitely better. Light makes pictures. We think in light, we feel in color, and we remember in black and white.”