Asheville photographer Chris Abell — best known as a masterful, world-renowned flute maker — likes to find and capture extraordinary images within ordinary scenes. Then he wants to get those images out of the camera, printed, and up on the wall straight away.
Abell owns some very sophisticated cameras, interchangeable lenses, and usually carries an exceptionally capable Leica camera with him. But the camera he most often reaches for is his iPhone SE — and it’s not the spiffy newer SE model. His is the outdated SE from 2016, which Apple long ago discontinued. In fact, he recently bought a second rather obsolete circa-2016 iPhone SE.
After all, it’s ideally suited to Abell’s approach to photography, which is to capture an extraordinary image and get it from the camera to the wall in as few steps as possible. Plus, he may only have a fleeting moment, and would miss that opportunity if he were rooting around in a camera bag.
“But with an iPhone you just grab it and shoot,” he explains, “and I challenge anyone to look at photos I take with my other cameras and my phone and tell the difference.” The proof is in the pudding, because he takes stunning pictures (usually in black and white) that are comparable in quality and aesthetic value to photos taken with large-format equipment.
“And if I’m not making flutes I want to be outdoors, without lugging around heavy camera equipment.”
But the main reason his photos are so compelling is that Abell has a great eye for seeing beauty as it occurs. “There’s a photo in every single moment of every day, depending on the lighting, the setting, and what’s happening,” Abell observes, recalling one he took while riding in a car through Times Square at night.
“There was a big billboard with a woman’s face, and I just reached forward from the backseat and clicked. The iPhone nailed it, focusing on her bright eyes. Then I saw behind it another smaller billboard that read, ‘This is Not Rush Hour.’ That’s where the title for this show came from, and it’s the first photo you’ll see when you enter the exhibit.”
On display December 9-January 8. Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 9, 5-7pm. Pink Dog Creative, 348 Depot St., River Arts District. 828- 216-1331. pinkdog-creative.com.