Photography, Passion, and Publishing
by Chris Harris
February 4, 2014
At birth, my mother gave me a spirit for adventure, and at age 20, my father gave me a 35mm Lordette camera. Since then my passion for travel, outdoor adventure, and photography has put me on an amazing journey which continues to this day. I'd like to share that story.
In 1969 while at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, I came across a Sierra Club calendar featuring photographs of the Coast Mountains in British Columbia. The effect of those photographs was transformational. Immediately after my final exam I was on a CPR train heading west, seeking those very mountains. After getting a job as a high school teacher, a life of sharing my passions for adventure and photography was set to begin.
Camera in hand, I took to the mountains. In 1980, I assisted my good friend Martyn Williams in leading the very first commercial assent of Mt. Logan, in Yukon. After teaching Outward Bound style programs for 'juvenile delinquents' and later high school students within the Vancouver School Board, I started my own adventure tour business. Throughout this journey, I used photography and slide shows for marketing my ventures, and taught photography on all my tours.
First commercial assent of Mt. Logan
One of my tours was an 8-day canoe trip around the world-famous Bowron Lake canoe circuit. It was here that a client said "hey Chris, you are always photographing, why don't you publish a book on the Bowron Lakes". I had never entertained such an idea, and I certainly had no publishing experience, but I started to think of the possibility.
One of my tours on the Bowron Lakes
While taking my photography more and more seriously, I began to research how to publish. I wrote to several publishers with my idea, but they all turned me down. They all said there was 'no market' for a book on canoeing the Bowron Lakes. I then entertained self-publishing, but everyone told me I would lose my shirt.
Feeling convinced that there was a market, I did decide to publish myself. I brought two friends into the project, who contributed the natural and cultural history of the canoe circuit, and I selected my best imagery and wrote the captions. Finally, I hired a book designer and editor. Before long, my book was ready for printing!
My best printing quote in Canada was $15,000 more than the one from a family-run printing company in Hong Kong. Having very little money in my account (I had to get a Letter of Credit), I put the entire script along with my original slides into an envelope, prayed a lot, and posted them all to Hong Kong. I had decided, against all advise, to risk everything and print offshore.
Two months later, 5000 books arrived at my door. 'Now what', I thought to myself! Fortunately, someone referred me to a Christmas Arts and Craft Fair in Prince George. In two days I sold close to 200 books at $25.00 each. A career of photography and self-publishing had begun!
Within three weeks I had covered my printing costs and I never had to use my Letter of Credit. I was thrilled. To make a long story short, I sold 15,000 copies of that original version, and now a completely revised edition is available along with a companion 'how to' guide book.
The Bowron Lakes canoe trip in 1970 was my very first adventure after arriving in British Columbia. Little did I realize to what extent that unique piece of wilderness would play in my life. My passion for photography, outdoor adventure, and sharing the beauty and value of nature, had become my life. As a guide I shared wilderness adventures of all kinds in many parts of western Canada, and later as my own independent publisher (I have now published 12 books), I share the value of biodiversity and intact landscapes through my photography and books.
'Red Canoe at Dusk' was painted by flashlight after sunset'
Exploring nature, creating photographic imagery, and sharing that creativity through workshops, lectures, and books, is the life I am blessed with. It's the extension of my motto: 'have a dream, take a chance, and work like hell'.
'Portage Trail' was made of two hand held multiple film exposures sandwiched together
Since leaving a career of wilderness guiding; pioneering outdoor adventure tourism; teaching; and educating youth in the outdoors both in the school system and working with youth at risk, Chris has become one of this country’s most respected nature photographers. His photography is dedicated to bringing awareness and reverence to the value of nature, biodiversity, and the beauty of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region of central BC.
He is the independent publisher of his own work as books, and as fine art photographic prints in the gallery located at his home; a destination for visitors from all parts of the globe.
Chris is a two times winner of Canada’s Northern Lights Award in photojournalism. A popular guest speaker on the varied topics of his books, Chris also teaches photographic workshops and is a resource person on several photo tours.
Chris Harris is represented by several international stock agencies, and has been featured in many magazines including Canadian Geographic and National Geographic. His images are sought after as representative of British Columbia.
Chris Harris Gallery
5577 Back Valley Road,
105 Mile, BC V0K 2Z0
[ Top ]