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Behind and Beyond the Lens

The Journey of an Artist

By Addie Strickland | Photography by Chandler Williams

Mother Nature, with all her strength, stands to fall at the hands of humankind. However, this gloomy statement comes with a silver lining: photography is becoming a unifying voice for nature, communicating what she can’t. Visual artist Chandler Williams, owner of Modus Photography in Grayton Beach, Florida, is on a mission to give back to the earth through his new fine art photography collection. Williams is a Walton County native who has created a distinguished photography portfolio and garnered world-renowned respect. As a genuine artist, he recognizes that nature is art in its purest form. Through a deeply personal revelation, he has taken on the mantle of interpreting nature and speaking on her behalf through photography while challenging himself and pushing his boundaries in fine art. With this new chapter of his career, Williams has curated a process that endorses and elevates photography as a form of art and activism.

Art has been a staple in every culture connecting us to the past for thousands of years. History is recorded by brushstrokes, camera lenses, and the emotions of each artist. Yet, from paintings and drawings to still photos and film, art’s influence on society is still sometimes understated. So is the effect that collectors have on the art world. What pieces are worth collecting and why? Artists are the stars, but collectors allow us to see them. To know what fine art is, one must appreciate the depth of an artist’s process and the emotion and story behind each creation. Williams says that fine art photography is created, and that’s what separates it from more basic forms of photography.

Breath, part of Williams’s Sirens and Silver series

Fine art photography is an evolution; each step of the process must be carried out to construct a new creation. His curated recipe, as Williams calls it, is the culmination of twenty years of experience and a hunger for more. “After years of experimentation and research, my production process is second to none in terms of delivering quality photographic prints designed to last for generations,” he explains.

Through his work, Williams expends every resource necessary to create the best quality photographs, from camera equipment to professional printing; there is no compromise as a fine art photographer. With his new Past, Present, Future series, Williams demonstrates the depth of his portfolio, his capabilities, and how he continues to challenge himself. His passion is developing relationships with his collectors, with a goal of having his process appreciated and his story told. The beauty of art is that it’s interpreted differently by everyone, but the underlying essence and composition can add to the respect and notoriety of the artist.

Eternal Sunrise
After years of experimentation and research, my production process is second to none in terms of delivering quality photographic prints designed to last for generations

Unlike paintings, a fine art photo’s quality hinges not only on its composition but also on its printing. Technical terms like dpi (dots per inch), electronic sensors, and print resolution can make it easy for potential collectors to get lost in the jargon, but Williams states, “I know it can be very technical, but here’s what it all means: size does matter.” His collection based on that ideal, aptly titled Size DOES Matter, delves into how color data translates to the printing process. He uses the best camera technology available to ensure that he has the bandwidth to produce quality prints to fit any space, large or small. “When it comes to printing, I want to have 244 trillion color options (16-bit range), not 16 million (DSLR 8-bit range). I want to have a 150-megabit file be the smallest raw file I shoot.”

Chandler Williams

For his 2022 Sirens and Silver series, Williams chose to print each image on Hahnemühle Baryta paper. Hahnemühle is the oldest paper manufacturer; it started printing and producing paper in the 1500s. Its product sets the benchmark for color depth, large color gamut, and image definition and allows artists like Williams to print without any compromise or degradation to the color.

Aphonic | Wardrobe and styling by Candi Gordon of Candy Skye Designs (@candi.skye.design)

With an extensive photography portfolio, Williams has traveled the world and worked with large corporations (Lululemon, Audi, Hilton USA, and many more), demonstrating his depth and capability in the commercial sphere, although his travel and nature photos bring him more personal fulfillment. In addition to stunning landscape photography, Williams enjoys shooting marine life and lifestyle photography, such as portraits and the new fine art series he has carefully crafted. He opened his gallery, Modus, in 2013 and has grown a global audience while challenging himself as an artist. Williams adds, “As a photographer, I always try to push myself to grow. Growth can be very difficult.” He hopes his new fine art collection will educate collectors and artists about photography fundamentals by focusing on the past, present, and future.

As a photographer, I always try to push myself to grow. Growth can be very difficult.
Aphonic | Wardrobe and styling by Candi Gordon of Candy Skye Designs (@candi.skye.design)

To demonstrate the Past, Williams shot an underwater film series, the aforementioned Sirens and Silver, on Fuji 6 x 4.5 medium format film. He says, “I really challenged myself with this shoot, and it was a pivotal point in my career.” The location of the shoot was down a stream only accessible by paddleboards. Heavy rain the night before the shoot caused a significant change in the water levels; some camera gear was broken in transit down the stream. But even with another storm brewing the day of the shoot, Williams was determined to fulfill his creative vision. He exhausted six of the twenty rolls of film he brought before the storm set in. Then the waiting game began, he says. “Waiting two weeks to see the images from the developed film reminded me that being present in the moment is what photography is all about.” In addition to being printed on paper created using some of the oldest processes in the industry, the underwater nudes in the series are for sale as singular editions. No more will be printed, making them highly desirable, and each will be sold along with the negative from the shoot. At his Grayton Beach gallery, Williams can tell collectors the story of each shot and everything that led up to the moments caught on film.

Aphonic | Wardrobe and styling by Candi Gordon of Candy Skye Designs (@candi.skye.design)
I am connected to all my pieces; however, with this piece, in particular, I connect on an emotional level.

His dedication to the Present includes his piece titled Aphonic, seen on the cover of this issue. Williams captured it with a PhaseOne medium format digital camera. The equipment allows him to shoot at the highest level to produce unparalleled images. Aphonic represents a special mission: “I am connected to all my pieces; however, with this piece, in particular, I connect on an emotional level. This image is based on the idea of showing the beauty of Mother Nature, while the dress materials subtly show the man-made plastics and trash that are destroying our environment.” Williams partnered with Candi Gordon of Candi Skye Designs, whose focus is sustainability in the fashion industry, to create the wardrobe for the shoot.

Chandler Williams

Aphonic means “mouthed but not spoken” or “without a voice,” and this, paired with the modeled shots, represents the creation of fine art. As Williams has said, fine art is intentional, and even more than that, he adds, “There should be a story; there should be emotion behind it.” The three shots of the woman standing atop the water represent the symbolism of the number three throughout history—considered the perfect, harmonious number.

Morning Mood

Williams attributes his deep appreciation for nature to his upbringing along the Gulf Coast. “I have grown up in the water—listening to it, moving with it, really feeling it. It is a bigger part of me than me.” His love for coastal regions and passion for protecting the oceans have led him to start the Aloha Āina Environmental Group. In his own words, “The nonprofit organization was formed to raise awareness, apply accountability, and create a community of local advocates.”

There should be a story; there should be emotion behind it.

He hopes to do so through his photos and new technologies that can help spread the word to a global audience. The future is unpredictable, but it is undeniable that NFTs are taking the art industry by storm. These non-fungible tokens allow artists to digitally represent their art and open the market to a new audience. Williams’s NFT collection will include shots from his Warhol-inspired coastal landscape series. Each purchase will help with fundraising for Aloha Āina.

Chandler Williams
I have grown up in the water—listening to it, moving with it, really feeling it. It is a bigger part of me than me.

As Williams pursues new avenues for growth, he appreciates the basics and values the lessons that can only be taught by time and trial. As a fine art photographer, his goal is to provide transparency and educate others on the process while passionately advocating for the environment through his work. Living in a digital world has pushed us out of touch with nature and away from the respective arts that can tell her story, but fine art photography captures the still beauty of the world around us. The fine art photographer makes that reconnection with nature possible by capturing moments that can never be replicated.


— V —

To learn more about Chandler Williams, visit ModusPhotography.com or follow him on Instagram @modusphoto.

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