Vacation vocation: Life as a photographer

Alisha Siebers, Executive Director, Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

When Bill Christiansen retired from a multi-faceted career in production at Pfizer, he never imagined he’d be starting a new vocation as an artist. Now, nine years later, his life is built around the rhythm of the art fair scene as he travels around the country selling his photographs in the summer and then sets out in the fall to find the perfect shots of landscapes and wildlife to expand his portfolio.

Over the years, Bill has developed a sense of what distinguishes an artistic photo from a snapshot. He explains that it helps to have a good camera, but what elevates a shot to art is how photographers add their own perceptions, feelings, and drama to a picture. Bill’s goal is to make the photo reflect what he saw and felt at a location.

When he and his wife Deb head out to the wilds in October to take photos, they will often hire a photography guide who knows the area and can take them to non-touristy places not found in guidebooks. Sometimes they have to return to a spot several times until the light is right or until they capture something amazing, like reflections in water, a double rainbow, or a bird taking off in flight. The difference could be a matter of minutes — one photo looks mediocre, while the next lands on something surprising and fresh. Capturing photos in nature takes patience: time to scout out locations at different times of day, patience with the weather, and willingness to take dozens of shots.

Bill’s tactics are definitely paying off. In 2017 he won first and fifth place for the Michigan History Magazine back cover photo contest and recently four of his photos were accepted for a National Parks exhibit at R Gallery in Boulder, Colo.

Bill also captures exceptional images close to home in South County and throughout Michigan. These images tend to be customer favorites at Michigan shows.

Part of the fun of Bill’s new vocation is travelling with Deb to art shows. They will go early to set up, enjoy a meal out, and meet up with other vendors who work in all kinds of art forms. Bill appreciates the variety of beautiful works at the shows and the way all of the artists want each other to do well. It’s been a great experience to meet other artists and to be able to discuss his work with folks who visit his booth.

The art fair season kicks off soon! After their first show Memorial Day weekend in Walloon Lake, you can visit Bill and Deb at their next show: The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park on Friday June 2 from noon to 8 p.m., and Saturday June 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stop in and let them know you saw this article in the South County News.

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