Wherever I show up it gets moody

Besides photography, I spend my time with my little son Max. We ride the bicycle, go to the skate park or have a blast with our dog and best buddy Anton. Moreover, I enjoy a good workout or any kind of sport that helps me keep my balance. Since I’ve been skateboarding all my life, I still enjoy checking out some nearby skate spots.

To spark my creativity, I usually go through street photography magazines like “Soul of Street” or watch neo-noir inspired movies. A movie that I can’t get out of my head is “Drive”. I got fascinated by the cinematic feels in this movie there are transferred through the night car drives and music.

My passion for urban and street photography started two years ago during a trip to Paris. While waiting on the next train, a small scene caught my attention: There was this woman sitting on a train, having a thoughtful look in her eyes and an open newspaper in her hands. Her brown hat made up the scene for me. At this moment, street photography became my passion.

Most of my pictures are taken in Hamburg and Berlin. These beautiful cities offer a perfect mix between classic and modern urban scenes.

I started out taking shots of architecture and details. After a while, I got on capturing street scenes that involve human interaction. Today I consider myself as a neo-noir inspired night shooter. I usually search for dramatic moody scenes that include gloomy night lights and interesting silhouettes.

My main styles are inspired by fine art street / urban / neo-noir photography. One of my biggest inspirations is my good friend Peter Kalnbach, whom I consider to be the master of the neo-noir genre and who goes by @street.nomads1605 on Instagram. Furthermore, I look up to artists like Nick Millers, Billy Deee and Craig Whitehead.

I don’t shoot regularly. Most of the times, I visit Peter for a photo walk in Hamburg. Since I’m living in a rural area, I have to plan my photo trips carefully and in advance. But when I arrive in another city, I shoot for at least six hours and usually return with material for weeks. Due to the fact that the place I’m living at is not offering me the possibility to shoot daily, I’m looking forward to moving as soon as possible. Cities I would consider to promote some more creativity would be Berlin and Hamburg.

At the moment, I shoot with two different cameras. One is the Fuji X-Pro3 with the XF23mm F1.4 (full-frame equivalent to 35mm) and the XF56mm F1.2 (full-frame equiv. to 85mm) lenses, and the other is the Sony A7R Mark III with the Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8 and the Sigma Art 24mm F1.4.

My absolute favorite lens is my Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8. It has an incredibly fast and accurate autofocus, and it’s a pretty compact lens that does not get too heavy after a day out shooting.

In my opinion, the Fuji X-Pro3 is an amazing piece of gear because of the outstanding colors, which give analog and vintage vibes. It’s a small and lightweight camera, which is very handy – perfect for longer photo walks.

On top, the Fuji X-Pro3 is an absolute eye-catcher. Since I’m a fashion lover, the Fuji is not only super practical but a nice accessory that suits my urban sense of fashion. I would definitely say that Fuji is a camera that has charm and a soul.

When it comes to night photography, I don’t want to do without my Sony A7R III, which has an excellent low light performance and an amazingly fast autofocus. Since I’m only using prime and no zoom lenses, the 42.4 MP of the Sony A7R III allow me to crop without losing image quality.

This gives me the ability to capture an even more intimate scene on the streets. As already mentioned, my photo walks last for several hours. Therefore I have to rely on a long-lasting battery, which the Sony A7R III can provide.

Regarding my favorite focal length, I can’t really make a decision because I feel like half of my work is taken with a 24mm while the other half is taken with an 85mm lens. It depends on what I want to shoot that day. Either I go for geometric street photography that focuses on structural architecture or more unobtrusive people photography that focuses on capturing human interaction and candid detail shots in the street.

Most of all, I love to shoot in underground stations. Somehow it fascinates me to see people commuting. For me, a detail shot of a man wearing a hat sitting on the train, or a lonesome woman reading a book, provides a huge potential for storytelling.

With the right framing and a moody edit, I try to transform my impressions of the scene into a mysterious, dramatic story. I sometimes like to add a second element of a train or the train station itself to my shot to turn it into a double exposure.

Commuting is a part of everyday life and often leaves me questioning who the people are, where they come from and where they are going. So I use these captured moments of random people in the streets to come up with my very own story.

I mostly try to shoot in urban and industrial train stations that remind me of New York City. I’ve never been to New York myself, but ever since I started taking photos, I have dreamed of visiting the city that never sleeps and its underground tunnels.

When it comes to editing my shots, I mainly use Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. I edit on a MacBook Pro with an additional screen, and I like to use my graphic tablet. Mostly I edit my shots in the evenings. I try to create a darker atmosphere with warm light elements. I prefer to listen to indie rock, classic hip hop and alternative rock so I can get into the perfect mood and transform my emotions and visions into art.

"My name is Christian Chilla. I am 38 years old and come from a small town in the north of Germany. During the day I work as a sales representative, and at night become a photographer and transform candid street moments into mysterious and dramatic stories."

1 Comment

  1. Fantastic work, Christian. Totally different era than the movie “Drive” but, check out “Road to Perdition” if you haven’t seen it already. It has excellent nighttime visuals, full of shadows and pools of light, similar to your style of work. Keep on shootin’!

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