Catching Up With Chris McKeown: how not to sell your soul on social media

Chris McKeown, Times Square, New York city
Chris McKeown, Times Square, New York city

What has changed for you in the last two years? How has your photography journey been developing?

I was going to say, not a lot... then I thought about it and, actually, quite a lot has happened, and I’ve learned a lot of things, not all of them related to actual photography.

One of the first things I did after our last interview was create a website ( where I could showcase my photography, this was a direct result of you asking me about whether I had a site!! I learned a lot through this: how to build a website (I used the WIX builder), register a domain name, use SEO techniques to build traffic to the site (via Google key words), and, build a web shop so I could showcase and sell my work.  I’ve displayed some framed large format prints at an exhibition and sold a number of framed prints.  From that I decided to publish a calendar of my landscape photographs and have even sold a bunch!!

But to be honest, the best experience over the past two years was going on a 4 day landscape photography course in the South Island in Autumn 2018.  Four days of travelling to some of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand - Wanaka, Queenstown, Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook, Milford name it, we went there.  Travelling around the country in a van with 9 other amateur photographers and getting to take photographs of such places was an unforgettable, magical experience.  Everyone was so helpful and friendly.  If I could do it every year I would!!

South Island by Chris McKeown
Sunrise at Moke Lake by Chris McKeown

Meiklejohns Bay by Chris McKeown
Meiklejohns Bay by Chris McKeown

Tell us about your trip to the US...

I was lucky enough to go to New York for work and had a full day to myself to wander around Manhattan taking a bunch of photos of the landmarks. I’d got in touch with a really helpful NYC based photographer to look at a guided tour.  He was awesomely helpful!  Even though he couldn’t be there when I was, he sent me a copy of his guidebook, telling me the best places to go to get the best shots, which was SO helpful.

I’d always wanted to go to New York and it certainly lived up to my expectations, the sheer scale, noise, and busyness was awesome!   There were a number of highlights: taking in the view from the Empire State building (day and night (very, very cold...), the ferry to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty, looking up at the Chrysler building, Central Park in the low winter sun.  All amazing. 

But for me: two key moments stood out: Visiting B&H Photo, a mecca for photography lovers and being able to try and re-create a moment from one of my favourite films, the 'dancing in Grand Central Station' scene from the film 'The Fisher King'. Quite a technical shot, involving a “Little Stopper” ND Filter, mini-tripod and long exposure....I decided to go black and white, as this is what I felt like...

By Chris McKeown
By Chris McKeown

You were one of the first members to join Excio and your photos have been viewed more than 1,040,000 times for 2,100+ hrs with 22,000+ clicks so far. How does it make you feel?

I had no idea that my photographs had been viewed so many times, and generated so much interest.  That just blows my mind!!  And makes me want to make more use of the platform!! 

What do you like most about Excio?

I like how crisp and easy to use the app is, I like that I can have the app on my iPhone and can get a look at some new images whenever I want, and of the sort of images that I like. I like how easy it is to build a collection as well.

You are pretty active on Instagram, in your view how can people showcase their individuality and photography style without "selling their soul" on Social Media?

I’ve been thinking about this a fair bit.  I’m pretty active, as you say, but not really making much in the way of headway.  I’ve been “stuck” on around 900 followers for a while now, and it really is a bit of a slog to generate traffic to the images.  There are just SO many great photos out there, and interesting images and views.  I don’t know if it is possible for an amateur like me to build a following organically.  I feel that I need to step it up a bit to make the leap to more followers!  But, I’m actually not that worried about it. I just love taking a good image, capturing a feeling, a moment, a trick of the light, a gleam on a lake, the light on a mountain...  whatever.  It’s all just a way of trying to stop time for a little while... the world still turns...

New York memories by Chris Mckeown
New York memories by Chris Mckeown

In our modern world where photography is more about popularity and less meaningful, can you name a photo that particularly stood out or had a memorable impression on you recently?

I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place as New Zealand.  As well as the beautiful landscapes, I have loved how friendly people are.  How open and welcoming. So the terrible events of the terrorist attack in Christchurch were just so shocking and stopped my heart.  So, the image that has stood out for me as capturing a moment, but in a good way, thankfully, is the amazing photograph taken by Kirk Hargreaves of the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern at a Community meeting in Christchurch.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a Community meeting in Christchurch by Kirk Hargreaves
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a Community meeting in Christchurch by Kirk Hargreaves

I genuinely believe this is an award winning photograph, it just flawlessly captures the empathy of the Prime Minister in the face of such an awful tragedy.  The fact that you can see the reflection of everyone outside and fellow Ministers like James Shaw inside, just elevates it for me. I’d rather remember this image as a symbol of connectiveness and hope, rather than brutality. It fills me with hope.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Work, work, and more work.... oh and a few overseas trips in there too. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to take some more photographs of amazing places!!  I’ll definitely load them up on to Excio and see if I can make it to 2million views!!

You can follow Chris on Excio and see more of his work here.

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