The Artist Spotlight series aims to celebrate creators at a time when art is being consumed the most. We wanted to invite individuals working within the creative field to provide their voice, opinions and suggestions for the improvement, development and future of the Canadian creative community.

Chrris Lowe is a 26 year-old Mississauga-based photographer, filmmaker and wellness advocate. She is the creator and host of a weekly Zoom series, GOOD CONVERSATION, where she chats with other industry professionals and creatives, covering a variety of topics in art and wellness. To see more of her work, you can check out her website at chrris-lowe.com. This week, Chrris chats with artsUNITE about the evolution of her creative practice, about the importance of real community and about putting BIPOC people in positions of power.

Q: Is there a quote/mantra that you live by? If so, how has it shaped your practice?

I have two personal mantras. The first is more of a question to myself, “How can I serve?”. This reminds me that everything I do is bigger than myself and pushes me to show up as my best self every time.

The second is, “There has to be a way to get it done”. Both photography and film can be expensive creative spaces to access and navigate so by maintaining the belief that there is always a way to figure something out and get it done, I am always tapping into my resourcefulness. It allows me to strengthen my creative muscles because I have to constantly come up with creative solutions. Even if you don’t have access to the most expensive gear or an elaborate set design, there is always a way to produce high-quality work. Use what you have until you can get more.

Q: What led you to the creation of the GOOD CONVERSATION series?

GOOD CONVERSATION was created out of my curiosity about the creative process of other artists and how these individuals balance their work while maintaining their mental, physical and spiritual wellness. It’s a very new concept, the idea came to me randomly and I just decided to act on it immediately and allow it to grow organically. I’m big on communication and open conversation so speaking to artists as opposed to written interviews just made sense to me; but I had to do it virtually because of Covid-19.

In terms of the creative, I make every promotional poster myself. I think of it like album cover art or the cover of a magazine; I want the poster to reflect the guest’s personality so each one is different and unique.

In terms of the curation and finding participants, I want to speak with people I’m genuinely interested in about topics I’m truly interested about. I do take into account what I believe my community will want to hear as well but I know that ultimately the conversations are going to be most fruitful when I am genuinely intrigued by my guest. I do my research on each individual and create questions that pertain specifically to them. These are conversations I wanted access to when I was younger, I didn’t just want to know about artists work and their process but also their real lives and how they maintained their health while being so busy. As I move forward in my own career I’ve had to learn how to do the same, so speaking to others about how they handle it has been really valuable for me and it’s been super fun so far.

Q: What inspires and/or motivates you right now? Do you feel inspired?

Overall, I’m feeling pretty motivated and inspired. I definitely have days where I’m not, but the feeling always comes back.

My personal and professional growth inspires me. For a long time, I didn’t believe that I could have the creative career that I wanted and because I didn’t believe it, I was too afraid to REALLY try to accomplish my professional goals. I did work hard but I wasn’t “all in,” for fear of failure or disappointing myself. I would have never admitted that years ago, maybe even one year ago, but I can admit it now because I’ve released the shame around it. Observing my work ethic and commitment to my photography and film projects, my creative mind and ideas, my determination to pursue my professional goals despite being afraid of the unknown, my willingness to try, I didn’t always have that. I’ve worked hard to develop these parts of myself and seeing the change is inspiring. I don’t know if it sounds conceited to inspire yourself but I don’t care. Women are allowed to inspire themselves, too often are we made to feel bad for it.

Q: How do you envision the future of in-person events like panels and live music shows given the physical distancing measures? Is the future all digital?

To be honest, I’m not sure if the future is all digital but it’s definitely looking that way. I hope it isn’t though. We need human connection and I feel like the peek of human connection is through physical connection; feeling another persons energy, seeing their facial expressions in real life. We crave that as human beings.

Although I’m very thankful for virtual spaces, I don’t know if you can get that same feeling or something similar through virtual music events and panels. Like I said though, it definitely does look like we are moving toward an even more digital existence and it’s important to evolve. I think the best thing we can do is to continue to find ways to deepen connection and interaction while using digital tools. When I say “deepen connection” it doesn’t even have to be complicated; going from texting to FaceTime or call to video chat can offer that.

Q: (How) Has the pandemic and physical distancing measures affected you/ your art?

It’s definitely affected my ability to get out there and do things physically. Photography and film are very collaborative art forms so not being able to get close to others can be limiting. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to jump back into work soon though. On the flip side, it’s actually given me the opportunity to improve my work. I have been even more intentional with what and how I create, learning new skills to improve, paying attention to every single, small detail. I’ve been able to completely immerse myself in the creative process without limitation, like going to bed at a decent time to get up for work the next day.

Q: What is the most important tool in your practice?

The most important tool in my practice is my health, period. I learned this years ago when I experienced some issues with my health that caused me to put a pause on all work, my part time job and my creative practices. During that time, I learned that regardless of what you do, good mental and physical health is necessary. Think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; physiological needs like health are at the bottom, self-actualization, which includes creative activities, are at the top. I need to be healthy to achieve my fullest potential in my creative endeavors.

Q: As an artist, what are you looking for from the creative community?

When reaching out to the creative community what I’m seeking is just that, community. I think that word encompasses everything that I could ask for: connection, guidance, support, resources, mentorship.

These are all things that one receives from (and hopefully also provides to) the people around them. I’ve been able to make meaningful connections with other artists through social media and events but I would definitely love more opportunities to connect with the talented people that this city is filled with, not only in the film and photography industry, but other creative industries as well. I’d like to see these creative circles expand.

Q: What do you think companies/collectives/local organizations need to be focusing on to address the ongoing systemic racial inequalities in the arts and culture sector?

I think the most important thing is to put Black people in positions of power and I cannot stress that enough. It is not enough to give Black people opportunities once, twice, 100, 1,000 times. Black people need to be in positions of power that will afford them the ability to put other Black people in positions of power and so on until the end of time. It isn’t enough to give Black people credit; to give them covers of magazines, to have them shoot your next project, etc.

If you are really in support of changing the systemic racial inequalities in the arts and culture sector, make sure that the person picking the crew to shoot your next project is Black. Make sure that the person choosing who will be on the cover of your publication is Black. Make sure that the person responsible for crediting everyone involved in the project is Black. I am a Black and Indigenous (Amerindian) woman and I feel the exact same way in regards to access for the Indigenous community.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRRIS LOWE

Q: What are you working on right now?

In terms of professional work, I can’t say too much right now but I am working on a short film. It’s about a Black father who just welcomed a baby girl into his family and it will be an intimate look into his experience during this time. I’m also excited to see how GOOD CONVERSATION will evolve. I definitely have a vision of where I would like it to go but only time will tell.

In terms of what I’m working on personally, I’m in the process of redefining what balance looks like to me; taking time to be present with my family and overall making sure that I prioritize my well being so I can show up for those I love.

  • headshot photo by Jelena Sreckovic (www.instagram.com/jelsrckvc/)