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Chris Buck Brings His Off-Kilter Portraiture Style to Dick Johnson Is Dead

Criterion Designs

Feb 8, 2022

A passion for photography runs in Chris Buck’s family. Born and raised in Toronto, he attributes his early interest and comfort in the field to the influence of his father, who worked at Kodak. Being exposed to the art form in his formative years led Buck to get his degree in photography and move to New York City in the ’90s, where he made a name for himself with his weird and whimsical portraits of musicians. Since then, Buck has turned his camera toward public figures in a wide range of professions—CEOs, movie stars, even President Obama—and his eclectic assignments bring him to interesting locations near and far. His work conveys the vulnerability of his subjects through a variety of idiosyncratic choices, like directing his models to hold awkward poses and using asymmetrical framing. 

The gently surreal and comical bent of Buck’s sensibility is apparent in the photographs he took for our edition of Dick Johnson Is Dead. In the latest episode of Studio Visits, he guides us through his collaboration with director Kirsten Johnson and her father, Dick Johnson, whose dementia is the focus of the documentary and had worsened since the project was completed in 2020. Buck’s off-kilter approach pairs beautifully with Johnson’s tender and fantastical treatment of Dick in the film. Buck is sensitive to the familial and professional dynamics in the pair’s relationship, and his interpretation of their bond adds another layer to the documentary’s metafictional world. Watch the above video for a look at Buck’s process and his experience teaming up with the Johnsons. 

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