Chris Hornbecker: Limited edition, always on

By on January 25, 2013

The Nike "Always On" Hipstamatic Freepak was released in July 2011. One month later, it was gone — pulled from in-app purchases.

Hipstamatic occasionally re-releases limited-edition software. The Tejas lens in the SxSW FreePak, for example, was later available with RetroPak One. The Nike pak briefly resurfaced from December 29, 2011 – January 1, 2012. But Hipstamatic’s agreement with Nike meant software from the NSW Always On FreePak, was otherwise history. That included the Hornbecker lens, named for freelance sports photographer Chris Hornbecker.

We talked with Chris about the pak, its future and Hipstamatic’s role in his photographic process.

By Ben Gremillion

Hipstography: How did people receive the lens when it was released in July 2011 — and how did they react later to its unavailability?

Chris: Everyone that I talked to was pretty excited about the pack. I think it was still picking up speed when it became unavailable, which left a lot of people wanting it.

From the start this HipstaPak was just supposed to be around during the Nike Always On campaign. I knew that it would be gone before people even found out about it. I tried to spread the word about the Pak and even sent out an email blast to let people know this was their last chance to get it.

Hipstography: Would you have rather Hipstamatic and Nike have kept the lens available?

Chris: I like the idea of a re-issue at some point. Nike has been known to re-issue sneakers. We’ll have to wait and see. I’d be more than happy to collaborate on another pak.

Hipstography: Do you think its limited status impacts the Hornbecker lens’s perceived value?

Chris: It does increase the perceived value. The grass always seems greener on the other side. But at the end of the day it’s just another tool to get the job done.

Hipstography: It’s a tool that stands out. Unlike most Hipstamatic extras like the recent Tintype SnapPak, the Hornbecker lens gives photos a sharp, high-contrast look. Does this effect represent your personal style, or is it a sports-like look that everyone involved agreed upon?

Chris: I do like the look of a crisp image with good contrast [that’s] not overly processed. I like it to be a slightly enhanced version of reality. With this HipstaPak, these are supposed to have a gritty but sharp look into these athletes’ lives.

Hipstography: While being created, did the Hornbecker lens and the two Nike films influence each other’s styles? Or were the films, lens and case created independently?

Chris: The look of the lens and films were created at the same time and designed to work well together. The lens was derived from some examples of my work that represented the look and feel we wanted for the Nike Always On campaign. The films were a combination from of a few of my images and some other directions from the NSW Creative Director.

Hipstography: By name and graphic representation, the AO films clearly refer to Nike’s campaign. Also, it’s hard to miss the trademark swoosh on that orange case. But aside from inclusion with the FreePak, the Hornbecker lens isn’t marked as a Nike product. Is that a suggestion that the lens is more Hornbecker than Nike, or was it more of an aesthetic choice?

Chris: It does have the NSW (Nike SportsWear) logo on it. I think they were just being tasteful and not trying to bombard consumers with too many logos.

Hipstography: What was your relationship with Nike and Hipstamatic during the creation of the Hornbecker lens?

Chris: As a freelance photographer I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Nike on a variety of projects. Being a big fan of Hipstamatic and iPhoneography, I was ecstatic to find out that this campaign was going to be a collaboration with Hipstamatic.

Nike had the idea of creating this Pak to go with their NSW Always On campaign, and let the consumer take part in documenting their own way. Nike approached me about the project and then approached Hipstamatic. As a professional photographer it’s common to work on creating a look for a certain project. At first I didn’t know they were going to put my name on the lens.

Hipstography: That speaks highly of you and Hipstamatic. Do you think Nike benefited enough to consider future Hipstamatic projects?

Chris: I think the collaboration was a great fit for the Always On campaign. Nike does produce a lot of stylized photographic imagery that I could see working in other collaboration projects.

Hipstography: During the campaign you used your iPhone alongside your non-phone camera. What place, if any, does your iPhone still have in your professional work? Has using an iPhone influenced the way you work?

Chris: Most of the projects I work on require pretty large files, so I can’t get away with shooting on the iPhone. However, the iPhone is an invaluable tool to have on set. I use it with sun path charts, to document my lighting set ups, to level the camera, I’ve even used it to create in camera light flare light leaks.

I think the practice of shooting with the iPhone every day can help you see some things that you haven’t noticed before or just see them in a different light.

On a project, when I’m scouting the locations for a shoot I use sun tracking software on the iPhone to find out what time of day I want to be shooting there, or how long a shadow will be at a certain time of day.

I like to create lighting diagrams of the shoots I am working on. I can use these later if the client wants to shoot more, and they are good notes to work from when working on new lighting setups.

Hipstography: Aside from your iPhone, what other camera equipment do you use — do you have any favourite camera brands/models, for example? Also, which iPhone (or other smartphone) do you use?

Chris: The main cameras I shoot with are the Hasselblad H2 [with a] IQ180 back, Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 1Ds Mark III. Right now I’m still on the iPhone 4s.

Hipstography: Some professionals (Ben Lowy and Chiun-Kai Shih, for example) have had Hipstamatic shots published in print. Others see retro effects apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic as a gimmick or a non-professional hobby. What’s your take on using Hipstamatic in particular as a professional photo tool?

Chris: I’m all for it. Yes, a darkroom technique does take time and skill, but it is still a gimmick, and so is Photoshop. No amount of processing is going to make a bad photo great. The face of photography is changing and some people just have a hard time accepting change.

With regard to Hipstamatic in particular, it does require technique. You have to know which lens and film combo will work for the lighting conditions you’re in and the effect that you’re going for, and you have to know that and load the camera before you take the photo. You can’t just reprocess, reprocess, reprocess.

Hipstography: On that note, for what types of projects do you use Hipstamatic, if any? Do you have any creative work completed (or upcoming) using Hipstamatic?

Chris: I use Hipstamatic and a few other apps, depending on the situation, to document the things around me as a daily visual journal.

Hipstography: I understand you have a strong interest in sneakers. Any comments on your collection?

Chris: Hello. My name is Chris, and I have a problem.

Chris Hornbecker is a Portland-based freelance photographer. His clients include Nike, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Converse, EA Sports, Umpqua Bank, Heineken and Hurley. Follow him on Instagram.


This post is also available in: French


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