Christopher Anderson brakes for almost anything.
As a news photographer, he’s shot sucking backdrafts, Mount St. Helens and last fall’s ice storm. He’s tripped the shutter more than 1.5 million times, a street shooter capturing a moment in Spokane.
Drop away the headlines and the newsprint, erase the graphics and what stands is - art.
A 25-year retrospective of Anderson’s photography is on display at the Daniel Corbin Gallery through April 17. It’s part of the Spokane Visual Arts Tour on April 4.
“When you see it on a white background, it’s getting what it deserves for its art sake, for its art value,” says Lynn Mandyke, director of the Corbin Art Center.
“It’s wonderful. The composition, the subject matter, the depth of feeling - all the principles of art apply.
“He’s composing all the time when he takes a picture.”
Calling himself “the utility infielder” of The Spokesman-Review photo staff, Anderson is the fouralarm fire guy, already en route.
“You run scared you’re going to miss it or screw it up,” he said.
Breaking news is the ultimate litmus test for professional skills - no second chances. Personal skills are tested as well. News photographers are usually the last person anyone wants to see and the first they want to swing at.
“No pictures!” a Cuban couple cried one day.
“Let’s dance,” Anderson responded. They wound up demonstrating salsa. He wound up with the picture.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Anderson, 47, graduated from Ferris High School and earned a degree in child psychology at Western Washington University.
He was bartending in Spokane after college when a friend who owed him money paid up with a camera.
Anderson joined the Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News Miner during the pipeline construction, the only photographer on the staff. For the next four years, he shot news across Alaska.
When a college friend, former reporter and assistant city editor Deborah McBride, called him about a job at The Spokesman-Review, he had 48 hours to cut his hair and get to Spokane.
He did, and on his first day, shot four basketball games at the state “B” tournament.
He shot the 1997 tournament, too. In more than 20 years, Anderson has “made pictures” from spring training to the Apple Cup, at one time developing film in a stadium bathroom. Assignments have taken him from Hawaii to China.
A former New York Times reporter said his portraits of Hanford downwinders “put a human face” on the destruction around weapons plants.
“It gets in your blood,” Anderson said. “A job with regular hours and predictable results would pale in comparison to being out on the street.”
Many of the 40 photographs exhibited are affectionately Northwest: Bloomsday runners stopping for ice cream mid-race, Cecil Andrus as a senior statesman, the Ferris High School drill team.
Less obvious are the tragedies. Anderson has witnessed more than 20 deaths. Responding to one North Side shooting in 1983, he found it was his friend, McBride, dead by her own hand.
The show is dedicated to her and to S-R photographer Jim Shelton, who died March 11. Shelton and others taught Anderson newspaper traditions he tries to pass on and that the best pictures are often the common things seen from a different light.
“The newspaper is a continuum,” Anderson says. “It’s a little slice of history every day.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 photos (1 color)
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ON DISPLAY Photographs by Christopher Anderson will be on display at the Corbin Art Center, 507 W. Seventh, through April 17. Admission is free. Hours are Monday through Thursday and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Monday and Tuesday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m.