For over three decades now, Wayne Chasan has been producing the iconic images that have chronicled the evolution of Marbella since the mid-1980s. In this way, the ‘man behind the lens’ has himself become a Marbella icon.

For a person coming from a long line of architects who wanted to dedicate his life to the moving arts, Wayne Chasan has become renowned as a master in the capturing of moments, landscapes and the very edifices his family have for so long been associated with. Perhaps it was fate that would see him become a leading architectural photographer, and in his work as a highly respected professional in this field both here and abroad, he has helped to record the past thirty years in the story of Marbella.

The connection with Spain is older than the love for the lens and what it can do in the hands of the gifted. Wayne moved here with his parents in 1969, and the impressions the country left upon a young child stayed with him even when they returned to the USA some years later. “By then I had learned to speak Spanish, but above all had developed a connection with a land whose landscapes and images seemed frozen in time.”

Always in love with the arts, he managed to land himself an apprenticeship at the largest video production studio in the San Francisco Bay Area – no mean feat for a 14-year old. “I was keen to learn and that I did, getting an honorary mention in the Bay Area Video Awards for my science fiction production about a one-way trip to Mars,” says Wayne, who stayed on in California and pursued a career in the film industry after his family returned to Spain.

“I was beginning to make headway career-wise when my life took a different turn during the course of summer holidays spent in Almería, and later Marbella. I had never really experimented much with photography, but the realisation that those precious, ancient images of Spain were being lost forever made me want to record them, so during vacations to Andalucía I would borrow a camera and film, and set out into the dusty plains and mountain villages to capture the last of the images that had so inspired the likes of Hemingway and Michener.”

The Birth of a New Career

Such was the impact of the material he came back with that even the Californian studio he worked for appointed him as on-set photographer in the beginnings of a new career that would later see him working with Robert Vavra – the photographer of Michener’s iconic title, Iberia. “Vavra had famously never collaborated with another photographer before, so it was a real honour to provide the architectural imagery for his beautiful book, Cárdenas: Horses & Home.

It would be the first of many honours to come, including the 2001 Lux Gold Award for Industrial Photography bestowed on Wayne for his work on the Hojiblanca olive oil launch campaign. “Having contributed imagery to so many of the real estate agents, magazines and property developers in the area, I became essentially known as an architectural photographer, but I’ve always been involved with other types of photography too.”

Originally, it was the landscapes, villages and wizened faces that prompted an international exhibition at the Casa de España in New York in 1987, but many of Wayne’s greatest honours have been awarded for industrial, food and also art photography, such as was recently on display in his Marbella exhibition Urban Shimmer at the Isolina Arbulu Gallery within the architectural studios of Ernesto Palanco in Rocío de Nagüeles.

Capturing the Changing Face of Marbella

Much of Wayne Chasan’s work takes him abroad, working for international clients in sites around the world, but for people in Marbella he is above all the man who has been chronicling over three decades of rapid evolution in Marbella’s urban landscape – the architectural photographer whose experience and perfectionism make him the reference point in the field. “When I first arrived I was 19 and pretty much the only architectural photographer in the area, so as I began to commit myself fully to it I came to be the one whose lens caught much of the changes that were happening around us.”

Beginning with a humble 35mm, he is an artist who also became a highly skilled technician working with state-of-the-art equipment. “The beauty of the work is that it’s so varied; one minute you’re being flown around the world as chief executive photographer for meetings and to capture spectacular sites, and the next you’re in a factory or dangling out of a helicopter trying to forget you’re actually scared of heights.” For Wayne, it’s been a fascinating career that took him out of California’s film industry and around the world to meet people and experience sights in places as diverse as Tokyo, Milan and the forgotten hamlets of Andalucía.

“It took me a while to accept that I was settling down in a glamourous resort area so removed from the Spain I came seeking, but now I feel deeply Marbellí and am always glad to come back ‘home’ to the cosmopolitan town that I have become a part of,” says Wayne, for whom southern Spain has been as formative in his life as the realisation that he was, after all, destined to remain linked to a long line of architects through his photography.

Particularly enjoyable recently was the process involved in the on-going Urbania advertising campaign for Essential Magazine’s Back Covers, recreating iconic photography on their sites with their employees as the models. Eschewing outside production teams and agencies, all these images were brain-stormed and created entirely through the special collaboration of their sales team with Wayne – adding the big-city agency feel to the process of capturing the ever-changing images of Marbella.