Meet the Staff at Highbrow Magazine: Q&A With Writer/Photographer Christopher Moraff

Christopher Moraff


Christopher Moraff is a journalist, writer and photographer whose reporting covers topics ranging from art to politics. His journalism, commentary and criticism have appeared in a number of publications, including The American Prospect, World Politics Review, Design Bureau magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, AlterNet and In These Times – where he serves on the Board of Editors. He is a news features correspondent for The Philadelphia Tribune and writes a weekly column on national politics and current affairs for Philadelphia Magazine's blog, The Philly Post. Moraff is a member of the international photo collective Photography Colony. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and their bevy of semi-domesticated house pets. (website); (blog).


Q & A With Chris:


What inspired you to become a writer/photographer?

I think I took so strongly to photography mainly because it serves as the ultimate creative parallel to my writing. Writing is an extremely fulfilling undertaking for me,  but unlike photography I find that it is primarily an intellectual exercise. My process as a writer is very precise; I choose each word carefully, change sentences around and engage in copious amounts of editing and rewriting. I sometimes think of it like making a sculpture, where I take an idea or several and slowly, carefully chip away the extraneous pieces until the truth reveals itself. Photography, in some ways, represents the exact opposite for me: It is spontaneous, decisive and fleeting. I see the truth and I take it in the instant the shutter releases. It's either there or it isn't, and it's a beautiful thing when it is. When I pull off a successful piece of writing, I've worked hard for it. I've had a love for both crafts for years, and on reflection I think it's this complementary aspect that sustains that passion.


Who are a few of your favorite authors/photographers/artists/journalists?

That's a tough one; it's kind of like asking a chef to name his favorite food, but here goes:

Authors: Paul Bowles, Andre Gide and T.C. Boyle are definitely up there.

Contemporary nonfiction is tougher; there are quite a few talented writers working in journalism and criticism these days, and as much as I read, it's pretty hard to keep track of all their names: Adam Gopnik, Walter Kirn and Maureen Dowd come to mind.

As for photographers: I like René Burri, Helmut Newton and Vivian Maier (a Chicago street photographer who worked in obscurity in the 1950s and 1960s and whose photography was unknown until 2007. I recently stumbled upon her work and I find both it and her story immensely moving.) 



What’s the worst job/assignment you’ve ever had?

At the risk of offending my old boss (whom I do have warm feelings for), it would have to be conducting roundtable interviews of commercial finance executives in my former role as associate editor of a finance industry trade magazine. It was intensely painful work, but it paid the bills. The happiest day of my life, besides the day I married my wife, is hands-down the day I was able to leave that job and branch out on my own.


Which is your favorite city in the U.S.?

Dare I say Philly? With New York running a close second.



What’s your all-time favorite film?

The Godfather (parts one and two watched sequentially. Don't bother with three.) Or The Killing Fields, depending upon what kind of mood I'm in.


Which newspapers/magazines/websites do you read regularly?

Strangely, for a Philly boy, almost every print publication I subscribe to has “New York” somewhere in the title; to wit: The New York Times, the New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and New York magazine are all delivered to my house (hey, can I help it if the Big Apple represents?). Besides those, I get The Philadelphia Inquirer (Sunday only), the Atlantic and the progressive political magazine In These Times (I serve on their Board of Editors). I  collect the literary journal Granta. Websites include the Economist (too expensive to subscribe in print), the Guardian, the Awl, and, of course, HighbrowMagazine. com.


Would you rather become the next editor-in-chief of the New Yorker or replace Jon Stewart as host of the “Daily Show”?

No brainer. Definitely the New Yorker. I mean, who could replace Jon Stewart? Anyway I am not particularly fond of being the center of attention, which, I believe  is part of a comedy show host's job description. Truth be told, I'd be quite satisfied with a lowly staff writer position at the New Yorker. Management duties don't particularly suit me.


What are your favorite “highbrow” pastimes?

Polo, fox hunting and yachting (Just kidding). I'd say the most highbrow it gets for me is sitting down to an exquisitely prepared meal – one that I have cooked myself -- with a glass, nay, a bottle of cold Sancerre and the latest issue of the The New York Review of Books. In my book, that is an evening well spent.    



Check out a few of Chris’ articles and photo essays below:


In Chile, Street Artists Turn Drab Concrete into a Carnival of Color


Angels and Martyrs


Lessons From the Failure of U.S. Propaganda in the Middle East


Street Portraits


Walking After Midnight

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