We chatted with famed cannabis photographer Andrew Parker, more commonly known as Chewberto420, about shooting some of the best pot in the world in recent years.
As you can tell from Parker’s work – frequently featured in our best-of lists – the strains that are finding their way in front of his lenses are true top-of-the-food-chain cultivators. His work is regularly seen on the Instagram pages of growers like California Artisanal Medicine and Alien Labs.
We asked how he found his way into the cannabis photography space in the first place. While he took some photo classes in his youth, his real calling to the camera has been intertwined with cannabis the whole time.
“I was doing music for most of my life and then I just got back into photography when I was growing. Just taking photos from my own stuff,” Parker told L.A. Weekly.
After messing around with some cell phone macrophotography, in 2011 Parker decided to go all in on the idea. He maxed out his credit cards in the process. He was in Colorado and growing his own pot because he missed California’s quality. One of his favorite cuts from back then was the God’s Gift bred by BC Bud Depot and Scorpion Crew.
“Before that, I was using an iPhone,” Parker said. “I got an entry-level camera, and I reversed my lenses to do super close stuff like macros and stacks and stuff like that.”
That first wave of gear isn’t really comparable to the tech he uses these days. “When I started, it was solely because I was documenting my own grows, and my hash making. I was on forums a lot back then. And so that’s what kind of got me into it, because I was sharing my stuff on forums, before Instagram.”
Very few consumer goods spaces celebrate their best photographers like the cannabis industry. We asked Parker what it was like being a part of a handful of top dogs really driving the excitement with their work.
“Yeah, there’s definitely a higher desire, I guess, for photography than hitting up the dude that shoots weddings and shit like that, you know?” Parker replied. “Or just hiring any random photographer in town. I mean, obviously it’s a unique quality to shoot cannabis well … it’s difficult.”
Parker told us he was very reserved about making the move to shoot for other people after refining his craft in his own garden. He was also pumping out a lot of content for his website, the Colorado Bud Blog. “I was shooting my own stuff and I was growing. I was doing hash tutorials and growth tutorials, and reviewing different LED lights. I might even be one of the first people to review CBD isolate and stuff like that,” he said.
Eventually he pitched High Times on doing some work for them and they said yes.
“I was working at a weed hotel at the time,” Parker said. “I was raising my kids during the day and going to the weed hotel and working at night and writing my articles and shit like that because I was a front desk dude.”
He honed his craft to become the best pot photographer he could be. After dialing in techniques like focus stacking, he eventually thought his skillset was fine-tuned enough to leave his garden.
“I knew what I was doing at that point, so I started offering,” Parker said. “I don’t think anybody asked me. I was very diligent about it. At the time, I would be reaching out to companies all the time, like any company and new brands. I would say, ‘You know you want me to review and check out your product blah blah blah. I’d be happy to do that.’ And so that’s where it started. And now, I don’t look for anybody, they find me.”
We asked Parker what were the prettiest nugs he’d ever shot. He told us despite not caring for the terpene profile, great renditions of MAC are some of the frostiest nugs he’s ever seen. Other strains like Oreoz and a few different purples also came to mind.
In the end, Parker just tries to keep his technique as fresh as possible. He thinks when people do catch up, it doesn’t feel as unique and fresh.