Welcome to the Open Shutter Photography Podcast episode 1, with our guest Adam Williams.
I'm so proud and thankful to kick the podcast off with this interview. It started out with the intention of being simply some tips and insights on creativity but the further we went into the conversation, the deeper and more personal Adams stories and insights went.
The whole experience left me re-evaluating my own photography, what it all means to me, and how I can put more of myself into my photography to connect on a deeper level.
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Here are some of the talking points we covered in this episode:
- What makes photography “art”
- What are you allowed to do creatively
- Why photographers become hostile online when they think you've gone too far
- Are we on the verge of an artistic explosion in expressionistic style?
- The 200 year old argument we are still having today
- What happened when Adam entered a 121 pixel image into a professional competition (yes – 121 pixels… Not megapixels!)
- How to bring what you're feeling inside out into a photograph
- How to look deeper and be more personal with your photography
- The unexpected effects of putting your heart and soul into your photography and ignoring what other people want
- Why losing your photography mojo could be the catalyst to take you to the next level
We discussed a handful of Adams specific images on the pod. Here are some of those images:
This episode is sponsored by your host, Steve Arnold. Learn Photoshop with Steve via his online courses at Photo Mastery Club
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Transcript (Click to reveal)
This transcript was generated automatically, so may (actually – definitely will) contain the odd mistake or two. Therefore it's probably best to be used as a reference after listening to the episode, should you want to refer to something you heard but can't remember exactly when it was said 🙂
Adam Williams, welcome to the podcast. How's it going?
Adam Williams 3:50
Good mate. Good. Thanks for having me.
Steve Arnold 3:52
Yeah, it's a real pleasure to have you on this is Episode One. And, you know, I couldn't think of any more better help me kick this off with the new good self.
Adam Williams 4:04
Thanks mate episode one Whoo.
What a privilege and an honor. Yeah, thanks. Right. And yeah, congratulations for starting this up. It's going to be really interesting. And I'm looking forward to being a subscriber and listening along myself.
Steve Arnold 4:20
Thanks, mate. Yeah, no. And yeah, likewise, I really appreciate you coming on to do this and you're helping me kick things off. So, yeah, today's episode, I wanted to talk about creativity. And whenever I think of, you know, Creative Photography, your name is one of the first that sort of pops into my mind. And so, yeah, maybe first the line between photography and art. And you know, where where that line sits with yourself.
You know, and maybe how blurry that line might be. I wondered if maybe you could just kind of give me your view on on that whole. Yeah, art versus photography. And what is yeah Photography to
Adam Williams 5:02
start off with the big ones mate
Well, it's an interesting question, actually. And I think it's probably got multiple levels or multiple layers.
Obviously, you've got the entire, you know, how far can you go? What are you allowed to do? But, and we'll come back I suppose a little bit to that. But specifically, the line between art and photography is something that I'm really passionate about or really interested in more so, you know, what is art I suppose, and for me, it comes down to the intent. Okay, so it's not art. It's not necessarily, you know, pushing Photoshop to the limits. It's not it's not necessarily, you know, black and white nudes. It's not necessarily long exposure, black and whites that we see a lot of I hear people talk about, oh, this is really
fine art photography and it's always sort of perplexing as to what they're actually referring to. When they when they say that this is, you know, I think this is really fine art I'm not really sure. But for me myself, it definitely comes down to the intent now. You know, not all art is photography and vice versa. Not all photography is necessarily art in my opinion because you've got levels of photography that start out really straight. And actually, let me let me start out with what I think art might be in a simple in the simplest terms is the intent to infuse you know, a piece of something you create a piece of work with your own personal feelings, emotions, stories. You know, I think art is the intent to communicate something very personal. Whereas not all photography is net necessarily doing that, because if you take something like and and i'm not meaning to single anything out, I suppose but if you take the more scientific realms of photography they're certainly not, you know, in fact infusing those with personal intent or personal emotion, my well corrupt what they're trying to achieve to a certain degree on a scientific level because they're trying to tell the version of something that is very real. You know, the version of something that you actually see So, you know, the more journalistic styles of photography, the more scientific styles of photography, you know, your mapping styles of photography, all those styles of photography, in my opinion, are certainly not art or anything to do with art because their intent has nothing to do with infusing them with a personal story. So I think for me, absolutely. Just to round out that first section is Difference between photography and art or when photography becomes our is, is when you have that intent to infuse your work with something very personal. Now this looping back to this for a second looping back to, you know, what are you allowed to do in photography and what are you not allowed to do? I'm a big believer and a big advocate for having no boundaries if you like and now I when I say that I do have some boundaries myself. But I think everyone needs to define what photography is for themselves. So they create their own definition of photography. And what I see happening in social media and look these dates back to the argument of what is real and what are you allowed to do dates back to even before the camera was invented back to when landscape painting went from being very realistic into very expressionistic if you like, and I think the important thing is that I'm trying to get to in a roundabout way is that if you define what is photography for yourself, and a lot of those heated debates come from when someone else has their definition of photography over here and a might be packed in a little tiny tight box and it might be very realistic and you're not allowed to do this. And you're not allowed to do that. And you're not allowed to do you know, anything whatsoever. And then I take that little tiny box and compare it to someone's photography like myself, where I do, you know, everything's on the table, I will reply scars, I will remove objects, I'll add objects, I'll stretch mountains, I'll do anything that I think will help tell my story in a more clearer, more emotive, you know, you know why and that and again, it comes back to that intent for my intent is to tell very personal emotional stories. And then you might have a more scientific type person with a definition of telling very real Stick very,
you know, pixel for pixel type information untouched if you like. And neither of those definitions are any better than the other. But we need to somewhat keep them to ourselves and stop comparing ourselves and stop telling other people. Look, I'm not here to tell everyone else what to do, I suppose. But I think that's where the tension comes in. when when when photographers start telling other photographers that they're not allowed to do this or that, based on their own definition, when that other photographer might have a much looser definition of what photography is, like. Yeah.
Steve Arnold 10:35
Yeah. So So where do you think that comes from? Like, when you see people getting in arguments about, you know, this isn't real photography and other, you know, those kinds of things and, you know, based on locations that people hold,
Adam Williams 10:49
it's, uh, it's, I look to be to be brutally honest. And I'm gonna be relatively honest today. And some of the things I'll say, Well, you know, don't switch off because Let it sink in a bit, some of the things you know, are going to be a reality check for some, but I think a lot of the time, a lot of the time where these tensions are coming from is it's like a font for territory, you know, there's only, there's only so much everyone sees everyone getting likes, and all of a sudden, you know, people are putting these giant supermoons into landscapes and getting hundreds or thousands of likes. And I honestly, I think it's an ego driven thing. I think it's like, oh, you're getting so many likes for that, but you shouldn't really be doing that because you're lying and you're cheating and you're doing this and you're doing that whereas my Superman shot only got 50 likes and it's real, but I should be getting thousands you know, that kind of thing. I really think that the majority of it. I mean, if it's not coming from that perspective, I'm not really sure where it is coming from. It gets covered up a lot of the time like people will say, well, we're you're deceiving the audience and you're, you're cheating and you're lying and but the audience is smart enough to know No these days what Photoshop is all about and that, you know, photography can't be trusted and, and in generally it's not about that, you know, photography is about storytelling and
Steve Arnold 12:11
yeah, yeah, it is. Um, yeah, I think that's, yeah, one of the things that's kind of pushed me away from really interacting much on the social media is is just, you know, we've got no interest in that argument, you know, like, just let you just let people do what they want to do.
Adam Williams 12:29
By exactly and as I said before, the the conversations been going on for at least a couple of hundred years, maybe even more, maybe even more like, I read something the other day, which was a version of events back when, roughly, in fact, roughly about the time the camera was was sort of being thought about and invented. was also about the same time that landscape painting went from being something that was a video realistic pursuit. So the landscape painters were essentially at one point in time in charge of going out into these stunning, beautiful wilderness areas, and capturing as close as they could a realistic thing so that they could come and then display that in the major cities or towns or whatnot via an exhibition. And everyone could see these beautiful lakes and mountains and streams and you know, waterfalls, etc, etc. But then as the camera came in the camera could suddenly do that job a whole lot better, to a certain degree. And what happened was that the painters started finding themselves, you know, feeling a little bit like, this is an old technology, I suppose, or I don't know. But what happened was there was an explosion in creativity, and the romanticist and the expressionists and the Impressionists all sort of exploded out from that area. But the point I was wanting to get to was, there was a big sort of the debate kicked off within landscape painting that the traditional realists were all up in a half about the romanticism, who would you know, add the scars and stretch the mountains and add the drama. Because the romanticist Look, I haven't studied, you know, art or anything like that, but essentially the romanticists wanted to paint what they were feeling, you know that that dramatic feeling and and include all that drama and that drama might not have been present at that exact moment. But they might have been using some inspiration from a particular weather event they saw weeks or months previously, and adding that into the mountains and the lakes and the streams and creating these really spectacular dramatic landscapes. And if you're interested in spectacular and dramatic landscape photography, then absolutely Google the romantic landscape painters, you'll absolutely love it. But that debate stems all the way back to 100 plus years or so. Well, roughly around that that time frame when when the landscape painters were having a bit of a verbal stash about what you were and weren't allowed to do in landscape painting.
Steve Arnold 14:59
Yeah, seems like Seems like there's kind of a, you know, history repeating itself with the, with the emergence of digital photography and Photoshop. Yeah, there's a lot of parallels there that as I'm listening to so describe that, that phenomena from a couple hundred years ago, I'm thinking, Well, you could almost say the exact same thing with with old school. film. And then yeah, when digital came along, and yeah, it kind of gives, you know, once once people had that, that extra ability to add in things that they were feeling, you know, via post processing and whatnot. You know, that's kind of the similar thing to a painter remembering a weather event from previously and bringing it into a landscape that they're sitting in front of at the time, but that weather events not necessarily happening right now.
Adam Williams 15:49
Unknown Speaker 15:51
Adam Williams 15:53
I mentioned that there was that explosion in creativity. So the camera I've got a theory on that, that the camera was responsible because the camera was now making. Well, it hasn't made landscape painting redundant. We know that through history now that landscape painting is just as important as it ever was, in all its forms and whatnot. But at the time, I'm sure there was a number of artists thinking, well, this camera is doing a better job. So I'm going to need to do something slightly different. And as I said, That was when the explosion of all these very expressionistic styles of painting came about the abstracts. And, well, I'm not sure they're exactly come around for that particular reason. But it coincides beautifully with that event in history that the camera came a little bit prior to the explosion of as I said, Impressionism, expressionism and surrealism and, you know, all these different, very expressionistic styles of painting. And I think I've got a hunch that because the modern digital camera is now accessible to almost everyone on the planet. You know, via our smartphones or whatnot, that and we hear this I hear this in the professional photography, interest industry, you know, rather regularly that works being taken by, you know, these great amateur photographers with their iPhones and they're picking up, you know, through social media, they're picking up their tourism contracts and this and that and the influences and all that kind of stuff. And so it very much so parallels when the camera was first born. Now it's got to this level where digital is so accessible, that everyone has a camera. And I think we're going to see another huge explosion in expressionistic styles we already have to some degree, but I think it's going to become more prevalent. As you know, III, artificial intelligence and whatnot gets better. And everyone has the ability to produce these pretty awesome photos pretty easily, without a great deal of learning. So the only way we're going to be able to differentiate ourselves from the massive, incredible photography that we already see on social media is to be as unique. And as personal. And as you know, personally expressive as possible, it's really the only way to sort of carve out even a hope of a little niche.
Steve Arnold 18:22
Yeah, some of some of the images that I've seen you put into competitions over the last few years have Definitely, yeah, you can definitely describe that in your in your sort of work, and especially what I'm thinking of was 11 by 11. And so, yeah, for listeners who aren't familiar with with those shots of yours, maybe you could just sort of describe that and where you got the idea from and you know how that came about.
Adam Williams 18:51
I don't even know where the idea came from, or describe the work first for everyone at home. And it's a bit of a crazy story and a bit of a crazy series and I think I'll go back and explore it a little bit more at some stage actually. But essentially what I did, I took a full high res, or series of high res images. And to be honest, only only one or two of them ever worked out to a level that I was, you know, really, really happy with. But I took these high res images, 3040 megapixel images, and I put them in Photoshop, and then I reduced them down a square crop them and then I reduced them down to just 11 by 11 pixels. So they were about the size, you know, on the Photoshop screen, you could hardly see them. They're about the size of the entire photo at 100% was about the size of you know, a couple of grains of sand. But then what I would do to bring them back up to a level where I could print them or display them was I would then resize them back up to whatever you can resize them as big as you want. print them on the side of a bus or a building if you want, but I use the Photoshop resizing feature called nearest neighbor. So what would happen as it resize It would maintain those same 11 by 11 grid pixels. Okay, if you can imagine 11 pixels tall and 11 pixels wide in a square format, it would hold those 11 by 11 pixels. And then you could blow them up as big as you like. But all you would end up with is 121, square, block, color, pixel. And, and it was kind of, I think it came about Actually, I do remember now it came about because I completely lost all the inspiration for what I was doing. I was getting bored with, you know, chasing likes and comments and followers on social media and this kind of thing. And I guess I need to be clear on that, too. That there's nothing wrong with pleasing audiences on social media because it's kind of part of everyone's photographic journey is that early stage of as you grow, you're sort of you know, you try and reproduce photos. That your favorite photographers are taking and you will be more than likely you will be drawn into chasing photos that are going to get more likes than your previous photo and that kind of thing. And there's nothing wrong with that. But the reason I brought that up when you do lose your passion for photography, you know, and it will happen, it happens to all of us. What that is, is it's basically your little creative genius. So your creative conscience, if you like is is tapping you on the shoulder, saying hi. All this effort that we're going through getting up early and this and that and processing and posting and all this effort that we're going through. No, I'm not kind of digging it anymore. I need the photography to have more purpose and more meaning. And regardless of what your hobby is, or what your passion is, or whatever it is, if it's photography or something else. At some stage, you go through that early stage journey where you're growing and loving it and improving and it's really exciting. And you missing some stuff up and you're getting some good would result in some bad results and a lot of fun. But whatever, whatever that happens to be, eventually you're gonna hit the stage where you're really comfortable with all the technical and your creative conscience. So your creative genius will tap you on the shoulder and say, hey, you've lost your mojo, you've lost your passion. It's, it's time when you think about doing something else that you're really excited about, or bring the passion back by adding more purpose and meaning to whatever it is you're doing to photography. And I lost that. As I said, I'd completely lost that. And I happen to be on a workshop with Peter eastway. And he was he was like, actually, I think I even started researching this before, and I was looking up agenda on Google and I thought, What's going to inspire me What's next? And I was I was I was looking up, you know, Impressionism and expressionism and surrealism, and I happen to get onto Cubism
which I suppose is a is a star. Have surrealism it's sort of the style but Picasso was famous for. It's quite edgy and boxy and, and that kind of thing. And I thought, you know, and it made me think of the digital pixel being a square shape. And I thought maybe we can play with this square shape in photography. So I challenged myself initially just for some fun, and bring back a little bit of passion. And as a little bit of an idea to I thought I liked number 11 1111 is something that features in my life relatively regularly. And I thought 11 by 11 pixels, let's see if we can't make an image that is just 121 pixels, so a fraction of a megapixel, you know, the very first digital cameras probably had more resolution than 11 by 11. And I thought it was going to be easy to be honest, but it was super difficult. And I only got one real image that I was really happy with which ended up forming a series of two images and it was an image of bond or beach boy In a classic Australian beach scene, if you like with the, you know, little flecks of yellow sand in the foreground, then through a little bit of whitewater and then out into the beautiful blue turquoise water. And the real signature of that image, what really defined it, and I guess gave it the story was, I was able to put this little four grid of pixels are the classic Australian surf lifesaving diving flag with those beautiful sort of rich oranges and rich reds, which, which really set the tone as an Australian beach scene that only contain those 11 by 11 pixels. So there was a lot of fun. I'll just wrap this up. Well, until the story I am a bit of a risk taker when it comes to photo competitions and I thought Yes, sure, you know, I'm going to enter this into the IPP apre Awards, which is the Australian professional photography awards, probably one of the biggest awards in the Australian Competition scene. It's more of a professional award. So it probably doesn't have as many entries as what some of the the the online competitions have. But you do have this really condensed field of very talented professional photographers producing a very high level of work and I thought well this will this will be interesting I'll put this boxy pixelated 11 by 11 imaging and I'll actually not because of this image but I was in Melbourne watching the judging live it's a it's a print awards, you print your images off, send them down to Melbourne or wherever the competition is and then they're judged by a panel of judges. Yeah, five judges and I went down there. And before the event starts, they flick through a slideshow just to show the judges the entire field of say 1000 photos or 500 photos.
And as these images use man just grabbed a drink
as the images were flicking around montage up in my heart, they're not scoring yet. We're just looking at them. My heart sort of dropped in, you know, like you go and offer off a roller coaster there. And there's about 50 people sort of crowded around the judging and I could hear these gasps for you know, air as they as my image turned around like what? What on earth is this and the judges you could see the cold sweats. There's three rooms of judging and you can see the judges thinking please don't turn up in my room. Anyway, it does, it eventually turns off, and I've never seen this previously at the judging and I've never seen it again. But when my image turned around two of the judges broke out in LA nervous laughter because they were just, they just didn't know what to do with this image. Like it caused an instant reaction. In this nervous laughter they were sort of like, Oh, what is this and what do we do with it? And unfortunately, as with a lot of edgy stall imagery, it ended up what I call flow. Lonnie, so no one scored really high and no one scored really low it ended up getting an IT which is a silver award, the rich the award level, but it's a little bit disappointing from my perspective because if you can make the judges react, whether that be laugh, cry, you know, feel alighted feel sad, feel depressed, anything like that is generally a sign that that's a pretty powerful image. So the fact that these judges will were nervously laughing should have been assigned to take a risk and maybe score it up and have a chat about it. But it wasn't to be the case. But it was good fun anyway, putting it in there.
Steve Arnold 27:40
Yeah, no, I think like a nervous laughter I think what that tells me it's more of less what you do when something is like a surprise. You know, it's like a shock to the system is not necessarily that they're laughing as such, you know, it's just not what comes out. Yes. When you go, right. Yeah. I think in that terms, it definitely hit the mark with getting a reaction.
Adam Williams 28:04
Yeah, and I think it was, I mean, everyone that saw it could tell it was an Australian beach thing. And I think if the judges, you know, if the judges were able to sit with that for 10 minutes and just relax and have a cup of tea and because you got to remember, these five judges have got 50 people standing behind them, and it's being streamed out to thousands of people online. And they've got about 20 seconds to make up their mind. So it's an intense situation, and you throw them an intense image like that. Who wants to be the fool that says, filing this should be a 90 or an 85? And have everyone else sort of down around maybe 65? saying the opposite, you know, so it's really intense. So I can understand why everyone kind of didn't want to step out too high or step out too low. But I definitely think if the judges were allowed to sit with that image for an extra five or so minutes, that they would have started to understand that it had, in my opinion, a fairly high level of visual community. occasion in an image that that was, you know, pretty risky and pretty unconventional upon.
Steve Arnold 29:07
Yeah, I think for me, what I loved about it was that it lacked all of the detail that you would normally see in a classic photograph. But you still have that feeling of what it was you still knew what it was a photo of, and, you know, still conveyed that emotion of that, you know, that beautiful bondo beach scene or, you know, the Australian beach scene. So, obviously, that's something that you worked pretty hard to, to infuse into the image and, you know, a lot of your other images have that strong emotional connection and that sense of, you know, story and emotion. So how, like, is there is there a process that you go through, like, what are you what are you thinking, you know, as you're taking a photograph and as you're processing it in Photoshop. How do you get what's inside of you? And what you're thinking at the time and what you're feeling? How does, how does that come out in a photo? How do you? How do you process that?
Adam Williams 30:12
Yeah, yeah, that's an interesting one.
I think the first step and I'll just talk back a step
for anyone at home that's kind of lost their passion for photography, or they know the passion for photography is still there, but currently, they don't have you know, that excitement and energy about getting out there. I think that's a great sign that you should start looking for something deeper. And it was something that that happened to me, you know, roughly about that time I'm talking about that pixelated image and that pixelated image was a bit of fun, but you know, what I discovered around that time was you know, starting to get bored and I thought I need to take this deeper and I took some time off photography took six months off photography, and and and I started about a Still passionate, like a lot of you guys at home probably are still really passionate about photography, I just didn't have the energy or excitement about it. So every day I was thinking about photography, still, I just wasn't shooting. And eventually this thought dawned on me. And I knew that I wanted more emotion and more mood in my photography. And eventually this thought dawned on me that, you know, I need to be more personal with my photography. And so I sort of sat on that for a while. And then it came to me that the most important emotional state, if you like, in my life, at the time, had been anxiety, high levels of anxiety, which had led to stages of depression as well. And this was about 10 years ago that that sort of dawned on me and then so I started, I started dabbling a little bit. Well after took six months off, and then this kind of dawned on me that passion and excitement for photography came right back as it does when you've got meaning In purpose, and you've got something to say. So half the time when you've, when you've run out of energy for photography, it's it's basically because you've run out of stuff sight, interesting things decide. But we've all got lots more interesting stuff to say. We've just got to delve a little bit deeper and find that so I'd found this and all of a sudden that passion came back and I created this image. It was a boat. The Perth boat shared a classic you know, it's a it's a photography icon. One of the big trophy shots if you like in Australia is this bloober Perth boat shed. If you haven't seen it before, you don't know what I'm talking about. Just google search. Crawley or Perth boat shed or Perth blue boat shed and you'll see this beautiful isolated boat shed on the Swan River. And so I created this and I created this very dark and gloomy image so to be you know, you got this lonely isolated blue boat shed and I took it in the pouring rain so it's very dark skies and
heavy, lonely, gloomy image, you know, to sort of reflect some of the darker days that I'd experienced at the time. And that was the first one and I put that into a thorough competition, you know, not really thinking much of it, and I and it came back and it was awarded a gold award and finished second in the international loop awards, I think it was in about 2013. Now, it didn't really dawn on me and in fact, at the time I I created that image somewhat subconsciously. And why it still hadn't dawned on me that the darkness and the loneliness in the oscillation should be something that always consciously producing work on and so that will come around and go golden, I thought, Ah, yeah, and I kind of went back to what I was doing pretty images to please people on Instagram and you know, that didn't last long. And then as I said, I took that six month break and, and it finally dawned on me consciously that I should be focusing my work. On, on very personal stories, the things that mean the most to me or the things that influenced me or affect me the most. Then I created this image of camel rock. Really another seascape image. It's a series of three rocks or grouped together and again they kind of isolated and lonely and it's really dark black sky and really dark grey rocks and it's very gloomy and not much Kala. And then again, I put that into the IPP awards along with a couple of other in a very dark gloomy series that was very close to my heart. And again at this time I was at home watching the IPP awards and look competitions aren't the be all and end all and I'm you think they are to me, but I hardly enter any anymore to be honest because But again, it's part of the growth. I don't enter them anymore because I like to just do crazy stuff and not worry about what other people think but back at the time, part of the journey for me was entering competitions anyway. into this body of work into the IPP awards and the first image turns around camel rock and and it got a couple of schools around 8384. And then one of the judges put it up at it. And he challenged because you can put your hand up and have a challenge and he took the image up and ended up getting an ID seven is silver with distinction, which is a very hard school. Well, so well that was pretty good. So now I've got these two images in the doc series. The only two images so far that I've put in a competition that I've created from my heart and they both scoring at a really high level. Anyway, the next image comes around it's one of Sugarloaf rock another. I'm a bit of a trophy Hunter. Sometimes when it comes to my photography or used to be not so much anymore. Sugarloaf rock is in southwest Western Australia. And it's another iconic location and I really darkened and gloom this up and had a big sun and a sun high low and it was a very romantic style photograph. Anyway that one went to scoring it was very dark located black doc doc doc like as dark as images you'll ever see. And the judging turns on that one and it gets like that schools are rolling out and I'm watching online at home with my wife and it's like scoring 9092 8993 88 and so off the get go it was over over the gold level it was going to get the gold award and I was already getting really emotional because here I am just I just twigged that this is the direction that I should be taking a more personal more emotive direction and here are the first three or four images that I've ever produced in this style. Just lighting up you know the the connection with other people like nothing I've ever done before. Anyway, Tony who at this time the image is already a gold and Tony you have challenges because if you're in gold, you can challenge whenever you like And he challenges and said guys, we're already at gold. And I think that's a big sign that this image is is probably even higher level than gold and he went on a 10 minute conversation about the emotion and it was like he was like I'd written a book
on the story of this image not handing it to Tony Hewitt and he was reading my book word for word. And that was too much it was too much for me, I was just a crying mess. My wife was you know, I was happy but I was also very emotional because these are very personal images and, and Tony Hewitt was you know, he's like my therapist, he was just talking about all these things he could see in the image and it was just was just full on So just imagine that like, if you're looking for more purpose in your photography. Look, I don't know if you're gonna have the same reaction within your audiences what I did with my very first three or four images, but I went from being someone that was invisible in this, you know, went from things Someone that was trying their guts out to be visible in the social media world world but really only ever been, you know, maybe one step above invisible being hardly visible at all getting no traction. And I know a lot of up a lot of photographers at home are going to be feeling the same thing. Like, I want more traction, a lot more days. But like, trust me The moment you start ignoring what other people want, and start being authentic and faithful to you know, who you are as an artist, and what your stories are, and what interests you and what affects you. And although and that kind of stuff, and that is the more than likely going to be the first moment where all of a sudden you go from being somewhat invisible because you probably potentially doing exactly the same as what millions, billions of other photographers, maybe are already doing which is trying to please the audience by getting images to get more likes and more likes and more likes. So essentially, that's what the millions the masses are already doing, to being an individual with something to say, you know, with some form of connection. And you know, there's so many people out there that are feeling the same way as you. As soon as you start talking about it through your photography, as soon as you start telling those stories. People are going to be messaging you and commenting and saying I feel the same. This you know, it's just an absolutely beautiful thing. And on another level. Here I am, 10 years ago asked me to come on a podcast and talk about anxiety and depression, not in your life. But, but choosing to tell the stories through my photography, and initially I didn't. I didn't say what the hell we're about. But after they started getting lots of traction, people wanted to know what they were about. Here I am today I'm feeling you know, I'm feeling confident enough, I feel happy enough that anxiety and depression, you know, they're part of a lot of people's normal everyday life and they're not to be shied away from. And I'm able to, you know, I still I still have a lot of troubles with it. But I'm able to embrace that as part of who I am and feel confident that, you know, it's not a
not something to be ashamed of. No, in fact,
it's not something I choose to change. Really.
Steve Arnold 40:34
That's, yeah, that's an incredible story, you know, especially when you mentioned, you know, Tony, q it was, you know, his, like he was reading from a script he had written or a book they had written that, yeah, that must have just been an incredible feeling. And, you know, I guess well, that mean, that turning point was, you know, when you stopped looking externally, for your inspiration and just looked deep within yourself. And, yeah, I think that's that's something that I think a lot of people have the idea, they know that that's perhaps something that they should start doing. Like what? What are some sort of practical ways that somebody might be able to actually implement that idea? Like, in terms of I mean, I'm gonna, I'm gonna guess maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong virtual goes back to what you mentioned at the start about intent. So, you know, those images you created, perhaps didn't happen by accident, you you took a photo and then you process the photo, and that's just what came out. It was like you knew you knew what you were trying to say throughout that whole process. Is that would that be correct?
Adam Williams 41:45
Yeah, absolutely. I think. I think number one, the very first step for myself, and this might be different for a lot of other photographers, but keep listening along to the podcast, you're gonna find out all that stuff from the other photographers too, but for more perspective it was I mean, the first, the first sign and I often come back to this and I've mentioned it already the first sign that that you need to go deeper and find more meaning in your photography is losing the energy and passion and not so much the passion but losing lightening the passion knowing that you love photography, but losing your mojo and losing your energy so that if that happens, step one, that's a trigger in your mind to say, right, we need to do something else. You know, we need to get more excitement, more passion and look early on in the journey, what will tend to happen for most people, you know, you'll get your first digital camera, you'll learn the art of that, and that becomes comfortable. And then you start wondering, oh, what's next? And you sort of losing a little bit of that passion and but then you find something else you find Lightroom or Photoshop and all of a sudden, you can make your photos really seeing and shine and then but then you get comfortable with that and you start losing that little bit of energy and a little bit of Mojo. But then you Oh, well. Next you might discover panoramic photography or you might discover long story Photography, or you might discover macro photography and you'll keep, or you might buy a new camera and that will get you excited for a couple of months. But what will keep happening that that will keep potentially wearing off, and you'll find yourself back at the same place lacking that photography Mojo And when that happens, eventually you're going to run out of things to kind of fire it up. And that's when, you know you need to probably turn to getting more thoughtful and more meaningful. So that brings us to the intent. Initially, you know, the intent is if you've got that if you know you love photography, but you've lost that, that energy for it, and you've tried everything else, then this might be for you. And then leading on from that is having photos that are more emotive, more Moody, if you like, and potentially draw a reaction from your audience. I mean, There's nothing more powerful than having an exhibition on well autoclave is much more powerful than having an exhibition of your work. And someone's just looking at your work with tears rolling down their face. Now, I'm not suggesting I'm not a sadistic type person that wants to make everyone sad and cry, but those tears could be relief. Those tears could be understanding of pain they could be. It could be anything but that's a powerful thing to connect with someone on that level, that it that it draws such an emotion from them something that reminds them of or maybe relieves them of their own trauma, or suddenly they have someone has an understanding that someone else feels and understand what they feel. And it doesn't have to be all dark and gloomy. It could be you know, I've mentioned the dark and gloomy but it could be you know, you might love the beach and you want to you want to capture an incredible emotive series on you know how the summer days that incredible days of the Australian coastline or seascape images or it could be it could be absolutely anything but it needs to be something that is deep within yourself something that means something to yourself. Now practically. Okay, so we got the first two steps losing your mojo wanting images that are more powerful, more emotive with a deeper connection. One two, if you get to there then the why I would explain that you start working on this and it's something that's going to take you years potentially to really refine but you'll be able to do it absolutely be able to do it and it's going to give you energy and excitement and meaning to your photography from them much much longer than what a new lens or a new camera or more. Maybe even a new genre of photography monitor.
Now, the way I come to my images is the mostly preconceived conceptual images where I have a fairly good idea of the story that I want to tell or project and but before even that, I suppose the why the need to, I suppose the turn will transform your emotions into ideas and then into images. And the easiest way to do that is as soon as you feel something that should be a trigger and you should have your notepad on your phone or pen and pen ready to start jotting some stuff down. I don't mean like not right now in the in the podcast, but I mean, just with you all the time ready to write down an idea as soon as you feel something emotionally. So if you feel love, if you feel sadness, if you feel joy, if you feel anxiety or depression. If you feel anything like that, that's a trigger to say, well hang on to me. Let's dig a bit deeper. Why am I feeling that because this could be a photographic image or even a series of words. So to give you an example, I've got an image based on climate change and global warming. No, I'm not an expert on climate change and global warming, but being a father of a young six year old boy, no way the world's hitting is more of a concern to me now than what it was when I wasn't a father. And I think there's a lot of fathers out there that know what that's all about. And so I'm driving along in the car, and I knew I was going to Iceland for a photographic trip. And, and I knew I would be going to that really famous iceberg beach with a little, not little They're huge. The big icebergs on the beach, black sand, and all these gorgeous crystal icebergs all lying over the beach, and I thought, yeah, I want to get the trophy shot, of course, like everyone else. But I also want to try and produce something while I've got the opportunity, maybe producing something completely different. And I didn't know what that was going to be. But that that was in my mind. And I'm driving along one day in the car and, and glycidyl of climate change and the melting of the glycines was on the news and I were talking about it. Now the glasses are melting 50% faster, or whatever it might have been. And that's sort of drew outs and anxiety. And I was thinking, well, what's my little boy was about one or two, then I thought, now I'm 50 years, what will the world look like? And it scares me a bit. And I thought Hang on a minute. Global global warming melting of glaciers melting of ice. I'm going to have access to all these incredible icebergs. What can we do? You know, they're very similar to quite In fact, they're straight off, they literally chunks of a glacial flow that come out via a lagoon and end up on the beach. And so this idea came to me I thought, well, if I know this big iceberg because you see them in Everyone's photos, I'm sure that they've melt down and there's probably little ones. So I thought if I can find a little crystal shard of a beautiful iceberg, what I can do is hold above my head like a like an idol. Imagine like holding up a religious idol to the gods if you like. And so I over a series of weeks or months, I came up with this composition where I would find a shot of ice you know, that look like a, an idol of sorts. And I would hold it up to the sun, as if I was kind of offering it in sacrifice to the sun, you know, melting it with the sun or melting it with my hands even. And then I saw I did that. And I ended up compositing it against the backdrop of a coal refinery with its big steam stacks and, you know, ugly grunge Enos. And so it became this beautiful metaphor of climate change if you like, of, of the different influences. The different
Why is the ice is being melted, I suppose. So you've obviously got my hands, the hands of humankind lying directly on the ice. So I'm suggesting that the hands falling directly on the ice is contributing within this metaphor of this particular image. Now, you might not believe in climate change, and that's completely okay. But as an artist I have to this is part of being an artist is telling the stories that you're really passionate about. So whether it exists or not, is kind of irrelevant to me. It's something that concerns me so it's something I create art about. So you've got the one metaphor there of the hands of humankind directly melting the ice, you've got this sun kind of breaking through this pollution haze in the background, the sun is also melting the ice. And then I'm also suggesting that industry, whether it be mining or otherwise, is also responsible for melting that ice. So within that one image, you've a very simplistic image of my hands, literally holding up this Beautiful. It's a rather large iceberg for a handheld iceberg against that backdrop, and you've got all these deep metaphors and stories and every time I show that image, other people find other stories and metaphors and, and different things as well. So I've kind of gone a long way around telling you how to do that. But let me break this down into a really practical form, feel an emotion, okay, that's a trigger what's the emotion about in that case, the emotion was about the anxiety of what the The world is going to look like in another 50 years.
what was causing that emotion becomes a potential headline or what was causing that was climate change. And in this case, the melting of the ice is Okay, so we've got the mood is anxiety. The image, title if you like or image theme or body of work theme, if you're going to create one more than one image is going to be climate change and melting of the ocean. And then the next step is you just bullet point it all out. So quite simply, you take the headline, climate change causing glycaemia or just even climate change if you like, and bullet point and you can have rising you know, rising ocean levels, rising sea temps, coral bleaching, by smelting, and those kind of things, you know, and they can all become individual images within themselves. So that's a really practical way of how to take your emotions, to feel the emotion. Write down what the emotion is that you're feeling, write down what's causing it, and then bullet point out the different influences or effects of that particular cause. Okay, so you can do that with anything and everything, you know, and it's a really practical way of really discovering some interesting images, and then try and create metaphors that match up to those bullet points is essentially the final step.
Steve Arnold 53:04
My, this has been absolutely awesome. I really personally have learned a lot. And you know going to take so much away from this talk. Adam, thanks so much for sharing your time and opening up and you're sharing your expertise. I know a lot of people are really going to appreciate this.
Adam Williams 53:23
Right. Thanks for having me. I loved it. I feel like I just just jabbering away the whole time and didn't let you get a word in edgewise. But
Steve Arnold 53:30
now that's so good. That's so good. That's why I have guests on, you know, so that you guys can do all the talking.
Adam Williams 53:37
Right. Thanks. Thanks for having me. And good luck with the project man. I'm looking forward to listening to all the other guests as they come through. Awesome,
Steve Arnold 53:45
thanks, man speak soon