WILK is a highly prolific photographer working within the Australian commercial industry. He also takes extremely compelling portraits of musicians which really stood out to us at Prism. He has photographed the likes of Sarah Blasco, Goyte and Spiderbait but what really makes him stand out is the film like style he gives his music portraits which have a flow and poetry that is often lost in the digital age. We talk to him in more detail about what makes him tick.
Your music photography looks a lot like film. How much of your work is shot on digital and how much do you use film?
I used to shoot film for years, as I’ve been shooting professionally for 14-15 years. I shot medium format slide film on a Hasselblad 500cm and Large format slide film on a Linhof Master Technica land camera for commission. Around 4 years ago my Hasselblad jammed on a shoot for Dustin Tebbutt. I had stopped using Polaroids for light tests a few years back due to expense and switched to a 5D mark II for cost. I finished the shoot with the 5D and my producer of 8 years couldn’t tell the difference between the film shots and the digital. So that was that. With budgets shrinking in music (which is what I was predominately shooting), it would have been egotistical if I continued to shoot film. So I’ve only shot digital over the last 4 years.
When you’re shooting digital your images still have the sensation of experimentation and chance much like how a film image comes out. Is your digital process very meticulous or is much left to chance?
My digital process is mostly instinct from capture to grade.
You are represented by Network Agency, how did your paths cross?
I was represented by another agency from the age of about 17, after around 3-4 years I decided to have a break for 6 months and left my old agent. I approached three agents when I was ready to come back. Helen Seggie who runs Network and the producers were the warmest and willing to let me take my own path. They’re family now, I’ve been with them for so long.
Has music photography always been your passion?
No I would say portraiture is my passion. It always has been. Music photography allows my ideas to have more freedom and the imagery is a lot less conservative unlike editorial these days.
I noticed your commercial work is very different to the work you promote on your website and that of the musicians you photograph. Do you find it difficult to juggle between styles?
To be honest a little, but I don’t really shoot commercial jobs anymore. Maybe one a year now.
You seem to push your music photography a lot more than your advertising work on social media and your website, do you see advertising as more your bread and butter or do you enjoy shooting both?
No music is my bread and butter now. I’m not commissioned for commercial jobs anymore, as I don’t look the part. My images are seen as too weird or wacky for most commercial clients which I find a little hilarious as there are photographers I greatly admire that are much more out there than me. For example, I shot an annual report for an art director friend last year and she had to hide my Instagram profile from the client in fear of me losing the job.
How much of your process is “in camera” and how much is post processing?
Almost all is in camera. I push colours and so forth in the grade. Sometimes I play with 3D mapping software. I try to do as much in camera as possible as it’s much more tactile than post but sometimes ideas require digital techniques. I’m not subservient to either, as long as the image feels right. They are both strong hammers, it just depends what image you’re trying to nail.
Your photography can be quite painterly; do you have a background in other creative mediums?
Not really. I used to do life drawing a lot as a young teenager, but I didn’t study art in high school. I did study animation for a short time. I have painted a few things and my friends seem to enjoy my paintings.
Do the musicians you photograph provide any art direction over the final product or do they hand the reins over to you?
There is sometimes a base or seed of an idea, and I always use the music for inspiration, but mostly it’s all my concepts. There are certain musicians that I collaborate with, but rarely am I asked.
Do you feel the need to travel internationally for your work or is it comfortable for you to stay within Australia?
I shot a little in London last year and had a lot of interest from a few major labels, but I love the quality of life here. I’m sure I could shoot bigger names and make more money either in London, Paris or New York but my quality of life wouldn’t be the same so the only difference is ego I guess. The impulse to make ones name is a younger man’s game I think, and I used to dream of it but now that it’s possible it doesn’t really interest me to be honest. I’m just chasing the next image.
Which shoot really stands out in your mind?
The last shoot I have completed. I do have certain artists I love working with time and time again but I won’t say who ha ha.
Written by Georgia Quinn
Art Direction by Jo Nixon