“ I’ve always been drawn more into the beauty of natural world, the oddities in the man-made world and now more recently I’ve been challenging myself with more portrait-based work too.”
INTERVIEW: LANI SPICE
PHOTOGRAPHY: SAM WELLS
To start off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Born in England, emigrated to JHB for the first couple of years and then spent the last 20 something years sipping on the Cape Town sun.
When did photography begin for you?
Going back to where it all probably started was when I took my Dad’s analogue Pentax on Grade 8 camp. The photos were terrible and out of focus, but I think it’s what got me into experimenting more with photography. Years later I would then pick up the same pristine camera again and fall in love with shooting film.
When did you decide to join Instagram and how have you used it to expand/ harness your passion for photography?
I was very late getting an iPhone, and before having one, Instagram was an iOS exclusive platform. So I’d say I only officially joined early 2014. I had always taken photos, but now with the mobility of having a phone on hand with a good camera and an editing app like VSCO, it is a lot easier to capture things that intrigue me on the fly and share it with people – things that I would’ve normally had to pass up shooting because I had left my camera at home. Since joining, it has always been more of a portfolio/ showcase of my passion for photography, rather than a visual diary of day-to-day activities and food.
How do you feel about Instagram being a platform for many different kinds of imagery, be it different creative mediums or even just advertising? Do you think it should be based on what it was originally created for, photography?
No I don’t think so. I think the allure of Instagram is that you have the freedom to follow whoever you think will inspire/ motivate/ interest you depending on who you are. There’s so many incredible accounts out there across a variety of mediums who are killing it and making a name for themselves because their content is creative and unique. I think it would be a shame if were only limited to photography. Coming from an advertising background, I think if the brand’s content speaks to the audience that believes and follows it – great. However, this sponsored advertising being forced into your feed, where before you had this freedom to see only what you want to see, is detrimental to a brand in my opinion.
We’ve noticed you also use the app as a platform for your analogue work, would you say you see it more as a ground for this kind of exposure or do you still enjoy the mobile photography side of it too?
When I first joined Instagram, I saw it as a purist platform for this smartphone medium and believed strongly in that. As time went by, and as much as my phone was always on me to shoot, I felt as though there were limitations to the medium whilst slowly but surely, everyone else started converting, and uploading beautiful work from DSLRs etc. I had fun shooting this new medium, but my true passion was shooting film for its rawness and the feeling it could portray. The platform is incredible for sharing and marketing your work, so I definitely now see it more as a ground for giving exposure to the photography I care about and now I’m purely about that.
With all the different kinds of filters and effects used in producing the final image in Instagram these days, would you say there is still such a thing as a purist within the Instagram community?
A purist in the sense of someone only using their iPhone, yes. I follow some great iPhone-only accounts, which has its own great creative aspect, but in saying that, in a very saturated creative space only using your phone has limitations, especially if you want to market yourself on this story-telling platform.
Instagram is one of the most popular photography applications in the world and allows photography on all levels to be shared. What are your thoughts on the different kinds of images being uploaded, do you feel they should be of a certain level of skill or does it not matter?
I think as with any form of social media outlet in this day and age, the platform promotes a means of digital self-expression, self-promotion and self-gratification to a user in a very accessible way. A photo and caption in its simplicity, with no added clutter, has led to its fast rise in popularity and Facebook buying it early on. Everyone uses it in different ways depending on their take on using the platform, so I don’t think the level of skill matters; it’s more about whom you want to follow. In saying that, the digital world is filled with clutter so it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more beautiful images out there.
Do you feel that you approach the composition of your photography differently, simply because you have to fit it into a smaller viewing space?
No not at all. Even when Instagram didn’t allow for different aspect ratios like it does now, I still stayed true to my composition and added white borders to maintain it. I think limiting yourself to a platform’s output is limiting yourself to what you can create or what story you can tell.
Photography is not your only skill set; you are also a multi-disciplinary designer. Do you feel these two disciplines ever tie in with each other or do you keep them separate?
I feel that, creatively speaking, they go hand-in-hand. In both, composition and message/feeling you are trying to communicate is everything. So in terms of the approach to producing creative work it is the same, but in terms of crossing over the two mediums I’m still experimenting with that, but by no means should they necessarily be separate.
Do you find it necessary to plan the subject matter of your posts, or do you feel it’s better to take it as it comes?
With shooting film and as a non-professional photographer, most of my content is based on travelling to new places and capturing things or situations that intrigue me, as it comes. So it’s more of an organic creative process rather than a going out to shoot content on a daily basis, that you know works, one.
Aside from analogue and your mobile phone, do you use any other devices?
No, I’m all about that analogue life. I own a DSLR for more commercial type stuff, but I’m more passionate about film and it’s results. You just can’t beat it.
When shooting, is there a subject matter you are particularly drawn to?
I’ve always been drawn more into the beauty of natural world, the oddities in the man-made world and now more recently I’ve been challenging myself with more portrait-based work too.
Tell us more about Fresh Prints Publications?
Fresh Prints is essentially a zine publishing collective with multiple creative aspects spanning from it. It’s an idea that has been long in the making between Nicholas Preen and myself, and 2016 is where it will be seeing the light.
Any plans or projects you are currently busy with?
I recently decided to leave the more corporate world of advertising, after a couple of years, in favour of doing freelance work and getting more involved in some projects such as Fresh Prints. I travelled quite a bit around the country last year, so the plan is to travel and shoot more this year whilst working on a variety of graphic design/illustration projects.
I’m sure it’s a tough one, but who would you say inspires you the most within the Instagram community?
There are so many talented people in the Instagram community it’s hard to not have a long list here of people who inspire me on a daily basis in different ways. I think the people who inspire me most to push out better work are the local friends/people I know because you’re on the same playing ground. Adriaan Louw, Kent Andreason, Caroline Mackintosh, Jared Paisley, Dave East and my brother Tom Wells for good old sibling rivalry.
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