INTERVIEW // LIAM WARTON
Interview by Sachin Khona // June 2017
Reading time: 15-20 minutes
We’re delighted to have Stockholm based photographer Liam Warton on ARC. Moving from Australia to Sweden and switching from the world of finance into photography, Liam’s work is a breath of fresh air.
Seeking to express himself through photography, Liam works with film and describes how he creates out of boredom to express his thoughts visually, particularly using double exposures to create something very different than what his eyes see. He shares some valuable advice for new photographers trying to find their own style and voice in today’s wedding photography industry and also tells us more about his ‘soft porn’ self portrait series to portray both men and women equally.
PHOTOGRAPHY WORK & PRACTICES
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER Liam?
Probably shortly after I bought my first camera five years ago. I was living and working in London and I bought an old Olympus SLR camera at the Brick Lane Markets for an upcoming trip to Ireland. I was bored and depressed as a result of working in finance and I was in desperate need of some form of creative or therapeutic expression.
On the trip I fell in love with the chemical beauty and tangibility that shooting film provides.
WHERE IS HOME FOR YOU AND WHERE DO YOU WORK? HAVE YOU ALWAYS LIVED THERE OR WAS THERE A CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO MOVE THERE?
I’m originally from Australia, but now based in Stockholm. I moved little over two years ago for love and this offered me a fresh start to really throw myself into photography. Sweden is a pretty great place where people only wear black, avoid talking to their neighbours at all costs, buy extravagantly dear alcohol, eat banana on pizza and spend 8 months of the year in winter.
DOES YOUR LOCATION INFLUENCE YOUR WORK IN ANY WAY?
Of course! I am heavily influenced by my surrounding and Stockholm offers a variety of beautiful landscapes and old architecture to keep me interested.
DO YOU HAVE A DESIGNATED WORKSPACE OR OFFICE?
I actually don’t! I work mostly out of cafes in town. I need to be surrounded by likeminded people and find working with other increases my productivity 100% (my procrastination at home is never ending).
WHat would you say has been the most defining moment of your career so far?
Still waiting for this one…I am still fairly new to pursuing photography as a career but for now I am just satisfied if I have enough money so that I can pay the bills and a little leftover to buy some film.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE VIA A SERIES OF 10 PHOTOS THAT YOU FEEL DEFINE THE WORK YOU’VE DONE IN THE LAST YEAR.
WHAT INSPIRES AND MOTIVATES YOU TO CREATE?
An inner drive to express myself, to bring clarity and understanding to life.
DO YOU DO ANY CREATIVE TRAINING OUTSIDE OF YOUR WORK?
Yes and no. I do not undergo any form of conscious training, however I believe it is important to be exposed to other forms of art and creativity. I spend a fair bit of time (because I find interesting) researching different artists and trying to understand their perspectives on life.
Probably 90% of my ideas came out of being bored and thinking about different ways in which to express my thoughts visually (I definitely don’t spend enough time doing this though, like everyone else I am constantly stimulated in one way or another and spend endless hours on social media).
WHEN YOU GET STUCK CREATIVELY, WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU DO TO GET UNSTUCK?
Oh I don’t know. I am pretty self critical about everything I create. I feel that I have become too comfortable with what/how I shoot which has resulted in my images becoming contrived, narrowed and controlled.
I need to disorientate myself and take photos as if it was the first time again.
This is probably my strongest driving force to improve, to essentially stop feeling shit I guess! Also, I fear this dissatisfaction might result in a body of work filled with inconsistencies of styles.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A PIECE OF YOUR WORK IS FINISHED AND NEEDS NO ADDITIONAL WORK?
You never really know when something is finished. However for me, I don’t want to spend so much time editing images so I try and create the desired look in camera rather than in photoshop. Saying this I find myself constantly re-editing old photo as my style and taste evolves.
DESCRIBE A PHOTOGRAPH BURNED IN YOUR MEMORY THAT YOU NEVER TOOK BUT WISH YOU HAD.
There’s too many. Life is full of these beautiful little moments which go uncaptured or unnoticed. Everything the eye no longer can see is forever lost! I think there is a lot of beauty in this idea, especially in comparison to today’s mentality where we have to document and post everything to social media to validate its existence.
Let things go uncaptured and actually experience life without a lens in front of your face.
I would love to make a little super8 documentary around this idea in the future.
ARE THERE ANY KEY LESSONS IN YOUR CAREER THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE? OR BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
I don’t know if I am the best person to offer advice or if I have any that is deep and profound. I guess what I have noticed in particular in the wedding industry is that photographers don’t take enough time to grow as artists and find their unique style. I feel like there is a lot of pressure to find yourself straight away and this often results in photographers being closely inspired by the bigger names in the industry.
So, my advice would be to take the time to grow and experiment with styles, because eventually you will find your niche rather than blending into the masses of photographers out there.
Also, I think there is a lot of legitimacy to Jim Pollard’s advice of owning your own backyard. To make the most of your surroundings because not every couple is going to get married on top of a mountain.
CAN YOU SHARE ONE CREATIVE TIP THAT YOU USE WHEN YOU ARE WORKING?
Slow down. Put the camera down and take in the whole situation before you jump in 110%. I feel like it is easy to rush everything when shooting weddings and fall into the trap of just blasting away and not actually taking the time to create the best images possible. One of my goals for 2017 is to photograph in the same way I shoot my personal work, by going slowly and thinking through each frame.
CAN YOU SHARE AN IMAGE THAT YOU’RE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF AND TELL US WHY?
I usually go out and shoot with friends and experiment with ideas that have been floating around in my head. However, last year I wanted to challenge myself and create something that was meaningful to me, this resulted in my series ‘Soft Porn.’ I am really proud of these images aesthetically and for the message they convey.
I created this series as I am a photographer who belongs to an industry where it is acceptable to exploit and over sexualize women in the name of art, or to guarantee cheap likes.
I would rather not contribute to the male gaze and strengthen the already ingrained stereotypes but rather portray both men and women equally.
On the other side of this spectrum, when men are portrayed in photography they are shown to be strong, muscular protectors. Anything that does not fit this mold results in them being labelled as “homosexuals” or “pussies”. As a heterosexual male who does not strongly relate to this outdated masculine stereotype I find this particularly troubling. Therefore, I decided to flip the scales and place myself as the model in the same vulnerable, weak, contorted sex positions which women are continuously subjected to.
WHAT ARE THE 3 MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN YOUR LIFE?
Girlfriend. She is my rock and I wouldn’t bother without her.
Oscura (Our scottish straight cat).
DO YOU WORK IN ANY OTHER FIELDS OF BUSINESS?
No, not really. I use to work in finance but focused on photography for now.
CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR DAILY SCHEDULE / ROUTINES?
Unstructured procrastination on repeat. And lots of coffee.
WHAT WITHIN YOUR WORK DO YOU NOT LIKE TO DO AND WHY? DO YOU ACHIEVE “WORK/LIFE BALANCE”?
I am a pretty reclusive person so initially I found the sociability at weddings difficult and still do to a degree.
As to finding a work/life balance, the answer is a definite no.
WHAT WAS YOUR HARDEST / PAINFUL CREATIVE FAILURE TO DEAL WITH AND WHAT DID IT TEACH YOU?
Hmm I don’t think I have experienced a super painful creative failure, but I have lost countless rolls of film to old cameras and failed experimentations in the darkroom, so that hurts a little bit!
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING (OR HOPE TO BE DOING) 5/10 YEARS FROM NOW?
I haven’t really thought about it too much, but hopefully I will still be shooting creatively and not working too much so I have time to travel and to work on personal projects.
THE CORE // FOUNDATION
IF YOU WERE NO LONGER ABLE TO USE A CAMERA, HOW ELSE WOULD YOU EXPRESS YOUR CREATIVITY?
Go back to finance…
Or do something with installation art.
ARE THERE ANY MANTRAS THAT YOU LIVE BY?
No. Not really into mantras.
IF YOU ONLY HAD 24 HOURS TO LIVE, HOW WOULD YOU SPEND YOUR DAY?
24 hours in bed with my girlfriend and cat watching terrible reality TV and drinking copious amount of coffee. Pretty much how I spend every Sunday.
HAVE YOU EVER DOUBTED YOUR TALENT? IF SO, HOW DID YOU WORK THROUGH YOUR DOUBT?
All the time.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
I would change how both women and men are portrayed within photography, so that both sexes are treated equally and have equal rights to strength and vulnerability.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Your favourite podcast(s)
Fav Music // Share a (Spotify) playlist
Slowdive, Low, Redhouse Painters, Mazzy Star, Tim Buckley, Spiritualized, Kendrick Lamar, The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Film / Documentary that is a must watch?
Your favourite book // A book you are currently reading.
A website you regularly follow?
Last place you travelled?
Favourite photographer or photo project outside of your genre?
Do you have a favourite poem or quote?
“Something is always far away… After all we hardly know our own depths.”
– Rebecca Solnit
Favourite TED talk:
Last gallery / exhibit you visited
Your favourite photography book
A creative you’d love to see interviewed on ARC?
THANK YOU, LIAM!
You can see more of Liam Warton’s work here // Web
UP NEXT …
Stay tuned for an interview next with Ohio based photographer Sarah Walk.
JOIN US AT THE EXPERIENCE
Our next photography conference in Vancouver, BC is this October 17-19, 2017.
Join us for an out-of-the box experience with passionate photographers & creatives including food trucks, city adventures, a huge party and more …
Learn more here >> The Experience // ARC
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