“When you start out as an artist, you think what you’re doing is good and after a while you realise that to stand out you need to do something interesting and unique.”
Namibian Photographer, Willem Vrey is making a name for himself as an up and coming photographer. His exceptional eye for capturing the essence of a person is resulting in a collection of standout portraits. Like many artists though, he feeds his space for creative expression through doing corporate work. His formula for balancing the two is working and he is finding himself able to grow as a photographic artist in Namibia. 99FM’s MYD Art sat down with Willem to find out how as a photographer you know yourself and find your niche in photography.
“I used to work on a cruise ship, doing photography for the guests on the ship. It meant that I worked 14 hours a day for 7 days a week. It also meant that I got really good at working with the camera because I had to take everything in manual mode and took about 3000 pictures a day. Those pictures had to be right every time because the guests would buy them as you took them.”
What style of photography do you enjoy the most?
“Right now I do weddings, corporate events, advertising campaigns, as well as portraits. I pay the bills with the corporate stuff and the advertising campaigns, and for fun I enjoy doing some of the weirder stuff. I enjoy all these styles of photography, but I am still finding my niche really.”
Where would you like to take your photography to?
“One day I’d like to be well-known internationally as a Namibian photographer. Right now, I’d like to do more work in the corporate space as I see many advertising agencies still bring in South African crews, who charge huge amounts when we have the skills, teams and equipment right here.”
You’re well known in Namibia for your portraits, yet you say you haven’t yet found your niche?
“I experiment a lot. I enjoy work in the studio doing portraits and objects, but also when I travel I take a camera along. There are just so many types of photography you can do; landscape, wildlife, fine arts, portraits and more. I am letting my style evolve organically as I go and experiment with what can be done.”
“I like photographing people because it can be challenging when you try to capture the person and make the image interesting at the same time. When you start out as an artist, you think what you’re doing is good and after a while you realise that to stand out you need to do something interesting and unique. There are so many really good photographers around the world and to become well known as a photographer you really need to do something unique.”
Talk us through the creative process to find your niche as a photographer?
“The creative process can go really far. You can do something amazing with no budget but then there are also photographers like Gregory Crewdson, who recreate movie like sets and use huge budgets to take a single picture. The challenge is to find out where as a photographer you fit. A lot of this happens though experience and trial. But also, you need to focus first on the art and not on the sales. Sales means you have to focus on the lowest common denominator of what people will buy. Many people want an image of the Namibian sand dunes, but this will not necessarily set you aside as a photographer. I believe that as a photographer and an artist, you need to go further than what is expected. For me, I want provoke people to think about the work I do.”
As a photographer, does is make a difference to take a photo of someone who is comfortable in their own skin?
“It is easy to take a photograph of someone who is confident but there are many other things that make a person beautiful and interesting in an image. Pain can be beautiful and so can difference, being different is beautiful. Some things can be more beautiful in the conventional sense, but that doesn’t make them interesting.”
“Somebody who is maybe unusual looking but confident is sexier than someone who is perfect looking but shallow and uninteresting. ”
If you want to take a look at more of Willem Vrey’s work, take a look at his website here : Willem Vrey Photography