Interview series – William Watt (Melbourne Street)

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I came across William’s work around 2 years ago. I was looking for photoblogs of Melbourne and his site was on top the Google search. A fantastic website of street photography which is updated on a daily basis. I post myself a photo everyday and I fully understand and share the effort you make, the motivation you need and, best of all, the nice feedbacks you receive on a regularly basis.

You may have met William around in the CBD. It is amazing how he can find always an hidden corner, a fantastic composition, an awesome light….on a daily basis, not easy.

I really wanted to have him in the Interview Series, an unbelievable reference for street photography in Melbourne. I had so many questions.

Q. What made you take up street photography?
I first took up photography during an around the world trip in 2003. When I got back after 18 months of travelling with my camera everyday, I still wanted it with me. It allowed me to look at my home town with fresh eyes. Then as I started to look at master photographers from the past, I was drawn to the authenticity of the great street photographers From there, it wasn’t long until I was focusing exclusively on street photography, trying to develop my own style and using it to hone my camera skills.
Distance RunnerQ. What do you love most about Melbourne?
Melbourne is a fantastic city for photography. We have fantastic, crisp light that varies throughout the year. We regularly get storms, sunsets, and even a reasonably cold winter which can be fantastic for street work.

 

Q. What kind of gear do you use? 
Probably my favorite lens is a 35mm  or 50mm. For Melbourne Street I am usually using a Canon 5d mkii as I need to have a quick turnaround on the shots, but I shoot regularly on an old Rolleiflex as well and love the results I am able to get with it.

 

Q. Among the gadgets that you own, is there something that you wish you haven’t bought?
I’m still searching for the perfect bike rack that will hold my camera gear while I am getting around town.

 

Q. In the field, what are your settings?
Typical, if any, ISO, Focus, Shooting Mode, Aperture, etc
I try and keep my ISO below 800 as I don’t like any noise in my digital work. I sometimes use zone focus, but if I’m working with a low aperture I’ll set the auto-focus to the middle point and re-frame after selecting my focus point.

 

Q. How do you plan a shoot?
I don’t. I go with the flow. I’ll try and explore new areas and not repeat my patterns, but I usually go on feel, where the light is and try not to think too much.

 

Bolivia

Bolivia

 

Q. Among your works, which one is your favorite?
Tough question…. In terms of my Melbourne stuff, I love Distance Runner as it’s not something I think other photographers would shoot, I dig the composition and I have fond memories of that day.
From my travel shots, I like this shot from Bolivia for it’s minimalist look and sense of loneliness

 

Q. What is your favorite time for taking street photos?
Sunrise, Dusk or the city lunch break.

 

Q. How do you post process your photos? 
Always Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop too.

 

Q. What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
Composition and impact.

 

Q. Whose work has influenced you most?
I’ve looked at a lot of NYC street photography and love the sense of vibrance. Aussies Jesse Marlow and Trent Parke are local heroes of mine, and Les Walkling has had a big impact on my processing skills.

 

Q. How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
These days, I just keep shooting! Practice is key. But not just in terms of time, you have to have your attention on what you are doing and always be trying new things. I don’t look at as much photography as I used to but I still draw inspiration from around the globe through the internet.

 

Q. What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
Shoot RAW and shoot film.

 

Q. What would you like to say to a person who wants to take up street photography?
Don’t be afraid of taking people photographs in the street – the law is on your side, plus most people are so caught up in their thoughts they wont even notice you. But be respectful. Don’t go all Bruce Gilden and give photographers a bad name.

 

Q. Why did you decide to start a daily photo blog?
I woke up one night at 2am with the concept, name and logo in my head. The energy to do it has always been there. I wanted to offer my own perspective on a city I love, Melbourne.

 

Q. Tell us about your special city sites
I like mingling with the inner city office workers and seeing their routines during the day. I’m also frequently around railway stations and tram stops, looking for locals who tell a story about what Melbourne is all about. I also keep an eye on the cycling community as I think they are a poorly treated minority, but to be honest most of them aren’t great to photograph (lycra)!

 

 Q. What social environments do you use and which one is your favorite and why
Social Media makes it easy to build an audience, which is a really important step for a photographer. By having a platform like Facebook that people come back and check on a daily basis, it creates a direct link to the public. This is great from a marketing standpoint and has allowed Melbourne Street to grow organically.
However, I occasionally find it quite discouraging to see which images do well on social media and which ones get overlooked. Because you are dealing with a very broad audience, who may not have a huge appreciation for photography, a nice sunset photo will always get a lot more interaction and activity than a well taken street portrait. And because you are in the mix with so many other brands and imagery, it is usually the spectacular that stands out, which means more subtle work is lost in the noise.
I’ve also found it hard to disconnect the response from Facebook fans to my own appreciation for a shot; do you give the people what they want, or do you give them what you want?

 

Check out his website and facebook page. William is organising an exhibition, an event you cannot miss if you are in Melbourne!!
 http://melbournestreet.net https://www.facebook.com/melbournestreet


Check other photographers in the interview series

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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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