Interview #24 - David Collier

David Collier is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. He’s been shooting in film since picking up an Olympus OM1 camera for the first time. I’ve noticed he has incorporated the 70’s culture into his images and they complement each other very well. He treats photography as a means to have a good time and it translates well into his images.

Check out his Favourite Five, if you haven’t

Tell us about yourself? 

Hi! I am based in Sydney, Australia and apart from photography I also work as a producer in Adland. I have been lucky enough to travel a lot over the past few years and always love exploring new countries and cultures. Being Australian, of course, I love a few beers as well.

What’s happening with you lately? 

I have been working full time in Adland for a few years now but am taking a few months break to focus more on photography and film making and also doing some travel.

What draws you into photography, specifically shooting portraits? 

I just like the challenges it brings and as I shoot a lot with 35mm films and Super 8, I love the anticipation of what I get back. I was doing lots of portraits a while back and just like to keep changing what I do as time goes on. 

Do you remember your first ever shoot? 

Ah, not really I think it was when I was about 15 and my dad gave me a camera. I did not really know how to use it and thought the photos were fantastic but they were really crappy.

How’s the photography scene over there in your perspective? 

Well, these days everyone calls themselves a photographer. It’s really buzzing though and especially with Instagram, clients really need a lot of images for their feeds so nowadays it can be more quantity than quality.

What are your challenges being a photographer? 

I just think the challenges are the ones I put on myself which I enjoy especially planning well for each shoot but having a calm attitude and not taking it all too seriously.

How does the environment you’re living in influence your photography?  

We are very fortunate here in Australia and blessed with great light all year round and fantastic urban and nature environments and as always ‘consider the light’. We are also fortunate to have great food and produce, not much pollution and a country free from a lot of the world’s problems in general (if we turn the television off, it is even better)

Do you have certain aesthetics or method of shooting? 

I try to capture moments that are candid at times and my work is always story-based. It needs to look real and believable.

Most of your work was shot in 35mm. Why film?  

I love the look of the film, especially the beautiful saturation and tones. You cannot get that with the digital medium. I do shoot with digitals in my projects but film is the winner. If I look at the skin tones and nice blue skies, digital is way too fine and cannot capture the tone as well compared to film. I like the anticipation of what might be on the rolls as they go to the lab and waiting for the results.

To what extent shooting in film is still relevant to this day? 

Same as the reasons I’ve mentioned, with particularly the popularity of Lomography as well as the resurgence of Polaroids and Impossible Project has helped. Some people think it’s hip to shoot films but they are missing the point of it all. In any case, this helps films keep on being manufactured and that’s a good thing.

What is your go-to film camera and film? 

I have a lot of cameras and have collected few over the years (as well as been given lots especially from local older folks who know me - they might go into a nursing home or don’t really want them any more). But to answer your question, I really love my Nikon F100, it’s such a great camera - a real workhorse and never misses a beat. I pretty much only use this with my Nikon 35mm F2 lens exclusively. I also use a Olympus mju II compact camera. It’s a great travel, point and shoot camera - weather proof and can take a beating.

I’ve noticed most of your images are majorly influenced from the 70’s or 80’s culture? 

I kinda just fell into it from a few shoots I did a couple of years ago. I think by trying to specialise is a good thing, rather than be the guy who can shoot everything but not well. I also like the planning and styling aspects of it all to keep it reasonably perfect. The market is huge nowadays for this style as well so that’s also a good thing for me.

Describe how do your approach your work

I spent a lot of time, planning and research including ra lot of recce, pre-production documents, mood boards, casting, styling (and working with stylists), props and grooming. So during the day of the shoot, I am super organised and my team knows what they need to do and we are not wasting time to get the job done. I also think casting is probably the most important thing to get right and I do spend a lot of time finding the right talent for the job. It’s no use having a model who does not suit the brief.

I stick to the plan we have set but always open to change things on the day. If I don’t like a set scene or shoot idea, I just stop and ‘can’ it. I also see things on the day and think, “Wow, this could look good so let’s shoot it”. I always have the best team I can find - people I have worked with before and also welcome newcomers to my team. People who are genuinely interested and want to help produce the best work possible. Also having a sense of humour helps, we always have fun and lots of laughs.

As I work a lot with 35mm films, I need a couple of days to get them processed. Digital images are downloaded and backed up the next day. I usually have a quick look at the images but I tend to step back for a couple of days at least then I review with fresh eyes. It works a lot better for me.

What’s your post-processing like? 

I am a true believer in not doing too much or any retouching. I only spend between 1 to 10 minutes on any image and about 90% of my 35mm film is not edited at all. Digital-wise, I only adjust the contrast and brightness and few other tweaks. I hate highly retouched work but then again each to their own.

Do you have preferences for choosing subjects or models? 

As I mentioned above, spending the time to get the best talent for each project is the number one thing for me. It’s no use getting a model who is not the right fit or has the right attitude. Just think of all the time we’ve spent organising shoots to have it go bad on the day. I find talent from agencies, talent directories and recently, on Instagram but they are all well screened. Instagram in general is a good thing to see any talent as it gives you an idea of their personalities as well as their photos.

Any other works or photographers that you follow? 

I do keep an eye on a few photographers. To be fair I can’t name them all.

Do you value quality or quantity? 

Quality for sure but these days, clients expect a lot of images from shoots so we need to be careful of what we send in the end to ensure what’s out there is good. 

In what ways that camera gears or cellphone apps matter to you in producing the work? 

I don’t use any apps, except a pocket light meter. I have plenty of digital and analog cameras. I am a bit of a hoarder of gears so I have enough probably too much.

Do you earn enough as a photographer? 

Not at the moment but I am working on it!

Who do you think are the audience of your work? 

The youth culture market - the 18-35s who love fashion and are media savvy. I do have a good following in Brazil for some reason, not sure why but that is nice!

How much you think people will value your work? 

My motto is if I like it then that is great. If other people like it, then that is a bonus.

How do you cope in getting the attention through social media or word of mouth? 

I try to network as best as I can through Instagram, Facebook, Vimeo and also aim my every shoot to be published in either online or print magazines and I’ve had a good run so far this year.

Any music that you listen to lately? Books that you read? Movies that you just watched recently? 

I’m looking for tracks that suit my motion work. It’s kinda complicated but I’ve always been a fan of house. I’m reading Shantaram again - it’s a long but good book and it reminds me of my travel to India. I watch a lot of movies for the styling aspects, especially the 70’s movies. Last week, I watched Pulp Fiction and Marie Antoinette. My all-time movies are Blue Velvet and the Virgin Suicides.

Anything that keeps you excited in the future? 

I am going to LA and California in 2 weeks time to have some fun, travel around and do a few shoots. It will be a big road trip with 2 models with a car full of clothes and just drive around, find locations and shoot on the run. I might head down to Palm Springs and the desert as well. So if any models in LA or Palm Springs, who are interested, just drop me a line! 

Any last words? 

Consider the light. Don’t take photography too seriously. Have fun and enjoy it and thanks for featuring some of my work. 

You can find more of David’s work below: