Richard Williams - Interview
Born in Birmingham, England in 1950, Richard has spent all his working life in Photography, Design and Marketing. Diva Photography was set up in 1980 as a parallel enterprise to his main design business. The impetus for Diva Photography was the poor quality of commercially available nude or near nude images available at that time, but this soon developed into a fine art photographic business.
Richard does not have a specific style; he prefers to create images with a specific theme in each session. Recently he has moved away from studio based images, preferring instead to work on contextual themes of the “Wild World” images taken in ancient deciduous woodland, and “At home” images of his models in their own homes.
Until 2005, Diva Photography worked only on commissions but following the launch of the Internet site (www.diva-photography.com) there was a dramatic increase in demand for both stock and commissioned images. The Internet site has an average of 5000 visitors a day with nearly 350 million images viewed since the site went live.
In addition to digital formats, Richard still works in both 35mm and 6x6cm film and produces prints on traditional archival silver gelatine paper.
1. What is fine-art photography for you? Is it just a representation of the human form or is there something more to it?
Fine art photography is just that – it’s Art. In its purest state it can be a representation of the human form - or some element of the human form - or it can be the human form that interacts with its environment to create a new or challenging image. That’s the main reason why I rarely include models' faces in my images; people tend to look at the face rather than the image itself. Of course there are the occasions where a full nude image is the right representation of the model's personality and then the complete human form is perfectly acceptable as fine art.
2. What do you think is the aim of fine-art photography?
At its most basic the aim it must be to challenge the viewer, but the image must both make a statement about the nude form and be pleasing to look at otherwise nobody would study the image. Actually the nude is a difficult subject to photograph, we all know what a naked body looks like but creating an image that says something new is what we all seek to achieve and it is the drive in taking a photograph.
3. What are the elements that a fine-art/nude photo should have?
You'd probably get a different answer from every photographer and it is very much a question of personal style, but I think a good fine art nude photo needs to have at least one of 4 elements:
4. What are the essential requirements to succeed as a fine-art photographer?
I would say that it is the same as for any other type of photographer, technical skills and some degree of creativity. As with everything, practice makes perfect – and the more you practice - try new ideas and locations and work with new models – the better you become.
5. Have you modelled your work on someone you look up to?
I don't think I've consciously modelled my work on anybody, but I have been influenced by Man Ray, Helmut Newton, John Swannell, David Bailey and many other fashion photographers who include elements of the nude in their photographs. I ought to say that I lived in France in the early 1980s and that probably was the greatest influence on me. The French have a very "grown-up" view of the nude and use nude images extensively in all forms of communication and advertising.
6. There is a fine line between fine art and pornography. How do identify that and how do you keep the two apart in your work?
Yes, there is a fine line between the two and the problem is compounded because that the line not only exists in the mind of the photographer but also in the mind of the audience, so what may be fine art to me may be pornographic to somebody else.
However, it is very easy to keep the two apart because I don't want to take pornographic images and so I don't set out to create anything that could be viewed in that way. I will admit that when I take images with an erotic theme I often ask myself what would the viewer see in that image and it can be difficult to stay on the right side of the line, but ultimately if I'm not happy with an image or if the model expresses concern then I don't publish. I often ask the model for some feedback about erotic images and the female view of erotica is quite different from the male.
7. What were the struggles you had to face when you took up this particular genre of photography?
Actually the main struggle was getting the confidence to start and then establishing my style. Finding a model was not too difficult - I asked a friend if she would pose and the answer was yes. If I’m honest the struggle always has been to try and create the right image – it’s still the same today – I discard 95% of the images I take as simply not being good enough.
8. What kind of rapport is required with the models/subject? What is your degree of input and how much must the model be able to emote and express on his/her own?
Actually, the photographer and models create the image jointly either consciously or unconsciously. I always start a shoot with a discussion in general about what I’m trying to achieve. When it comes to each shot, I’ve usually sketched out the image I'm trying to create on paper in advance so we discuss how we’re going to achieve it - she creates her interpretation of my image. It is essential to establish a good rapport with the model and for the model to have some empathy with the work of the photographer - the image must be collaboration by both photographer and model. When I find a model with whom I work well with then I try and maintain that working relationship for as long as possible.
9. Did you go through any special courses to achieve this level of proficiency?
I studied photography after my first degree but actually you have to go and take photographs. It’s probably worth saying that working with film is a good foundation for a photographic career, film is a very demanding medium and if you can produce good images on film then you can certainly produce good digital images.
10. What would you say is your motto in life?
I think I’d have to say “Always do your best”, whatever to do, what ever your profession or job, you should always try and achieve the best you’re capable of. If I had a second motto it would be “Don’t be afraid of change” – the world is moving so rapidly that if your not moving with it, then you’ll be left behind – and that applies to art and style as well as technology.