Paul Westlake, Photographer Interview

Fewer industries offer a broader arrange of career opportunities than fashion. In our ongoing series, The Impression highlights some of the industry’s most talented people and interesting jobs.

How did you get your start in photography?
It was almost by accident, through a girlfriend I landed a gig at a commercial studio in Sydney as an assistant. This allowed me to shoot model tests in the evenings & weekends. I was already in love with it, but suddenly I could explore. This was in the 80’s.

What photographers from the past or present have influenced you the most?
So many amazing and inspiring photographers. I always come back to just a few.
Sara Moon for opening the doors of perception and dreams.
Jaques Henri Lartigue for the romance of discovery.
Helmut Newton for his matchless sophistication and wit.
More recent photographers that always inspire me are Nick Knight, Jacques Olivar, Peter
Lindbergh and Tim Walker.

How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
As a photographer I’ve honed in on finding those subliminal moments that exist between the model and the photographer. The magic lies in between the lines and it’s very personal. The model is there and you are there with the camera but there is a third quotient, a poetic force between the two of you that cannot be explained. I hope you can feel it in some of my images.

What makes a great fashion photograph?
In many ways a great fashion photograph is like a postcard from another world, or a dream. Moments that are elevated to the extent that they have become extraordinary. That’s why people love them so much.

What are the biggest challenges facing you now?
To keep on dreaming and be open to everything that’s new and wonderful and to inspire others at the same time.

What’s the most important thing you want potential clients to know about you?
A good art director is worth their weight in gold. Clients have specific needs. Photographers for the most part have honed their craft and bring their style to the table. The intermediary is the art director. They are the link between art and commerce. Even a simple idea can be amazing, given the chance.

What sort of impact do you think digital has on fashion photography?
A huge impact. It’s no longer photography. It’s completely different. Photography (film) has been killed off by digital. It’s a thing of the past. The two things are completely different. The new medium is digital. Any one in their 20’s and younger have no idea what photography actually is. For them it’s all about digital and the internet. You may find those who have passion for using film, but en mass it’s place has been stolen.

What do you think of fashion photography today and where it is going?
Well I am hardly impressed or amazed these days. It’s very rare for me to be wowed like I used to be. Certainly most magazines now look like catalogs. The ones that are doing ‘cool’ stuff somehow all look the same. To me I think they dropped the ball. Digital imagery opened the door to just about anybody calling themselves a photographer. No one weeds the garden at all. There is an overload of very ordinary imagery and it is all very derivative and homogenized. Overall I think it’s in a transitional stage, and something great will emerge in a decade or two. But right now, I don’t see it.

Favorite film
That’s impossible! Anything by Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, Antonioni, Kubrick, Louis Malle, Buñuel, Polanski, Jean-Luc Goddard, Truffaut, Wim Wenders, Jean Pierre Melville, Nicolas Roeg, Werner Hertzog, Terrence Malik, Bertolucci, Krzysztof Kieślowski’ ….. and so on.

What is your favorite online destination?

What type of impression do you want to make?
Everything is about love. The ending is not always what you imagined it to, be but the journey is always significant, full of intrigue. What transpires between people is a real mystery and that is enormously engaging to me. I never stop searching and I never stop imagining that I will somehow convey these invisible threads onto film.

Paul Westlake is a Photographer on the The Impression Biannual Vol. 2