Interview: Liam White

Continuing our interview series, this week we talk to Liam White.

National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

how long have you been shooting film?

I started taking pictures with a camera that my grandmother gave me – I guess I was about ten or so. I’m 30 now, so I guess that makes it close to 20 years. It was a little Kodak Instamatic that shot square blurry pictures – they really were rubbish pictures, but I loved them. I think I had another camera that I got with my subscription to Lucky magazine when I was in primary school, and my parents would humour me and get my photos printed for me.

When I was eighteen and moved out of home, my dad gave me his Olympus OM-1, and I fell in love with that little camera. Apart from the lightmeter, it’s all mechanical, so it really was the perfect camera to learn to shoot with. I shot a lot of pictures over the next few years with that camera.

I never thought about using them for anything more than my own personal snapshots though, until I got my first (and only) digital camera and started sharing a few photos on flickr. Ironically it was the process of sharing those crappy digital pictures for a year or so that gave me the kick in the pants that made me start shooting film again. That camera lasted about a year before I picked up the OM-1 again. There have been times I’ve been tempted to buy a dSLR, but I’ve always stuck with film. I get bored too easily with digital photography. Film holds more wonder for me.

Dave Carswell
Dave Carswell by Liam White

do you prefer colour or black & white? do you have a favourite film, camera or technique you like to work with?

I much prefer shooting colour. It seems to me that it’s a more truthful way of capturing the world. At the moment I really love the new Kodak Portra film. I was a big fan of their NC range before they consolidated the NC with the VC film, but I think they did a great job with it. Before I started shooting medium format though, I was in love with Fuji’s 35mm colour film. The greens and blues were perfect for shooting Tasmania’s forests, cool light, and weak sun.

At the moment my favourite camera to shoot with is my Hasselblad 500C/M – it’s sharp, solid, and much lighter than the Mamiya RB67 I was using to shoot medium format with beforehand. I have a soft spot for those OMs though. The OM-1 is still my favourite camera to shoot with, though I’ve been shooting with an OM-2n more lately. I think I’m starting to like the way it meters a little better than the OM-1. I bought a Holga at xmas time and I’ve been shooting with that more than any other camera at the moment. I guess I’ve probably run 15 rolls or so through it in the last couple of months. I like how simple it is, and I’m not worried about it rattling around in my bag, so it goes everywhere with me.

As far as technique goes, right now I am trying to capture light, form, and colour contrast. That’s about it. The subjects are much less important to me than the way the light falls on them, or the way two colours will create a certain shape, or interact with each other. It sounds pretty abstract, I know. But that simple interplay between a few elements sort of quietens my mind down. I could never be a street shooter in the traditional sense of street shooting. I’d miss the people because I’d be too busy shooting the deserted alleyway with the nice reflected light on the other side of the street. I have a series of images I’ve been shooting over the past few years that seem to me to be quiet, simple, subtle images. Those shots are what I’m looking for when I’m taking pictures.

show us one of your favourite shots and tell us a bit about it – how did you take it? is there a story behind it?

Quiet by Liam White

There’s about fifteen years of story behind this one. This is the bed that I used to sleep in when I stayed at my family’s shack in Sisters Beach, Tasmania, every summer. The shack is something pretty special to our family. My grandfather and grandmother built it in the late 50s / early 60s, when there were only a handful of places there. As a kid, we went there every summer to swim, read, ride bikes, play cricket in the sloping, lumpy front yard, and run inside for the Stingose to deal with the inevitable jackjumper and bullant bites on our bare feet. There’s still no phone, no mains water, and shoddy TV reception there. It’s great.

I took this picture when I visited for the first time after about five years of having not been there. I had been having a shitty time for the few months before visiting, and felt that the few days I spent there were some kind of marker. I guess that’s why this shot feels kind of important to me. It reminds me a little bit about who I am.

show us a favourite shot from the MSM pool. what do you enjoy in other peoples’ photos?

Can I have two?

untitled by supacrush

This picture is one of Karen / supacrush’s. I really like her style of shooting, particularly the images she shoots with her Hasselblad. She shot a great series of images from New Zealand a while back but this shot stands out for me because it’s so perfectly balanced, understated, and simple. I’ve been really interested in these kinds of pictures lately – the kinds of shots that talk about the traces of humans on spaces. This one seems kind of lonely in its hard artificial surfaces, and sort of suggests to me that we live in this concrete world, yet the natural world is right there if we choose to look at it.

zahrah by MxxxM

This is one of Morganna / MxxxxM’s pictures from her ‘Motherhood’ series. It’s such a beautifully measured portrait. The light is perfect (really, perfect), and the details like the subject’s hand on her child’s head, and the interwoven fingers of mother and child are so familiar, intimate, yet still, and relaxed. I think one of the things I like best about Morganna’s pictures is that they’re not so much about her as the photographer as they are about the subject. There’s no feeling that the photographer is trying to be clever. I like that sense of honesty and lack of photographic ego that I get from her pictures. It’s something to aim for.

question from the previous interviewee Lea: What is your favourite subject to shoot?

This varies from week to week, but I think I end up chasing window light a lot of the time, particularly wintery, cool, clear light. I love the way it falls onto and off of objects in a room, and the way it can change in a matter of minutes. If I’m taking a picture of someone else, I’m usually distracted by how the light looks. Oops.

Central Park, NYC
Central Park, NYC by Liam White

please give us a question to ask the next person.

If you could choose right now to take one of two paths in your life – between making a living from photography but shooting subjects you’re not interested in, or shooting as a hobby for the rest of your life but never making money from your pictures, which one would you choose? Why?

Thank you Liam! You can find Liam on the net here:

his blog: http://blog.liamwhite.com.au/
his website: http://www.liamwhite.com.au/
on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/liamliam

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Barbara Fischer • March 24, 2012

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  1. Dave Carswell March 26, 2012 - 10:30 am

    Very thoughtful interview!

  2. Daniel March 26, 2012 - 8:03 pm

    Nice read Liam. Great pics of yours, and your selections too.

  3. Emma May 28, 2012 - 11:36 pm

    articulate, meaningful & heartfelt…

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