NAME: BAXTER WILLIAM
From high school drop out to one of Adelaide’s most recognised lifestyle and portrait photographers, seventeen year old Baxter William Wiles has well and truly gone places in his short but successful career. Annabel Bowles chats to him about his progression as freelance photographer.
A: How and when did you get into photography?
B: In Year 8 I realised I was horrible at school, and in this year I did a camera angles assignment in English. I picked up my Dad’s camera and took some photos and I was like ‘holy shit, people make money out of doing this, this is insane, this is so easy!’ Which it wasn’t, but I stuck to it.
B: I was obsessed with science and art as a kid, from the age of three to thirteen. Like heavily obsessed, and photography mixes both of them really well. It was a hobby from midway Year 8 until the end of Year 9, where I started to take it a bit more seriously. Then I started shooting in the city and got in contact with some brands and magazines and it kind of just followed on through there, and I became the youngest photographer in the market at that time.
A: So is this around the time photography became a career more so than a hobby?
B: By the end of Year 10, just after turning 16, both my parents and I decided that I wouldn’t go to school anymore. The first week of Year 11, when everyone else was going back to school, I was working at CityMag at the time. I was tripped out because I was like running around town when no one else was in town, and I felt way older than I was.
A: Was CityMag your first employer?
B: No not really, it was my first major publication, before that I worked for Clique magazine, which is more of a fashion-based publication, but this was a proper newspaper. After that, I worked for the Advertiser a bit too.
I was obsessed with science and art as a kid, from the age of three to thirteen. Like heavily obsessed, and photography mixes both of them really well.
A: Oh wow, that’s really cool. But generally you’re a freelance photographer right?
B: Yeah, I’ve been on and off with that with different clients. I’ve done full-time work with some clients and part-time work with other clients, like gigs or little jobs. I worked about five or six months as a commercial advertising photographer, then I did freelance for a bit, but now I’m back to doing full-time work, but more for myself this time, at Street Workshop.
A: What’s Street Workshop?
B: Street Workshop is a retail/cafe space in Adelaide soon to become a creative hub and workspace. We will sell products online, hold workshops, and have a public work place on a tip based service.
A: You sound like you’re pretty busy!
B: Any freelance photographer is going to have dry spots, but it’s starting to get to a point now where if you set yourself up business-wise, where I have really well at Street Workshop, you don’t have dry zones because it’s a very constant, free flowing business. Also, because I’m managing and creating the online content there, there’s continuous work. It’s pretty hectic, you sleep, eat, Street Workshop, repeat. It’s insane, it does fry your brain a little bit.
It’s pretty hectic, you sleep, eat, Street Workshop, repeat. It’s insane, it does fry your brain a little bit.
A: Do you think that the fact that you were fifteen when you first entered the industry professionally had an impact on your success?
B: Yeah, it works really well as a marketing point of view, that’s why I wanted to do it so young.
A: So you would say that it set you apart from everyone else?
B: Yeah definitely, and the content I was producing at the time was really good for a fifteen year old.
A: When starting up, did you get in contact with employers before they got in contact with you?
B: Yeah, you gotta really put yourself out there to begin with, because no one knows who you are. Then after time other brands, publications and businesses start talking to you, because they will see your content and like what you do.
A: Did you have any guidance when you were starting out in the industry?
B: Some photographers do help you out but it’s a very competitive industry so they won’t give you too much, or they’ll give you misleading information, which has happened. But you tend to learn more from the businesses that do work with photographers, and you just have to ask a lot of questions like ‘how do these photographers work?’, ‘what can I do better?’, that kind of stuff. All the technicals you can learn online, all the artistry you have to find yourself.
Some photographers do help you out but it’s a very competitive industry so they won’t give you too much, or they’ll give you misleading information, which has happened.
A: What are your favourite subjects to photograph?
B: I would have to say it’s changed over the years, it’s gone from conceptualism and fashion to now just fashion, lifestyle and editorial. Especially lifestyle, I love lifestyle stuff, like Instagram, lifestyle content is so cool.
A: What’s been the peak of your career so far?
B: Tigerlily’s been the most famous person I’ve photographed, that was really cool. She reposted my shot and she had about half a million Instagram followers at the time.
Shooting Tigerilla was pretty cool too, who’s a different person by the way. It’s kind of just been a constant flow, although getting that full time job as a commercial advertising photographer was probably my peak. But it turned not what I wanted it to be, and I got really bored and it was really mentally depleting. So I didn’t follow through with that job, because I had better things to do that would benefit my future, rather than being stuck in an office.
A: Where would you like to be with your photography in ten years?
B: Well my main thing at the moment, my portfolio as a photographer, is already pretty good, it’s where I want it to be in terms of my age. The main thing I’m working on at the moment is Street Workshop, in terms of management, building, sales, marketing, advertising, but along with that, is content, which I’ll be shooting, and adding to my portfolio at the same time.
It’s kind of just been a constant flow, although getting that full time job as a commercial advertising photographer was probably my peak.
B: In the next six months to a year I want to duplicate Street Workshop, so have another store in Adelaide, and also in Melbourne and Sydney, and hopefully overseas within the next two to three years. Maybe also do a magazine on the side, with the profit from Street Workshop.
A: What guidelines do you follow when taking a photo?
B: Overall, you really want to seperate your thinking into two different things; how you shoot the subject matter, and what the subject matter is. It took me so long to figure that out. Have an important subject matter, when you can, and shoot it to the best of your ability which suits the subject matter, no matter the situation. If you’re doing artistic stuff, make sure your subject matter is mint. It’s gotta be on point.
A: Who’s your favourite photographer?
B: High fashion photographer has always been George Antoni, he recently shot the 2016 Adelaide Fashion Festival. General photographer has always been Andrew Kearns. My inspiration, especially when I was into conceptualism, was Alex Stoddard. He’s really good at Photoshop which is really cool.
You really want to seperate your thinking into two different things; how you shoot the subject matter, and what the subject matter is.
A: Would you ever go into film making?
B: I have thought about it, but I really want to perfect my photography completely before I go into film making. That’s why I deal with other videographers so I can understand how that business works. There is more money in video, but if you’re smart about it, you can make enough money in photography.
A: Do you think there are enough opportunities in Adelaide or would you consider moving?
B: Adelaide is a very fickle city, and I think everyone that’s worked here as a creative know that and take it on as a challenge. That’s why I’m trying to stay here as long as possible, plus I was born here. If you can make it in Adelaide, you can pretty much make it anywhere else because it’s so dry here in Adelaide. I want to be able to ‘make it’ by the time I’m twenty.
A: What is ‘making it’ though? Haven’t you made it already?
B: Making it to me is making enough money to live off for the rest of your life.
Adelaide is a very fickle city, and I think everyone that’s worked here as a creative know that and take it on as a challenge.
A: What advice would you give to someone who’s starting out in professional photography?
B: It’s going to sound super cliche, but it’s so true; just keep on shooting. Don’t stop shooting, because the more you shoot, the more you work out your work flow, how you work, how you shoot, your artistic eye. That’s how you develop that. You do learn the technicals and some methods through YouTube and other people, but you really learn your own mind and your own work flow if your just keep on shooting. You experience things firsthand. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last three years.
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