AmeriCymru spoke to Graham Williams a Welsh photographer based in Bangor, Gwynedd. Graham's ambition is to photograph the world starting with his own small part of it in North Wales.
AmeriCymru: Hi Graham and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. What sparked your interest in/and passion for photography?
Graham: Thanks for asking Ceri. To be honest it was actually quite an unrelated (perhaps superficial) aspect that attracted me to photography. It was the sheer sense of precision and weight of a Canon AV1 that my Dad bought in the 1980s.
This fascination then evolved over the years as a consequence of the places that I travelled to; whether that be on package holidays to Spain, R&R with the Royal Navy, cruise ships in the Caribbean, or an eco resort in Byron Bay in Australia. The one feature these experiences have in common is that I was unable to properly capture the sights, which is a real shame, as I remember when I was 8 plotting my travels of the world on the Reader's Digest World Atlas and planning at that time of writing 'my book of the world'. I can recall wind-swept tropical beaches in Ghana, feluccas sailing on the Nile at Aswan, and the sun setting at Venice- I haven't got a single photograph of these scenes! There's only one thing for it: go back with a camera. I also vividly recall the evening light in the Sahara desert as the red sand melded in with the red sky, simply amazing. The problem was that I was doing the Marathon des Sables at the time, which meant that there was absolutely no chance of taking a 3Kg camera around; I had even sawn my toothbrush in half to save weight. Again though, I definitely want to return to photograph the desert because it has such simple lines in the sand created by the wind, together with vibrant primary colours.
What really inspired me was the work of some Western Australian photographers. They managed to capture the colours and movement of the sea in an almost dream-like way. I then decided that I too would try my hand at it and I have the benefit of living in an area where there is so much more diversity of subject matter.
AmeriCymru: What are the main criteria that influence your choice of shots? What are your favourite photographic subjects?
Graham: The main criteria are that the image should invite the viewer to 'want to be there' and that it is aspirational. I find that strong composition and simplicity go a long way to achieving this. I don't have a favourite subject as such but I have found that on reflection water plays a major part in the pictures that I chose to show. This may take the form of lakes, seascapes, rivers, waterfalls, or snow. What I'm really looking for in the ideal photograph is a nice strong curving form that draws you in. Curves can be found by watching the movement of things; swaying grass, or the way water moves across rocks for example.
AmeriCymru: What are the main advantages for a photographer in being based in North Wales?
Graham: The eye-opening experience brought about by foreign travel has enabled me to see North Wales in a different light. In the Whitsunday Islands I jokingly remarked to someone that it was just like the Mawddach Estuary in Barmouth. Now OK I was definitely joking but there was a grain of truth running through that comment and it only really occurred to me some weeks later. On reflection, the couple from Manchester that I made the remark to knew exactly what I was talking about and the irony was that we had flown 10,000 miles and found a common thread, namely sand, turquoise water, and mountains.
I can get in the car and within half an hour be on a beach, in an forest, by a river, in woodland, beside a lake, in the mountains, among sand dunes, or on a rocky cliff. The only thing I can't arrange is 28 degrees C with the occasional cloud for artistic effect!
AmeriCymru: Can you elaborate on your connection with Australia?
Graham: I was born in North Wales and in 1973 we emigrated as £10 poms to Adelaide in South Australia. I started at the infants school there and started to speak 'Australian'. After a few years we returned to live in North Wales and then 32 years later, I returned there with my wife as we were considering emigrating and even visited my old house - a weird experience! Since then we have returned on four other occasions taking in places like Sydney, Hunter Valley, Byron Bay, Brisbane, Albany, Perth, Shark Bay, Margaret River, Whitsundays, the Daintree, and the Great Barrier Reef. Despite the horrendous exchange rate for us Poms (it gets worse on every visit), it's still definitely worth going there! Interestingly, most of the time photography is best done early or later in the day as this gives greater colour and shape. However, it can often be the case in Australia that 12 noon with a polarising filter is the best time, particularly in the northern parts. This is because a polarising filter will work in almost any direction that you chose to look when the sun is directly overhead.
AmeriCymru: OK...the technical stuff. What is your favourite photographic equipment? What cameras do you use and why?
Graham: In 1989 I worked in a camera shop in Cardiff and traded in my Nikon F401 for an F801 and thus began my brand alligience to Nikon. You tend to find this; once you become involved in one particular stable it becomes difficult to move away because you buy all sorts of extra pieces of kit that will only work with your brand. At that time I firmly believed that Nikon had the edge in terms of build quality. Due to the recession in 1990 I had to sell all my photography gear and it wasn't until 2010 that I reinvested in equipment and I suppose it was because of habit and the comfort factor that I bought back into Nikon once again. I bought a Nikon D5000. Some eight months later, as I result of people's comments, it became apparent that there was the potential to take things to a new level and so I took the plunge and went for an upgrade: a Nikon D3s. What I have found is that it is not the number of pixels that a camera has, it is how unique each pixel is able to be and this is very apparent with the new kit.
With regard to the 'digital dark room', I use a 27" iMac and Photoshop CS5. The Mac is callibrated and is the finest display I've seen so far. Whenever I send images for printing I use the printing company's ICC files and preview the image and adjust accordingly to ensure that the print is what I intended.
AmeriCymru: How important a role do photographers play in creating and representing Wales image abroad?
Graham: Things have now evolved to the stage where I believe the Internet can hold the key to the success of any business or even country; just look at what's happening in the middle east today. People read the internet differently from printed media; it takes them 25% longer to read it. They read out of sequence, they scan for hooks, headlines, and hyperlinks. The internet is a visual experience and it is therefore entirely logical that the value of a photographer has never been greater. When we speak of an image we can actually talk of two things; firstly there is the image in the traditional sense of a photograph, secondly there is the mental after-taste left in the viewers mind. The latter will have an effect on all manner of things from trade to culture to art. I believe the photographers' role has never been more important in this internet age- many people will know of Wales what we choose to show them. 2012 is going to be financially challenging for us all, so let's see if we can attract some of the Olympic visitors to Wales!
AmeriCymru: Any major events coming up?
Graham: I am really pleased to say that I've been invited to exhibit at Venue Cymru in Llandudno in 2013 Exhibition at Venue Cymru. I will be exhibiting between 1 May and 31 August. I am fortunate that photography is a passion, not a mortgage-paying enterprise and so we can develop things without worrying about sales figures or giving up the day jobs. This is great as the plan is just to get known currently.
AmeriCymru: Where can people go to view and purchase your work?
Graham: Online at www.ImagesByGrahamWilliams.com We're also aware that many people want to see a printed image before buying, so we have also made a selection available at Electric Mountain visitor centre in Llanberis, North Wales. Hopefully, other outlets will follow later this year.
AmeriCymru: What's next for Graham Williams?
Graham: I am really enjoying the photography and I'm learning all the time. We will be doing some more foreign travelling in 2012 although we haven't decided on where yet, somewhere in Europe and maybe the Canyonlands area, USA? In April 2013 we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary so want to do something extra special. And then of course, there's the Venue Cymru Exhibition!
I intend to do everything I can to continue to promote North Wales positively. It really is a beautiful and diverse area which is often overlooked by Welsh, British and foreign travellers.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?
Graham: Continue to promote AmeriCymru to all your friends and family and participate openly and respectfully on the site.Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! Thank you for reading. Happy New Year!