Interview with Zhenjie Dong
Photographer Will Sanders lives in North London with his wife, cat Monty and a dog called Odin. He has recently become obsessed with looking at cars on Ebay but keeps being out bid. He captures the strange and wonderful and is particularly interested in the interaction between the “built,” and natural environments. His work has been published in W Magazine, Nylon, Exit, Intersection, Oyster, Esquire, the Guardian Weekend, the CR annual and the British Journal of Photography.
Zhenjie Dong: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and how you developed your interest in photography.
Will: I got into photography quite late－at 26. I’d always loved taking photos but I just used a point and shoot as I thought “proper” cameras would be far to technical and complicated. When I first met my wife I showed her some photos from a U.S. road trip, she talked me into going to the local college to do an evening course. At the course taught by an excellent teacher, I soon discovered that photography is actually pretty simple. At that time Nadine, my wife, was working at Tank magazine and an urgent job came up; I shot it and have been shooting ever since.
ZD: What inspires your photography?
W: Humor and color.
ZD: Is there a single project or assignment stands out as your favorite or best?
W: There have been loads of great jobs but one of the best was a road trip around the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria in a Moskvich!
ZD: You travel a lot and you photograph places and things with a great sense of humor. Can you tell us more about the story behind it and your thoughts about incorporate billboards and signs with the landscape?
W: I just find advertising in the desert fascinating and very funny. You have these amazing vast desolate spaces and its almost like the Billboards are trying to fight off the desert. But it’s also a great place to advertise especially to people who don’t appreciate the desert as it’s like a huge blank canvas. A lot of the photos are on the pan American in Peru where they do the most amazing Billboards. I don’t know if this is true or not but one year I noticed the billboards were a little disappointing and when I asked why I was told that there had been a spate of accidents and the signs had been ordered down.
ZD: How you support yourself as a photographer?
W: Advertising, and I have some stuff with libraries. I don’t shoot specifically for Libraries but when I get back from a trip I usually do a small edit of photos I feel would be suitable.
ZD: How do you get into editorial?
W: It’s hard. You have to keep emailing the magazines you like. Sometimes if you’re lucky they come to you. The worst is when you have a great relationship with a photo editor and they leave!
ZD: Shooting editorial and advertising is quite different. What’s your percentage of shooting for editorial and advertising? How do they pay back? And can you talk about your experience working with agencies?
W: The percentage changes all the time so I can’t really answer that. Some years I’ll do loads of editorial and a little advertising. Other years it’s the other way around; it’s something that changes all the time. Advertising pays much better but it’s much more involved. Editorial is less well paid but it’s usually a lot more spontaneous. As far as working with agencies, every job is a different experience. It’s quite strange when you first start to work with agencies because you’ve spent all this time honing your own vision and all of a sudden someone else has a say, but you get used it very quickly.
ZD: How do you balance shooting for yourself and shooting for clients?
W: I try and travel as much as possible between jobs.
ZD: What are you working on now and what’s next?
W: I have a few advertising jobs going on at the moment and I really want to try and publish some books this year.
For more information, visit Will’s website.
Zhenjie Dong is a Chinese born and New York based artist and photographer exploring ways to express her social and political concerns through photography. She spoke at TEDxCreative Coast 2012 about her work Recreating Myth and the philosophy behind it. Her works have been exhibited in the Atlanta Photography Group Gallery, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and will join the global tour of the Lumen Prize Exhibition, travelling around the world in United Kingdom, Latvia, China and Wales.