William Sheepskin

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William Sheepskin (b. 1995, Somerset West)
Cape Town

What kinds of things do you most enjoy photographing?

I don’t really know if there are any specific things I enjoy more than others, a lot of the process for me is the interactions with people and how the image ends up being made. In a purely visual sense I have the most fun doing super contrasty black and white, sci-fi-ish stuff. I wouldn’t say I enjoy that more than I enjoy doing colour portraits of people though, I try to have fun in everything I do.

Describe your photographic style.

EPIC. Not in the epic = amazing or awesome way though, epic like the poems, or a wide open landscape, that sort of epic. I enjoy monumentalism in pictures and have been told my portraits are sensationalist in nature, which is probably true. I don’t go out of my way to make things look the way I want them to, but I am aware that the inherent fallacy of photography is that when you photograph something, you get back a reflection of yourself. I’m probably compensating for something personal by trying to make my subjects as powerful as I do — wowsers that was introspective.

Photography is a lot about the journey. How has it influenced your personal life
and the way in which you view the world (around you)?

I have issues with social anxiety and being in spaces with loads of people at once. Having a camera with me helps me to slow down and focus on specific things rather than being overwhelmed by my surroundings. On a grander scale, I decided to go and get a BA in photography at UAL in London, UK so I moved specifically for the sake of developing myself photographically.

The constant back and forth between Cape Town and London allows me to acclimatise to two very different lifestyles, which in turn has an impact on the way I interpret the world around me. I don’t really make much work in London, I spend my time there planning things to do in Cape Town, then do the things in Cape Town and develop them further in London. I’ve found that it works quite well so far.

Photography is also about capturing a moment in time. What is your approach to a
shot, and your approach to a new body of work?

In terms of individual shots, I try to find a way to make them stand well on their own. My fallback tactic is to make things striking, but lately I’m trying to get more into the quiet, understated side of visuals as well.

For bodies of work, I spend a whole bunch of time planning, story boarding and hand drawing the general look of shots that I’d like to go for. I think the flow of the images and the way they interact in a body of work is just as important as the images themselves. I had a book featured at OffPrint at the Tate Modern last year, it was 70% words and 30% images but the way they interacted was the reason it worked. The images were almost a response to the little story I made, and what I’m trying to do now is make images that are a response to other images in the same body of work.

Is photography your professional career? Or do you work in another field?

I’d like for it to be my professional career but for now I work in a travel bookstore to make money to pay for processing and film, haha. I do get photographic jobs as well, they can just be quite few and far between sometimes and I need a way to keep myself constantly rolling in the Portra and Noritsu scans.

What gear do you shoot with? Specifically camera arsenal and film stock.

I’ve managed to sort myself a dream setup recently so I mainly work with a Mamiya 7ii and Contax G2. I’d kind of like to work exclusively in 120, 6×7 format but I have an RB67 that’s been giving me constant issues for years now, so 135 is still my go to for stuff that needs to be focused closer than 1m (darned rangefinders). I probably take too many snap-shotty pictures to justify only using 6×7 anyway.

In terms of film stock, my favourite is probably Provia 100f, but slides are very expensive to work with so I try to use them sparingly. Besides slides it’s really whatever I feel like using. I use loads of expired Kodak stocks like the Portra VC and NC, and for bodies of work I like to play it safe and use Portra 400 and 160.

My go-to for black and white is Tmax 400, but I also use TriX. I used to only use Tmax since it was more forgiving, but still contrasty in terms of self-developing with hc110 specifically, but I was never really happy with my personal results. Now I pay someone to do the hard work for me and can use whatever I like, haha. (Support yer local lab!)

Growth is important for any artistic craft. How do you stay motivated and
enthusiastic about your work?

I tend to lose enthusiasm when I’m not around things I’d like to photograph. I counter this by reflecting on work I’ve already made, and asking myself how I can respond to it with what I make next. I also spend a lot of time self-critiquing and the thought that I can do something better the next time excites me.

I’m in constant competition with myself and try not to compare my work to that of other people – doing so would drain me pretty quickly I reckon.

What are your influences? Please list other photographers you look up to or things that generally inspire your image-making process.

I take a lot of influences from things outside of photography. I really like Japanese woodcut prints, the specificity and compositional savvy the good ones show really get me going.

My main influences are interactions with people though — most of my friends are creatives of some sort and I take influence from their processes and mannerisms. I like listening to what people have to say and trying to adapt their general ideas and mannerisms into an image.

In terms of photographers I find influential, I’d separate them into two groups; people I know that I find very influential, and people I don’t know that influence me on an aesthetic level.

In terms of very influential people, I’d say Jonothan Ferreira has had a profound impact on my work ethic and has been around giving me industry tips from day one. Rosie Matheson who stopped me on the street for a portrait the first day I was in London and has since become a friend is one of the calmest people I’ve ever met and the way I’ve found she interacts with sitters has helped me in terms of portrait making immensely.

Kent Andreasen constantly blows my mind simply with the barrage of visual perfection that is his work. I often look at photographs and think wow that’s amazing but there’s this one little thing that could’ve made it better, with Kent’s work its like he’s noted the one little thing, gotten rid of it, and compensated for the fact that it ever existed by doubling the visual impact. I don’t understand how he does what he does, he’s a magician (and Kent makes me want to be a magician, haha).

My friend Aubrey Ndiweni is a master of the retro aesthetic, he and I have gone on many an adventure and done some lovely collaborations. He’s ridiculously good at getting something to look a very specific way — his way. I learned most of what I know about having a creative vision from him.

People that influence me on an aesthetic level are; Jamie Hawkesworth, Pieter Hugo, Petra Collins, Laura Pannack (I assisted her once and her manner with sitters is amazing as well), Ryan McGinley, Helmut Newton, Alec Soth, Harley Weir, Ren Hang, Henrik Purienne, and Jean Pierrot. I could go on for a long time, but that’s a solid list.

What else do you enjoy? (Hobbies, etc – Any other creative exploits or interests?)

I really enjoy film-making. I make music videos for my friend CLBRKS which aren’t exactly award winning, but the moving image is something I’d like to get more into. I draw a bunch and play video games competitively sometimes too.

Any tips for aspiring film photographers?

Hmmm, my top tip would be to be brave enough to tell someone they’ve done a poor job scanning your film if you’ve paid for it, and to learn how to retouch a scan to look right. Also spend loads of time in the dark room, if you can — hand prints of pictures are a totally different ball game to a scan.

What lies on the horizon (any plans for series, exhibitions, travels etc)? And what do you hope to achieve in the future?

I’m in the middle of an ongoing series, documenting people on beaches in places I grew up. I’m hoping it’ll end up being an autobiography of sorts. I’m going to make a book out of this series. I’m also in the process of putting together a book of black and white sci-fi sets I’ve done since I really love that sort of thing, but it’s a bit too niche to be successful online I reckon.

In the future I’d like to make enough money from photography to pay for photography and groceries. That’s about it really.

Website: http://www.willysheepskin.com/
Instagram: @willysheepskin

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All photos by William Scheepers

DEAD TOWN™ | Film-only Photographic Showcase ©2017.

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