Willem van den Heever (b. 1994, Pretoria)
What kinds of things do you most enjoy photographing?
For me the most interesting subject matter on this planet; humans and the human body, which is probably the subject I photograph the most. When taking photos I usually try to either tell a story in a single image or just try and convey a certain emotion/feeling deep inside me. There are a lot of things I feel, and emotions I experience, that I’ve always struggled to explain or found words for. Photography – specifically images created in film – and art in general has helped me express those emotions and created an outlet for me.
Most of the time these stories or emotions are my own, but some times they come from the person in front of the camera as well — I think these can be seen when focusing more on portraits. I’ve always had a deep love for the ocean, mountains and our natural surroundings, which sometimes come forth in my images as well.
Describe your photographic style.
This is a difficult one for me as I myself am not completely sure if I have a specific style, and if so what that style is. Maybe there’s a sense of nostalgia in my work; memories, feelings or moments once had and now buried by the subconscious. I do know light, form and colour are normally what my brain picks up on first, and are elements that I try to use in creating these images.
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)?
Over the years, and by shooting more and more, I definitely started seeing the world in frames or pictures. Maybe I’ve always looked at the world a bit differently, always trying to escape reality and create my own worlds in a way— and now this has just become a part of me. Most of the time my first instinct would be to grab my camera and try and capture the moment/image I see in front of me, but a lot of times, especially when traveling or hiking, I try and force myself not to. To rather saver some of the best moments and just appreciate the moment/journey as it is— let it play off and just enjoy the journey for what it is, because in the end that is still the most important part; to experience something fully.
The camera – or the images – should always still come second, and rather the moment felt or experience first. I think that’s one of the reasons why I prefer shooting on film; you are forced to only go back to that moment days/weeks/months later, and not focus too much on it in the moment.
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?
That’s probably one of the aspects I struggle with the most, to just capture it in the moment, spontaneously. My personality just doesn’t work that way. I think I’m quite a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my work, so naturally I like to take my time, plan the images and set-up before hand — or at least have some sort of idea in mind of what I want to create before shooting.
This is also how I approach a new series; start planning days ahead and even create (very rough) storyboards. I guess in the end it’s about finding that balance: an equilibrium between knowing what you want to capture/convey and being able to see and just capture the moment, even when things don’t turn out the way planned.
Is photography your professional career? Or do you work in another field?
Even though I spend a lot of time on photography, and even do some commercial work from time to time, I don’t see it as my professional career. My main occupation, and what I see as my professional career, is film-making (combined with a lot of other stuff on the side).
What gear do you shoot with? Specifically camera arsenal and film stock.
I’ve built up quite a collection of analogue cameras in the last year, but my go-to camera is always my Pentax 35mm SPii. I’ve recently started shooting medium format on a Mamiya 645 and have done some underwater stuff on a Canon AS1.
Growth is important for any artistic craft. How do you stay motivated and
enthusiastic about your work?
This is definitely something I think all photographers/artist struggle with, especially if it becomes your life and the only thing you do. That’s why I think I’m in the fortunate position of being able to keep myself busy with a number of other things, such as film-making and writing.
Nonetheless, it can still be a struggle when you want to shoot and just don’t feel it. I find my inspiration mostly in other forms of art — literature, films or music. I try and explore these channels as often and as deep as I can, always looking for something that strikes or sparks something inside me.
What are your influences? Please list other photographers you look up to or
things that generally inspire your image-making process.
As mentioned above, films are probably my biggest passion and where I get most of my inspiration from. Literature, poems and music also play a big role. When it comes to other photographers; Ryan Muirhead had quite an impact on my life and work, Chelsey Sinclair, Niklas Porter, recently discovered Matt Kelly, local photographer Elsa Bleda and legendary film photographer Platon — to only name a few.
What else do you enjoy? (Hobbies, etc – Any other creative exploits or interests?)
Except for my other artistic projects such as film-making and writing, I hate sitting in one place for too long, so traveling, exploring, hiking and mostly either being somewhere on a mountain or in the ocean.
Any tips for aspiring film photographers?
In a visually over saturated world flooded with images, the most important thing when taking a photo should be your intentions and motivation — why do want to take the picture? Just for the sake of another pretty image or are you conveying/trying to say something? Except for that, light is your best friend when making images. Learn to see and play with it (something I myself am still busy learning). But then again, who am I to tell someone who and what to photograph.
What lies on the horizon (any plans for series, exhibitions, travels etc)? And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
I’ve recently started working on a very big film project that I can’t say too much about at this stage, but that’s where most of my time is going into at the moment. In terms of photography, I’ve been in the process of a black and white series which I would like to finish. Depending on the outcome I might do another exhibition this year, or it might just end up on my website, we’ll see.
All photos by Willem van den Heever
DEAD TOWN™ | Film-only Photographic Showcase ©2017.