Alex Weltlinger, Sydney based Photographer & Director talks with us about being a self taught and (completely and utterly mad) photographer, how he deals with the ups and downs as a commercial photographer and why he idolises coffee when he’s not running over politicians. (Note: He has never run over a politician repeatedly, in the last year anyways…)
Name: Alex Weltlinger
Tell me a little about your photography: My path as such was a little different….I’m self taught as a photographer and never assisted, was originally hoping to to become a production designer for films! So I studied architecture, or at least, I tried to… Pretty quickly realised that it wasn’t the right place for me – I just don’t think like a designer. A couple years later, I went to film school and over time became a producer… Did that exclusively for several years, then a very stressful job pushed me out of it. I was sick of being just on the business end of things and wanted more of a creative breadth.
I’d already been shooting photography at a very low level (no idea how I started), so decided to focus on it instead. I spent a year training myself – lighting, philosophy, how to connect etc, then did my first big project, the Loungin’ Series, which has effectively sent the tone of everything I’ve done since as a photographer.
Nowadays I mainly shoot advertising and portraiture, with a bit of art on the side. My work gets described as cinematic more often than not, which pleases me immensely! I work very hard to get a cinematic sensibility, with a sense of scale and/or context in the background of most of my images, and carefully specific lighting elements. Most importantly though, whether doing a big ad job or a simple studio portrait, I try to get a connection with my subject – because the emotional core is what we take away from an image more than anything else.
How would you describe yourself in three words? Completely and utterly mad. …Ok, that’s 4.
What’s your food guilty pleasure? Coffee is my idol. And I’m not at all guilty about it….
Who are some of your favourite artists/designers and why? Yoikes, where do you start? I could go on and on and on with a huge list of artists, photographers, muso’s etc. If I had to pick a key artist, it would be Shaun Tan. One day, I will do what he does, but with photography – a very big ask! Bowie just passed, he’s…. well phenomenal is an understatement. The iconography he packed into everything he did can’t be overstated. I love Dan Winters and Marco Grob both for their approach to portraiture, Trent Parke is an idol (and a lovely gent to boot) and so on and so forth. Ok, better stop ranting now….
What is the biggest risk you have taken with your photography? Being a commercial photographer is a risk in and of itself. Every day is a risk. You continually ask yourself – am I going to make enough? Can I continue to survive doing this? That being said, I think doing my second major series, The Clash, was the biggest individual risk. I spent 3 months essentially full time in prep for that, we ended up with 46 cast and crew and I had to turn down some commercial jobs just to make it happen. It was by far the biggest thing I’d ever done individually, and at the time I didn’t know I could achieve anything that complicated as a photographer. Luckily I had the production background and could put together complicated elements.
If you weren’t doing what you’re currently doing, what would it be? Probably composing music. My brother is a renowned jazz violinist and I flirted with studying composing years ago. I do wonder what that path would have been like, and perhaps sometime in the future, I’ll open up that particular kettle.
What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you in the last year? I, amazingly, haven’t run over any politicians, repeatedly. That’s kinda exciting.
What’s a project you’d like to undertake? At the moment I’m focused on updating my commercial folio – the past year or so has seen me continuously shooting, but most of the commercial work has been money work, not particularly creative. So I’m about to get waist deep in pre-production for a bunch of new personal promo work, both stills and video.
Once that’s done, I have a few art series I want to work on. The trick will be funding them…
Lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Said to me by a wonderful producer who unfortunately passed away years ago: ‘Don’t fuck up. But if you do, don’t fuck up more by not recovering.’