Fashion Photographer Michael Williams Knows His Way to the Top - page 3

By Jessamyn Cuneo on July 31, 2006

Michael Williams photography; copyright Michael Williams"Now, I don't work for people unless they pay me," he says. "Back then, I was shooting a lot for Flaunt Magazine. And I was paying for the owners of Flaunt—and I mean this literally—I was paying for their 7-series BMWs. I remember flying out to L.A.—and they didn't want to pay for my flight out there—so I paid for my flight out there. I was going to shoot all these celebrities for Flaunt, and I said, 'Look, guys, the least you could do is pay for my rental car.' So they paid for my crappy $15 to $20-a-day rental car. Then I go to their offices, and the owner and the creative director literally point out their window and go, 'Look at our twins.' I look down, and they're showing me their brand-new 7-series BMWs."

"I start doing the mental math," Williams continues, "and I figured that I spent about $80,000 a year shooting for these magazines. And that was kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I was like, you mean my BMW. I mean it as a joke, but the fact is that the only reason these guys have these BMWs is because of photographers like me, who are paying for these magazine [shoots]."

Williams explains that there are many magazines, including Surface and Nylon, who don't provide their photographers with flight costs, accommodations, film and equipment. Independent, trendy publications such as these, make bank with the fact that their style and name are worth money in a portfolio, and this translates to sufficient payment.

"I mean, [the aforementioned] are great magazines," Williams continues, "and they're great venues for photographers to an extent—but the publishers know that young, ambitious photographers will just pick up the tab themselves."

Now Williams sacrifices shooting for some cutting-edge magazines for the ones who pay him, as well as cover his expenses.

"Maybe some of these magazines aren't as quote-unquote 'cool,'" he says, "like, I'll shoot celMichael Williams photography; copyright Michael Williamsebrities for Cosmopolitan, and of course Cosmo's nowhere near as 'cool' as Surface, but they pay my expenses as well."

Williams has been steering towards a different camera angle altogether recently—directing TV commercials. He's currently meeting with top production companies, and hopes to one day land himself a seat in a film director's chair.

"You can't really go from being a fashion and celebrity photographer, to suddenly directing feature films," Williams explains. "It just doesn't work that way. Lots of top film directors still direct commercials, or come from a background of commercial directing. So, that's kind of the next stage for me; getting hard-core into commercial directing."

David Lynch is a favorite of Williams, because he's an art film director who's also capable of making Hollywood films blended with his own unique style. Williams can relate to this challenge when shooting for magazines with a slightly more mainstream style than his own. Like an artist handed a different palate, he must construct his creative visions with each certain set of paints.