Meet the photographer creating beautifully feminine and nostalgic visual stories in California. We recently worked with the incredibly talented Michelle Williams, shooting on a ranch in Calabasas for our latest collection Rouge. Currently based in Costa Mesa, Michelle shoots primarily with 35mm and medium format film. A nature lover herself, Michelle has an incredible way of integrating the environment around her into her shoots, creating a very romantic feel. We sat down with Michelle to discuss her work, how she started, the people who supported her along the way and her shoot with Auguste.
You grew up in the beautiful seaside city of Costa Mesa in California. Tell us a little bit about your childhood there, how has that shaped who you are today?
I absolutely love Costa Mesa, I’m always trying to get people from LA to move down to Costa Mesa. It’s slower-paced than LA but we still have the influence of fashion here. Growing up and being able to spend time at the most beautiful beaches or being able to escape to so many national parks and go surfing, really shaped my creative mind and I always found myself to be drawn to the outdoors and taking inspiration from the environment around me. I still find today that when I’m away from the ocean, I start to withdraw and my creativity can kind of just slip away.
You have mentioned how important it is for you to share, support and be surrounded by friends, with your biggest fear stemming from not being in the presence of others. We feel the same, believing that humans are largely the sum of those they surround themselves with. Who is someone very close to you that has influenced or inspired you?
There are so many people with whom I have surrounded myself that have really shaped me into the person I am, one of them being my close friend Kenzie Kidder. She’s someone I met while living in Cape Town, South Africa a couple of years ago, and we can do absolutely anything together. We’re also very drawn to fashion, health, and nature, so I always feel very affirmed and also pushed creatively by her. There’s something about finding people who also desire to create art in their day to day life that is really inspiring to me and also so fun!
Beginning your career as a photographer, you experienced what many artists & freelancers experience, the all work no pay, time in your life. What did you learn from this, what advice would you give to someone in that early stage of their career?
I really learned how to not let my limiting beliefs hold me back from pursuing this dream I had. I wanted jobs to happen automatically, but I had to have patience and believe that things would happen in good time. It gave me a lot of time to really build out my portfolio and create art, not just for money but for the pure joy of creating.
For my fellow artists at the beginning of their career, be persistent. Good things do take time. In the beginning, it may take time for your work to get noticed but continue to be persistent. You’ll hear a lot of no’s and also you’ll hear nothing at all and hearing nothing at all is the one that hurts the most, but you will hear yes’s. Also please say no to jobs you don’t want so that you can say YES to the jobs you are inspired by and the ones that will energise your creative soul! The best is to create a lot of work that inspires you and continue to reach out to brands/magazines until you see them say yes.
As a photographer, what is something you really enjoy shooting at the moment or a technique you are experimenting with?
I’m also working on trying new film formats with larger cameras and trying to utilise shooting with flash more so. There’s always so much to learn in the photography world, it can be overwhelming!
Our recent shoot with you turned out amazing, we absolutely loved the location too. Tell us a little bit about shooting there and working with nature to tell a story?
Thank you so much, it was such a fun location to shoot at too! The location was this hacienda-style ranch, surrounded by the mountains in Calabasas, California. The ranch had so many beautiful spots to shoot at, so I loved the idea of creating a romantic and playful morning on the ranch. We shot in the meadow in the morning and I loved how the sun was rising between the mountains and creating such a golden light on the landscape. The meadow was so playful and lighthearted with almost a childlike quality to it. Then for the rest of the shoot, we just ran around the whole property shooting on the dirt roads, next to the house, on the balcony, by the horses. It was so much fun to utilise so many areas to tell a laid back love story.
What is a pressing issue that you feel is very close to your heart?
It's hard to put into words one thing I stand for. Perhaps Social justice? My heart is for those who are overlooked in society, the immigrant mother who struggles to feed her children but works so hard endlessly. The garment worker putting in thousands of hours of work in the most dreadful conditions. My heart is for these people and I'm passionate to pave waves in this world to stand by those overlooked in our society.