“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt
In an age of digital manipulation, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish real talent from the crowd. But when technology is used to manipulate every image, talent is what makes the difference between a finger painting and a Rembrandt.
Although our little town is filled to the brim with photographers, there is one artist who stands out from the regular humdrum of wedding and family photographers that dominate the scene. And that is Bianca Williams of AlterNation. With an eye for the perfect shot and a more than abundantly creative mind that despite her calm persona is always thinking up new ideas, she goes beyond the norm to bring unimaginable worlds to life.
Working with the most fascinating characters, those who often feel like the misfits (but certainly proud misfits), means that her work is accessible to everyone and she is able to jump from the role of the eccentric artist to consummate, corporate professional with ease.
Not only is she making her mark in the brutally competitive photographic industry in Nelspruit, but she is always thinking about other ways to be expressive with her art. Never one for going with the crowd and the latest trends, she is the perfect example of why, in the past, photographers earned the title of Artist.
Capturing the essence of a moment
As eloquent in speech, as she is in manner, it is easy to sit and listen to what she has to say about her work, the industry and her passion for her craft. When talking about photography, her passion is simply contagious and there is never an attempt to hide her love for what she does, something that is rare in our conservative town.
To get some insight into workings of this creative company, we had a chat.
Lowveld Collective: Why did you name your company AlterNation and how has your company evolved since its inception?
AlterNation: When I was putting AlterNation together I wanted to give my work a name that would properly convey the right sense of style and technique. What I came up with was a portmanteau of sorts – a combination of two words to make up something else: “Alternative” and “Nation” to make AlterNation, which is also another word for change or modification.
“It just felt like the right name on several levels.”
Since my first steps in 2013, I’ve learned a great deal both in the field and out. AlterNation began as a humble graphic design and wedding photography service and gradually, as my skills developed, my horizons broadened and I could offer my clients a great deal more.
LC: What drew you to photography and how do you keep the inspiration for new projects alive?
AN: I’ve been in love with the arts since I was old enough to read but I was only drawn to photography later in life after having studied art, art history and psychology. In my early 20’s I decided I couldn’t be content with a quiet desk job in the corporate sector…it simply isn’t my world. I needed more sky and more movement so when the opportunity presented itself I grabbed it with both hands. My inspiration comes from far too many places for me to ever sit still. The weather, people, noise and pollution, culture and music, freedom of speech, death and birth, ageing, cooking…
“I am cursed to forever seek out the perfect medium of expression for the things I see. And so far, photography wins.”
LC: Our local community is still quite conservative, even though it is 2017. Do you have a different approach to working here as opposed to the city? How does your style fit in with the local environment?
AN: I fit in with my environment in much the same way toothpaste does in a salad, haha. I don’t make it easy for myself though to be fair, if I was truly concerned I’d take out my piercings and cover the ink. But, I hope that maybe by being myself and approaching people openly and honestly I can help them see that a person can be professional and alternative at the same time. It is unfortunate, but many other local photographers refuse to do business with gay people, inter-racial couples or others deemed ungodly.
“AlterNation is here to cater to the weirdo’s and outcasts, the artists and dreamers and anybody who enjoys unfettered creativity and expression.”
LC: Do you like to bring a more creative approach to conventional photographic commissions such as corporate shoots? If so, how do you achieve this?
AN: In terms of corporate photography, a professional’s artistic license is pretty restricted for obvious reasons, but when the goal is to do something completely off-the-wall, something fresh and different the key, in my experience, is individuality. Everybody has something unique to offer. The same can be said of every company. It’s my job to recognise those key elements and make them as loud and resplendent as I can.
LC: Which shoot really stands out the most for you and why?
AN: I’ve been very privileged in the time since AlterNation began, I’ve worked with some incredible people and I’ve been to some surreal locations but the one that still jumps out in my mind is the one I did with a friend, Andries, at Witklip dam outside of Sabie here in the Lowveld last year.
We ventured out into the ice-cold water one Sunday morning in deep summer before the sunrise. The ethereal beauty was breathtaking with all the subdued natural light and the mist coming off the surface of the mirror-like water… it all melded together to remind me why I love doing what I do.
LC: What does the future hold for AlterNation?
AN: One of my favourite sayings is “life is what happens when we’re busy planning other things” and I’ve learned to dream big but to also be adaptable and resourceful. At this point AlterNation will continue as it has, growing in experience. I hope to incorporate a lot more of my fine art concepts in the future and with some luck, study more about cinematography.
Personally, I feel Bianca is one of those rare artists with a rare gift. The moment she steps behind her camera she makes every scene and subject more captivating than they appear. She brings moments to life and in the most subtle of ways; she captures what others don’t see.
And through her images, she shows people how beautiful life can be when you look at it from a different perspective.