There’s a touch of magic to the work of Oli Sansom and there’s no doubt that we’ve been spellbound for a while now. His documentary style approach, crazy creative background and fine-art aesthetic make for images that are full of soul.
Since adding the craft of photography to his already impressive list of creative endeavors, the Melbourne-based lens man has gone from strength to strength over the last five years, with some pretty memorable adventures along the way. Natural and inventive, his fresh take on wedding photography results in emotive images worth treasuring.
We caught up with the ‘creative mad-scientist’ behind the camera to chat side-projects, inspiration and fueling creativity.
Tell us a little about your background and the path that brought you to wedding photography.
Wedding photography doesn’t exactly sit alongside either obvious or subtle vocational luminaries such as “engineer” or “taxation lawyer” at the careers counsellors office, so I came into it like the majority did: by accident. Having been in advertising/design for 10 years and at the business end of a tech-startup that had just crashed, I took a look at what was keeping me awake and excited at all hours as a means of my next career move, and photography was it. Turns out there are far worse jobs than hanging around love all over the world making work that really matters to people personally. My background was as an illustrator, animator, and creative director, and I like to think that I’ve been fortunate enough to bring my love of tone, composition, and quirk into the work I get to make for people.
How would you describe your photography style?
Something like that time you were about to put a humble ten-cents into a gumball machine but then Santa came by and pressed the secret button that made all the various random gumballs come out at once and then it was a glorious giant colourful gumball festival with a couple of accidental Kinder Surprises kicked in there. Hopefully.
Was wedding photography always the passion? What other personal projects keep you busy?
I tell people that chasing those funny little human moments, wherever they happen, is, and that those just tend of happen at weddings at an enormous scale. The wedding thing – that’s for the couple, their family, their friends. It’s theirs, and it’s beautiful to watch, and it’s where so many of those moments lie. My passion, I guess, is finding the quirk and joy within that, and making stuff for people that matters to them personally. Which as you can imagine is an enormous change from working in the advertising world, and very addictive, to say the least.
Having worked in a bunch of other creative industries over the years, I’m very fortunate to be aware of the real value in being involved in many things at once. It keeps you curious, involved in the creative community, and producing work that doesn’t go stale. I’m working on a few things at the moment – an app for photographers, a portrait/interview project exploring some themes with folks who entered pop culture at some point, and a project for women in leadership set against the backdrop of Antarctica. A big goal has been to use the tools for some kind of social cause, so it’s pretty wonderful to be at a point where that’s happening across a few side projects.
When did you shoot your first wedding? How do you feel the industry has changed since then?
My first was about 5 years ago, in partnership with a dear pal in Melbourne. I don’t feel the industry has changed astronomically – there’s simply more choice out there, more people entering the game more often, which means either getting really business savvy, or focusing on maintaining a point of difference. On a granular level, I think couples and photographers alike are perhaps more sensitive to short-lived trends that will date quickly, but that’s always the benefit of hindsight huh?
Who are some other photographers you admire?
I love a good story, and I love artists who make work for themselves without any form of validation being a factor in the work they produce – Vivian Maier, and more recently, Melbourne’s own Angus O’Callaghan. Two stories well worth reading into.
Do you have some favourite wedding vendors (venues, videographers, florists etc) you love working alongside?
Video-wise the savvy gentlefolk at C2 are always a treat, as with the well-groomed lads of Humdrum and new homewtown puncher Nathan Kaso. The crew at Stones of the Yarra Valley have the care-dial set to “majestic”. I see a lot of cover bands, but the crew at “Like This” blew my noggin off. Incredibly versatile and interactive in a way I haven’t seen before. How the hell that front man goes from sounding exactly like John Mayer to all the other artists is beyond me. Cookes Food have been legendary caterers. Todd Mayhew, who I had the pleasure of seeing in his first gig as a celebrant, is an absolute maestro, as is Damon Hughes and John Von Goes. There’s a theme running through all of these: easy-going, caring, and top of their game.
What are some of your go-to sources of inspiration and/or professional development?
Really it’s just about keeping your plate clean, your head calm, and having as many varied experiences as possible, inside and outside of the arts. It’s strange for me to think of inspiration being as simple as managing your calendar and workflow correctly, but all that good “inspiration” isn’t of any use if you’re constantly behind, as you’ll only form useful creative intersections if you’ve got room to breathe. Around that, staying immersed in things outside of your craft. Which is why I love events such as Creative Mornings, and conferences such as Semi Permanent.
What’s the most memorable wedding you’ve captured?
It’s hard to go past chasing Bruce Springsteen around a house in Jersey after he played wedding-singer in the backyard for an hour or canoeing between islands in Canada over a 3-day wedding on water. Its a gloriously bizarre job sometimes.
Finally, do you have any tips for couples planning their wedding?
There’s no right or wrong, unless you accidentally leave Michael Bolton off the playlist.
Images Oli Sansom |