Photographer Spotlight: Bill Westmoreland

Bill Westmoreland

New York City

When did you first pick up a camera and start taking photos that were beyond family or vacation photos?

My father told me that he would buy me a Polaroid camera if I would cut my hair. It was 1965 and I was 12, the Beatles were the band of the moment…I had to grow my hair.  But I decided I wanted the camera so I cut my hair and promptly started taking pictures of everything!

What is your favorite subject to shoot?

I love to photograph musicians and beauty.  When I photograph musicians, I sometimes help to create their evolutionary look. (I also do makeup and hair and am hired to not only shoot but create looks for many musicians). I shoot for Artis, the makeup brush company, shooting beauty shots which I love.  My personal fine art work involves shooting abstract landscapes, while driving my car 45 mph down country roads. I had a show titled “Drive-By” last year which was comprised of 15 of those blurred landscape photos.

Where do you get new shoot ideas?

I’m inspired by other photographers and artists. I also get inspiration from the street, especially for videos. If I’m listening to music and see a bus go by or watch someone walking down the street, I am inspired to recreate what I might see in a music video I am directing or a photograph. I also do collaborative work with a few artists so that is inspirational too. I’m an avid museum goer…lots of inspiration there.BW_selfie

As creative professionals, you have to be adaptable to what may happen during the shoot. Give us an example of a shoot that didn’t exactly go as planned and how you made it work.

Some shoots have lots of restrictions depending on the location and with those restrictions come headaches sometimes.  This is a bit opposite of what you asked but it made for a great day:

I was booked to shoot Peter Nero, the conductor of the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra, in Verizon Hall in Philadelphia.  In phone conversations with the staff, I was told that due to the union rules I would not be able to move any of my equipment in the Hall.  Two union workers would have to move lights, tripods, screens, reflectors, etc.  So I prepped my assistants for this and everyone was on board with how to handle the situation and give directions to the union guys, knowing that the shoot may not go as smoothly or as fast as usual.  The two union guys helped us unload the equipment and started to set it up – they turned to me and said, “We’re going to breakfast, have a nice shoot. Move the stuff where ever you want!”  So needless to say it was a great shoot!

With all of the self-professed photographers with digital cameras, how do you continue to hone your skill and your eye to keep what you’re doing special and professional?

I started off my career using film when I lived in Paris, so I always reflect/refer to that time so as to continue creating from that point of view. I love natural light but I also use strobes, but the natural light photos remind me of the “film days.”

How does social media, specifically Instagram, affect how you get your work to people? 

If I’m photographing a performer who has an upcoming show or CD release, it’s great because it’s almost like free PR for me. The photo goes EVERYWHERE, on every social media platform and then the emails start coming in. Magic!

Describe the style of your photography in five words. 

Elusive, soulful, voyeuristic, sexy, contemplative.

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Follow Bill on his Website and Instagram

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