words | Elena Scialtiel
Emergency medical technician Anthony Williams suddenly jumped in front of the camera when he won first prize at ‘Our Gibraltar’ photographic exhibition with his wide-angle posterised photo of the entire nation, airstrip to dockyard, that captures the natural beauty and the hectic lifestyle of a city-state in a single bird’s- eye view.
Despite being his first time participating in an open photographic competition, Anthony has an impressive portfolio of varied work, from artistic landscapes to posed portraits that spell elegance and originality.
“I like to tell a story with my pictures,” Anthony says. “I carefully arrange pose, props and background to create an atmosphere and build up the narrative. I couldn’t do it without the help of my daughter Chloe-Anne, who is my assistant, advisor and inspiration.”
Twenty-two-year old Chloe-Anne also devised the family business’s name, ‘Infinity Photography’, described as ‘a passion more than a business’. The name illustrates Anthony’s penchant for wide and wild landscapes or dramatic cityscapes featuring contrasting light effects and colour-popping, as well as irregular grids of intersecting lines, often obtained by trailing head and tail-lights in long exposed shots.
But Anthony’s signature is photographing people at their lives’ milestones when they are all dolled up to the nines, and willing to look straight at the camera: “I’ve taken many photos around Gibraltar and abroad since I became actively involved with photography nine years ago, and there is just so much one can do to find an original angle or light for an iconic landscape, whereas portraits are always unique and enthralling.”
A good photographer also needs to know how to move about stealthily, getting close to the subject without intruding in the ceremony’s intimate moments, how to be ready for the right snapshot without turning the participants into actors under the scrutiny of the camera. Of course, the pressure lightens when open-air photos are taken, yet a pinch of improvisation and initiative is always advisable, perhaps because of poor weather or time constraints. “Wedding shots are carefully planned in advance, but when the day comes, we may find ourselves struggle with gusty winds or sudden rain, and need to deploy a plan B. Some brides can’t help feeling camera-shy on their big day, while others take the opportunity to proudly ‘model’ their gown, and I can obtain some artistic shots, like my ‘Runaway Bride’, snapped on a rail track holding an old-fashioned suitcase.”
Weddings are hard work, he admits, not just because of the many hours he is expected to stand and run around from ‘here comes the bride’ to the happy couple’s departure, but also because there is no allowance for mistakes and do-overs, since every shot must be perfectly natural the first time around.
This brings Anthony to his favourite subject, modelling, where he can take all the time in the world (or almost!) in building the picture-perfect shot, and do-overs are not only allowed but also encouraged.
He has produced the portfolio for several local models and participated in pageants and fashion events: “I was privileged enough to photograph the Miss Gibraltar 2016 rehearsals,” he says. He dismisses the myth about airbrush excellence: “When making a portfolio for a model, the photographer must keep it truthful to his or her real looks, or else they will be rejected by judges or agencies once they measure the photos against their appearance. Of course, we smooth out temporary imperfections like wrinkles, dark circles or zits, but we don’t tamper with complexions or facial features. When the right shot features accidental blemishes like visible tan lines or shadows, I do fade them out, but I wouldn’t change body shapes and proportions, unless specifically required by the assignment.”
Indeed, he could digitally manipulate any photograph into anything he wants to experiment with, but that would go beyond the modelling portfolio and stray into purely artistic territory, something that down-to-earth Anthony hasn’t adventured with yet, although, he reckons that digital painting presents endless possibilities and challenges as a valid alternative to brushes and oils.
One of his favourite fields, where he can exercise his creativity at leisure, is ‘boudoir’, the lingerie-clad fad that seems to be here to stay, designed to “empower women”, especially “mature ones”, to feel comfortable with their body image and revaluate their femininity in elegant intimate portraits that capture them in a different and non-conformist light, often in monochrome.
“I can count on my daughter’s help to style the ladies and advise them on their poses in the retro settings of alcoves and futons. Boudoir is very popular with women, whether for their own keepsake, or as a Valentine’s present to their partners,” Anthony explains. It involves time-consuming sessions to figure out what settings suit best the subject’s personality, but it allows scope for experimentation, both with angles and light effects, and especially in digital post-production when one can elaborate the layered textures and the chiaroscuro effects of lace on nude skin.
Chloe-Anne’s favourite commissions are babies’ and toddlers’ photoshoots, when she entertains the child while her dad snaps away. “Babies are easy, as we usually photograph them when they are asleep and we gently position them the right way. She carries toys and props with her, so we can include them in a background that tells a story.”
Anthony has learnt to master the art of slow photography, in which every detail is cared for and duly prepared before clicking the button, thus, he claims not to be interested in ‘news photography’, the kind when a fleeting moment is captured, and composition or light precision are sacrificed to poignancy, social or historical significance and spontaneity.
His mantra is ‘understand your camera, understand your light, understand your imagination’, as he believes that without imagination even the best camera in the world will not be able to take memorable pictures. He offers as examples the bridal shots in Lower St. Michael’s Cave which demanded heaps of initiative, agility and some waddling.
A member of the Digital Photography Club, Anthony is a passionate self-taught student thanks to his keen interest in their courses and online tutorials, paired up with a learning curve ascending the rungs of trial and error. “Practice makes perfect and so I encourage my friends to be my models to gain as much experience and expertise as possible. I am always open to new ideas, even though my job limits the free time I can dedicate to my true passion.”
Visit Anthony’s website for more info.