Whether it’s lifestyle or conceptual, stills or motion, historical or whimsical, portraits or food, chances are that New York City-based photographer Will Strawser has mastered the technique. He has photographed projects for everyone from Kia to Converse, keeping creative and true to himself along the way. We asked Will a few questions about his career, his motivations, and what projects he would one day love to shoot.
Where are you from originally?
I was raised in the small town of Fredonia in Western NY. After high school, I attended the Rochester Institute of Photography and got my degree in Advertising Photography. After graduating, I moved to NYC to grow my photography business and make my career flourish.
How did you first get involved in photography/videography?
I first became interested in photography after buying an old Pentax K1000. I started out shooting 35mm black and white film and developing it myself. My sophomore year of high school, I took a black and white photography class, and from that point on I was hooked. I actually grew up on a farm, and after I caught the photography bug my father and I built a full black and white darkroom, complete with a Beseler 23CII enlarger, in a portion of the barn. I would spend endless nights in there enlarging negatives and experimenting with darkroom methods.
Describe the last picture you took.
Truthfully, the last photo I took was of my 10-year-old poodle mix Charlie looking adorable in his new dog sweater. Professionally though, the last photograph I took was for the March cover of the Washington Post Magazine.
What is the one piece of equipment you could never give up?
As odd as it might sound, the truest answer is probably gaffer tape. I would be screwed on so many shoots if that stuff didn’t exist. If we’re talking actual gear, then probably my trusty tripod. Cameras come and go, with new technology always phasing the other out, but a solid tripod will stick with you for awhile.
What genre of photography/videography do you typically shoot?
In still photography, I shoot a lot of portraiture, in studio and on location. I also do a lot of conceptual work with compositing. On the motion side of things, I really do shoot a wide variety, from interviews to tabletop food commercials.
What is your favorite shoot you’ve ever worked on?
One of my favorite shoots ever was a personal project that I photographed with American Civil War reenactors. We spent multiple days at a historic museum that is a functioning 1800’s town in upstate New York, working alongside some very dedicated reenactors. The images got used in a small book alongside the amazing writings of Thomas Bowers. It was an incredible experience getting to learn about this moment from our country’s past and live a few days in their shoes.
What is your favorite image/video you’ve ever taken?
One of my favorite videos we ever made was our piece with the boxer Willie “El Mongoose” Monroe Jr. Being able to tell his story to the world was exactly why I like being in this industry. It was a really eye-opening and uplifting experience working directly with such a truly dedicated athlete and overall humble person. It was one of those shoots where in the end everyone is chatting like old friends. By the end of the week, I knew we had captured something very special.
How would you say your work has evolved over time?
The main way my work has evolved over the years is the incorporation of motion. A lot of the time clients are now asking for motion capabilities at the same time as a still production. It’s been an incredibly fun transition, having the opportunity to tell stories in multiple frames instead of just one.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a photographer/videographer?
The biggest challenge I think any modern photographer faces today is an ever-shifting amount of new technology and digital skill sets. The industry is changing fast, and changing every day, from new camera systems to new ways of compositing. You have to really stay abreast of all the new developments and industry trends.
What subject would you absolutely love to shoot?
I have a sincere fondness for period pieces and history. I would love to shoot still campaigns and direct motion shorts based in Ancient Rome, or maybe a series that paid homage to the Renaissance. There is something exciting and inspirational about working on a set that’s styled 600 years in the past.