Greenville, South Carolina-based Will Crooks has been waltzing into artists’ studios and watching them work. While having their portraits taken and their spaces explored, subjects emanate a strange sense of peace while under Will’s all-seeing gaze, which caught the eye of TOWN Magazine.
The images range from joyous to informative to a captured moment birthed from a companionable silence. It all started one day when Will reached out to a ceramicist whose work had obsessed him for years. The ceramicist was willing, able, and, more than that, excited to be photographed in their workspace. Will then contacted other artists he was a fan of and entered their home studios or warehouses to capture their portraits and their work.
I realized that my assignments to photograph artists led to some incredibly engaging conversations and some of my favorite images I had made over the course of my years.
I found that photographing individuals in their intimate spaces, be it their homes or where they create their work, was the most engaging form of portraiture for me.
“Intimate” is the perfect word for what these photos scream — and the artists having the home advantage lent itself to these shoots. It’s also possible that Will had a lot to do with the comfort level of the subjects. TOWN magazine saw the intimacy and excitement in these photos and wanted more.
I worked on this project over six months photographing regional artists whose work I had admired while also asking each artist I worked with to recommend other artists to expand further my scope and vision of who to include.
When Will brought the project to TOWN, he went with a complete concept proposal and a full set of images, something he believes is essential when pitching work in such a competitive field. TOWN ended up featuring the project in their arts-themed May issue before hiring Will to return with more.
This editorial feature showed their team how focused and personally excited I was by photographing artists in their spaces. Editors love to know what kind of work and communities you are personally drawn to and involved with when assigning work.
Will thinks this is key, his connection to the community providing him a real sense of excitement while shooting. With his experience as an art director, Will efficiently worked solo, allowing for more personal shoots. Throughout the photoshoots, Will and the subjects would discuss their creative processes and portfolios, finding a sense of community and common ground through their different perspectives.
The part of this project I found to be the most rewarding was the friendships I formed with artists in my community. This project allowed me the chance to connect with so many incredible artists whose work I had admired from afar or who I had only met before in passing.
Being able to spend time with and connect to these artists in their workspaces provided Will with an extra layer of creativity and authenticity to these shoots.
I like to walk into these kinds of personal project shoots with as open a mind as possible. Being flexible is essential when you are walking into spaces you have never visited. The first 30 minutes of a shoot I usually spent getting to know the subject. I believe that a strong connection with the person is the most crucial part of making a compelling portrait.
These strong connections not only benefitted the portraiture itself but the scope of Will’s art and the way he views his photographs.
Broadening my circle of creative cohorts has, in turn, increased the breadth of artistic mediums I pull inspiration from, be it sculptures, paintings, or mixed media.
By opening myself up to the perspectives of artists with strong aesthetic eyes that work in other various mediums, I have found so many new frameworks and ideas to consider when making portraits.
See more of Will’s work at willcrooksphoto.com.
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