“I like to approach photography from an analytical point of view. It’s probably why people often relate my creative processes to that of a scientist. I’m a photographer, but sometimes I think I am a scientist, sometimes even a cowboy.”
William LeGoullon (born in 1985) is a contemporary photographer currently based in Phoenix, Arizona (USA). He studied photography at California College of the Arts and Arizona State University (BFA).
Raised in the southwestern United States, William LeGoullon has developed a personal obsession with and appreciation for his desert surroundings, both obscure and apparent. While the majority of his work is consistently inspired by these environments and their inherent identities, it is not limited by them. His range of various subject matter and concepts enables LeGoullon to transverse multiple interests, ranging from Arizona-based motifs to his explorations of beverage culture and craft. Utilizing this interplay, some of LeGoullon’s works focus on elements of science and artifact, while others concentrate on the narratives, history, and iconic symbolism of place.
Interview with William LeGoullon
William, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
While it was not the most memorable of “shooting” experiences, my first photography class in high school was a transformative experience. Working in a darkroom for the first time was an amazing moment I will never forget.
Why did you become a photographer?
I often tell people that I didn’t find photography, but rather, photography found me. In today’s society, the over abundance of photographic imagery is hard ignore and whether you’re an artist or not, it can be very overwhelming. I became interested in photography as a medium because it was obtainable. It wasn’t until later that I realized the potential it was inherently capable of. Photography made me a photographer.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to transmit with your pictures?
Some might say that “it’s a moment in time” and while I agree with this statement even know it is over used, I feel its lacks the second connection to why we relate so well to photography. Photography is about time, yes, but maybe more accurately, an experience taking place using different measures of time. However, it is also about reality or in some cases alternative realities. It is a world, where every detail becomes more apparent and the fragments of time, more significant. Some of my work relates to experience and time, Some doesn’t. I’m interested in multiple concepts and subject matter so I use imagery differently depending on the work I am creating at that moment. To me, photography is about exploration and occasionally, discovery.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
There isn’t a singular photographer or for that matter, artist, writer, critic, or curator that has inspired me the most. There have been many individuals along the way that have influenced and encouraged my desire to produce work, but to pick just one, is not possible. I can’t ignore, however, the fact that one of my biggest inspirations involves my immediate arts community. Growing up in Phoenix and its surrounding areas, I was introduced to the city’s creative scene quite early. I wanted to be involved in it, participate with and support it. I wanted to see it grow, and it has. Phoenix as a city has major potential and by helping it’s creative community it helps build culture and character.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Henri Cartier-Bresson
How would you describe your photographic voice and creative process?
This is hard to answer as I feel that my “photographic voice” is as diverse as my music collection (which contains everything from country music to hip hop). That said, I am also very picky about music and in the same way, I am picky about my aesthetic and style. I like to approach photography from an analytical point of view. It’s probably why people often relate my creative processes to that of a scientist. I’m a photographer, but sometimes I think I am a scientist, sometimes even a cowboy.
What’s important in order to develop your own photographic voice?
“Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs” of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
I often tell my students to “shoot with purpose” and I think that applies to the way I think about approaching photography. I feel there needs to be purpose behind the imagery I create and the concepts I choose to focus on. Subconsciously, I think I began emulating the works of my college professors, Mark Klett, Chris Colville, and Mike Lundgren especially. I approached landscape in similar ways, continued to explore new possibilities, and in time developed my own voice by fusing styles similar to theirs and subjects I related to. However, I will admit, my voice changes constantly.
“We now view landscape photographs, both past and present, much like the shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave. They are artifacts of what we think we know about the land, and how we have come to know it.”
Further reading about Mark Klett: “Mark Klett, Photography, and the Reinvention of Landscape” (2001)
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
Technically: “Scale and Simplicity”, at least right now. Currently I am really intrigued by artifacts and small items, sometimes microscopic even, and their relationship to a specific environment. I have an appreciation for the sterility and cleanliness of scientific examination. I like to collect things and often find myself cataloging them. I’m also attracted to the ways we simultaneously interpret imagery of objects and imagery of landscapes. Conceptually: “Place”. It is very general and common, I know. But it’s true. Places make me interested in our world. Even more so than people sometimes.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
A critical eye.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the flood of images we are exposed to every day.
There isn’t a secret recipe or a score card for this sort of thing. For me, the images that catch my eye usually have to do with something I connect with personally. Too often, the context becomes crucial, but not always necessary. Being surprised always helps. I usually want to be given something, but to be left wanting more. Like a delicious dessert that you may never be able to taste again.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
It depends on the project. Most of my work relates to my interest in environments and their identities. My “Intermission” series is a perfect example of this. Sometimes, it’s less about the way a place looks, and more about a specific aspect of a story found within. I am continually interested in clues left behind, and the evidence of man’s connection with land. This can be seen in my latest body of work entitled, “Desert Barnacles”. The tension between conflicting beliefs about how and why we engage with our surroundings is always on my mind while I shoot in the field. I find myself confronted and conflicted by it, as much as I find it to be helpful and inspirational.
Other projects, such as my “Fingerprint of Drinkable Culture” series, have nothing to do with my interests in my environmental surroundings, but simply, a fun and more personal interest – beverage culture and craft. Stemming from years of past work experiences as a barista and bartender, I’ve utilized my interest in fusing science an art in a rather refreshing way. In the same way a person takes a coffee break, or enjoys a beer after a long day of work, this series has allowed for me to relax and step away from some of the other works while simultaneously diving into a new realm of photographic exploration.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I’ve learned to embrace the pros and cons of film and digital mediums, and am currently shooting both. Specifically I use a Canon 5D Mark II and a Large Format Toyo 45A 4×5 Field Camera. For microscopic works, I have a specially designed adapter lens for a stereoscope that works with my Canon body. I work both in the field as well as in a studio, however I enjoy being outside more often. It sounds strange, but the higher the temperature outside the better, some of my best works have been made in 115+ degree heat.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Oh damn, there are so many! I know a ton have been mentioned by other photographers on this site, so I’ll list a few of the not-as-popular (but still awesome) ones I check regularly: Conscientious, LPV Magazine, Landscape Stories, New Landscape Photography, and Urbanautica, Places: Design Observers.
What photography book would you recommend?
Without a doubt! “New Topographics”, because Bill Jenkins is the man! Better yet, I recommend seeing the exhibition in person whenever possible.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
I would first start by telling them to worry less about becoming a “professional photographer” and to instead focus their attention towards making powerful images. If you consider how much the definition has change, anyone can be a “professional photographer” these days, and if that’s their goal, watch youtube videos. Otherwise it’s important to understand that it takes more to be an artist. It is also crucial to understand that the art world is critical, relentless, and difficult yet rewarding. A creative individual spends their life walking up a staircase. When they’ve reached the top, they realize it is not the top, but instead another staircase.