An Interview with Fashion Photographer Will Milligan at Shoreditch House, London
The British fashion photographer Will Milligan and I first met in the Lake District when we were both visiting the painter Beatrice Hasell-McCosh. Since then we’ve spent many days together working in and around East London collaborating as writer and photographer on editorial shoots set everywhere from art gallery basements to abandoned film sets. Born and educated in London, Will did his foundation course at Central Saint Martins before completing a filmmaking BA at the London College of Communications. He began his career shooting portraits before moving into fashion three years ago, starting as an assistant to fashion photographers like Josh Olins and Frederike Helwig amongst others.
Since moving into fashion photography, Will has photographed artists like Luke Waller, Hugo Hamper Potts and Hugh Harris from the Kooks as well as the model Earl-James Charles Atkinson and design guru Stephen Bayley. As a photographer, Will's talent lies in his ability to capture the true spirit of his subjects, there's sense of honesty in his work. Over the past few years his photography has been published in Sunday Times Style, T2, Tirade Magazine, Le Figaro Mode Homme and The Gentleman's Journal. He's also shot fashion campaigns for Emmett London, Tallis and the White Pepper. With only a few years of fashion photography behind him, I predict big things for Will Milligan. See our most recent collaboration in this month's issue of The Gentleman's Journal magazine.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?
I can't remember the specific moment. My dad is a photographer so I grew up around it and I've assisted him in some capacity since from a young age. I think I considered myself a photographer before I started shooting professionally, but the pivotal moment was probably at some point in my mid-teens.
What piece of your work would you like to be remembered for?
I have a long way to go both creatively and technically. I’d like to be remembered for the work I do over the next 20 years. Although, it's frustrating foreseeing your full potential as a photographer whilst not operating at it.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
Now is good. Why would you want to go backwards? Forwards doesn’t look too good either at the moment.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
Visually, beauty is something that emulates the aesthetic ideals of nature. We all tend to find the same things visually-appealling for this reason for instance ratio, balance, contrast and colour - but I don't think these things should be consciously applied.
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
I think inspiration comes from thousands of different places rather than a specific work. You can appreciate other artists and even be obsessed by them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their work will influence yours. That being said, the way Richard Avedon only showed the subject in his images has always stayed with me as a photographer. He started his career taking ID badges in the navy and from there it was always just camera and subject.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
I don’t think it’s impeded creativity nor enabled it. The digital age has made self-promotion easier, but I think that it's important not to be too media obsessed though. It's much better to focus on your actual work.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?
I like the Royal Academy a lot, because of the strength of their exhibitions. The George Bellows and David Hockney exhibitions of the past few years were some of the best I've seen in London. Equally, it's a lovely place to hang out if you happen to be nearby.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
I’m lucky enough to be collaborating with some impressive people at the moment. Obviously there are brands and publications I aspire to shoot for, but I believe that it’s what I'm doing now that’s important.
What is your daily routine when working?
It’s rarely the same, but if I’m not shooting I like to watch the double bill of Frasier with coffee. Double Frasier, double espresso.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
A group of us went on a guided trip to Swaziland when we were 17. We lived in the wilderness for two weeks. The whole idea was that there was no itinerary or agenda to the days. We just did what every we wanted to do. We wandered around, ate, slept, read and explored. The way we occupied our environment was supposed to be like the experience of men pre-civilisation. On the day before our flight home we went to a shopping mall to kill time and that's when the message behind our experience really hit home.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
Don’t be scared.
Why do you love what you do?
I don’t have to do Excel spread sheets.
By Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com