Today I got a chance to link up with the creator and artist that is Austin Willis. We got a chance to talk about his influences, go over some of his previous shoots, and pick the visionary behind VisualsByWillis. Check the interview out below, and be sure to follow him on social media and support his movement.
Hit me with a little intro:
My name is Austin Willis, I’m from Hayward, CA. I am a visual artist and photographer.
Life story in 30 seconds:
I am a crazy kid, love to create. Track was my life until about a year ago when I fractured my back. I rekindled my love for art, and was doing illustration. Now I’m doing photography, promoting positivity within your body and self love. That’s why I do my own nude photoshoots. People think I shoot naked people just because, nah I’ve been running around naked since I was little. But yea, overall, I’m just trying to create and inspire people.
What inspires you to create?
Everybody. Everything around me. From art, seeing my friends create, the woman body. So yea, everything.
How did you get from graphic design to photography?
I still do graphic design, its just client based now so I don’t really do it for myself. But I got into graphic design in highschool, when I took a graphic design class. I never thought I’d pursue it but then I fractured my back and started designing for my brother’s clothing line – .devoting time for success (DTFS) Just kind of rekindled my passion for it, started making money from it, it came natural. And as I progressed, even when I had my own show for my illustrations back in September I just wasn’t happy with my work. I felt like it wasn’t true to myself. I felt like I was creating for other people and not for myself. Started picking up photography just cause I had hella photographer friends. Being out and about with them and I started to fall in love with the craft. Cause with it I can create anywhere, and like I’ve always been a people person so it was just easy for me to interact and capture people for who they are. And a lot of people can’t do that, so it was something that I could showcase that was just natural to me.
If you were stranded on an island, what are three things you have to have? (Assuming you have a source of food, and fresh water)
I would take my camera, and you said I would have food so I have to have my smoothies which means I need a blender and I guess that’s it. I’m a wild child, I can figure stuff to do, I’ll go climb trees, I’ll be my own source of entertainment. I guess in a sense I’m an introvert. I’ve always been like a lone wolf, I’ll go to gallery shows by myself, parties by myself. I don’t NEED anybody. I have like one bestfriend, and I don’t even consider him my bestfriend because that’s family. So its like, I really just be mobbing, out and about by myself. I’ll find the best of the situation that I’m in. So yea, all I need is my smoothies, and my camera. Oh yea and a sketch book.
What about music?
Music is a big part of my life but to me I can go without it honestly. For me, I’m inspired by other thing, most the time I’m not listening to music for the words. I’m just listening to the vibrations and the beats so for me music isn’t needed. I can listen to the natural sounds of the world and have that be my music. Like I’m more visually stimulated. Just seeing colors, that’s what inspires me. Like if you see me in a room with hella people, I’m the one chillin just looking around constantly, observing everything.
If you could go back 5 years and give your younger self advice, what would it be?
Save my money. Well I mean, I cant really say that, because every year has been a growing experience, 5 years ago, I wasn’t doing this. 5 years ago it was track track track, so when I had money it would just go to whatever. But I wouldn’t really change anything because I’m happy where I’m at right now. If certain things didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be who I am today so I wouldn’t give myself advice cause then I’d probably abuse it. Imma let him grow up like I did.
So that means you don’t have any regrets?
You can’t regret things. Life is too short for you to have any regrets. You just gotta learn from it and move on. Everyday you have to improve yourself in some way. Do something every day that you’ll be proud of in 5 years.
One country that you are dying to visit?
Japan and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, because I’m Puerto Rican and I just wanna see my roots. Learn about the culture. I don’t know my biological father, so I wanna really experience that cultural side. Learn about my roots. And Japan cause like you have to respect Japanese artists. Their style is so animated. Most artist will say that they are somehow influenced by Japanese art, and even if they don’t want to admit it hey probably are. I just wanna go, fall off for a little bit, then come back and drop hella shit like yea, this is what I’ve been doing. And then I mean, everyone wants to go to London. Ideally I would just travel, not have a home, couch hop and settle down when I chose to.
How would you describe your photography style?
It is very intimate. I like capturing people for who they are. So for me, I wanna get intimate with my subjects. Everyone has their own beauty, you just have to learn how to capture who they are and showcase every little detail. Like I said, I do nude photography because I find the body beautiful. I’ve been inspired by the body since I was like 12. So for me it’s very intimate. I wanna showcase the diversity in everyone, everybody is different and unique in their own way. I guess my style is intimate and weird. I do a lot of fine art stuff, messing with my photos. So its intriguing and intimate, its different.
How do you deal with people stealing your work?
Some situations I do it politically correct and be like ‘Hey take down my photo or give me credit’ sometimes its just irritating, we’re from The Bay, we’re hot headed sometimes, I’ve had to fire on niggas like ‘Aye nigga take my shit down’. I had one case when I was doing graphic design and illustration, I had someone try to steal my work and then sell it for more then I was actually selling it for. So he damn near had a hit on his head. Like I had the squad ready, homies hitting me like I got the AK in the car, you trying to head out. And I’m like nah it aint that serious [chuckles] So I mean it sucks, but haters gonna hate, they keep my name alive. If someone steals my work, I must be doing something right.
What about the Bay Area influences you?
I love the Bay, its home, but it’s a love hate relationship. The Bay is a huge melting pot, we have a lot of cultures and I’m always inspired because there is so much talent out here. What I don’t like is that people always wanna get stuck. Hit me up and be like I really support you, lets work, lets collab. And I’m like I don’t really wanna collab right now, I’m focused on myself and then all of a sudden their “support” isn’t there. Like they not ready to help you grow, they say they support me but when I tell them I’m selling pieces so that I can get to New York theyre like, oh nah I don’t have no money I just wanted to collab. But that’s not support. Help me grow. People see talent that they heavily support, but not trying to help them get to the next level.
Who is the perfect muse?
My perfect muse is wherever she is, whenever I find my queen. Hopefully, she’s natural haired, tall, beautiful. I gotta have a natural hair queen, she gotta take care of my hair too. But yea, my queen would have me coming home like damn, just stand right there and let me get your picture girl. But nah, there is never a perfect muse. There are all types of people that inspire you. Dark skin is beautiful, light skin is beautiful, natural hair, no hair. It all depends on what you’re going for. But like at the end of the day, when I find my queen, she will be my main inspiration… until I have my kid. Oh yea, and Naomi Campbell. I will definitely be shooting with her at some point in life.