Oli Sansom – The Briars Atlas
Creative diet, design, sequins & the importance of (not) being yourself
(disclaimer: if you are reading this on mobile I apologise profusely, wordpress nightmare trying to format a basic blog page, sorry..I need NarrativeApp I think!)
It’d be a relatively fair assumption to say that 2020 has been a challenge for everyone, in some form or another.
Like many industries the wedding industry has been…smashed. But there’s hope! And it has been a great time to reflect and work ON the business a little more than usual.
We hope those of you yet to enter the Awards this year are just busy sorting through your finest images in preparation to submit them. To those of you who have entered, well, we’re stoked for you and we can’t wait to group everything together and begin phase two. We’ll be spending time with our 6 judges to have each and every entry judged 6 times. It’s a massive job, but we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We love it.
Without a doubt one of the most funnest parts of curating the International Wedding Photographer of the Year Awards, aside from witnessing all the talent out there, has been connecting. We’ve connected with some amazing businesses and equally amazing humans. Which brings us to Oli Sansom aka Briars Atlas.
Before meeting Oli I had a picture in my mind of this Uber-organised, I’m-a-little-intimidated-to-approach-because-he’s-so-damned-intelligent-and-talented photographer..
I was correct in some sense, he is uber talented and intelligent, but where I went wrong is that he is one of the most approachable peeps I’ve encountered, and he’s human..he’s a bit scattered like most of us, and a bit of a mess exists in his world too.
We have a tonne of respect for Oli and his willingness to share and educate. Over the past 8 or so years he has presented at workshops around the world.
Over the past few months he has been sharing much of that workshop material via his website and social channels.
We asked Oli to grab a couple of nuggets to share with you all and he’s spoken to each of them a little more, down the screen a little further.
Great with his words as well as his camera, here’s some Dr Seuss-esque poetry, stolen from Oli’s website, which really give a sense for this rather clever young mans approach to wedding photography and setting the table with his personality, from the outset of the client experience…
“This is what love looks like.And! Sometimes that’s kissing / sometimes it’s snot-picking / sometimes it’s the lick of your cat, when you don’t want that! It’s the small, the tall / the graze from the fall / when romance is there / and when not at all”
“Put a hex, on what you expect.If that is what love looks like, then that is what you get, because everything is important, and importantly everything will be met, the angry niece as much as the kiss, with care and attention (if you please). File this under “general life advice” also”
“All love is real, and all, unreal! Whether you’re a boy and a girl. a man and a woman. a girl and a girl, a boy and a boy, guy and a guy or a gal and a gal, a him and a her and a they and a them love is yours, theirs, his, hers and all of, ours”
⬅︎ Oli Sansom..the handsome devil. Pic by Ryan Muirhead
⬅︎ The contents of Oli’s bag, sometimes.
By Oli Sansom ⬇︎
⬅︎” So I’ve been doing a 100-day free insta workshop series. Lots of juicy bits from 8 years of teaching and sharing, in a digestible, design-driven format. I’m also behind with it, but I’ll carry it on soon. One big module from years back was on the idea of inputs. You can’t change your output, if you don’t change your input! Sounds simple, because it is. The stuff we look at, translates into the stuff we make.
And it gets even more interesting: the more accessible the inputs are that we feed ourselves from, less innovative an output that will translate into.
Take Instagram: it’s there in front of us, and we’re literally being fed by an algorithm. Great work comes from great concentration, and from looking at things other people aren’t looking at. Some of the best ways to create more interesting outputs (ie – the work we make) is to look at the idea of inputs, sideways.
Say we scroll instagram for 2 hours a day, total. How would it change our work to give instagram the flick as an input medium, and instead change our relationship with it so we ONLY use it as an output (to post stuff, and not to engage with other people), and then invest that 2 hours we’ve gained into interacting with a new community?
2 hours a day is over 10 hours a week. What type of work would we make if we broke out of our bubble and got uncomfortable in a new community? And if not taking it to that extreme, what about libraries, or going down a rabbit hole of a single painter that we discoverer at a gallery?”
⬅︎#48 What if we respected the craft of design and branding, as much as we wanted our craft of photography respected?I bet we’d end up with a lot less derivative brands. The idea of branding, is to stand out from the person next to us in an ever flooded market.
There are over 150 years of beautiful styles of design and design context from which we can draw from. So why did we all have moose antlers as our logo 5 years ago?When we copy the person next to us, we dilute their brand, AND we dilute our brand.
We did a little Q& A with the judges recently, so we’re going to fill some gaps in this awful layout (wordpress you are killing me!) with some little bits about Oli…
Q. Sweet or Savoury ?
Q. Number of years shooting weddings?
A. 8 years
Q.Instagram Shout Out – enter the handle of 1 business or artist you’d like to give props to.
Q. Proofing Gallery Software of choice
⬅︎#41 There’s a lot to be said for trying to deconstruct other peoples work, to get an understanding of what those beautiful little “Cant put my finger on it” things are about their tone, as a way of maybe then trying to understand why they made that decision.
One nifty little trick, is equalising an image in photoshop by going to the image menu, and hitting “auto colour”. That attempts to equalise the white balance, and take out any highlight or shadow toning.
When we Ctrl_Z between both states, it can give us a really nifty broader idea of what their tone is comprised of.
Q. Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given..(this could be business, photography, personal, culinary, anything).
A. “Take the lesson”, which came to me from the sky today. Applicable all the time, always. I gave it to myself, but for outside advice, I always adore “Nuthin to it but to do it” from Ronnie Coleman.
Q. Camera Brand you use?
⬅︎#50: There’s a whole lotta “woo” out there around the idea of just being yourself.
Which is really easily digestible and easily spoutable garbage that makes us risk not stepping outside of a really binary idea of who we are, and the type of artist we are.
Q. Artists past and present who you dig & who is guaranteed to get your creative juices flowing.
A. Zdiszlaw Beksinski, Jeffrey Smart, The Books, Beach House
Q. Describe your regular camera system setup for a wedding day.
A. Canon 5DIV, EOS R, and a full kit of primes. If i had only one lens, i’d do a whole day on a 24mm or a 50mm. I like the idea of the back-straps, but I always ended up feeling both sweaty and like I was in a bondage film, and i’m not sure which one of those exacerbated the other, so I instead just hang my cameras from my wrists, which 1 in 10 weddings results in one of them flying into the dirt, and always results in looks of terror from other photographers.
Q. Who makes your Wedding albums?
Q. How do you deliver your Wedding Collections to clients (eg. Digital Files via Cloud or USB)
A. Digital, USB, and if i’m feeling patient, I send the binary of all their files as morse code
⬅︎#20: Analogue film was devised to be less complicated for the average person, not more.
It was made so that mums and dads everywhere, over the last 100 years, could document their families.
How have we gotten this idea that it’s harder than digital? I think it’s easier.
If we’re not shooting for commercial editorial publications, where the demand on the medium are for perfect consistency between images, then there’s really no need to overthink exposure and metering.
Just throw the sun at it.
Q. Any tips for photographers in terms of entering the Awards…type of images, things you’ll be looking for in an image etc?
A. This might be the wrong place to outlet this, but I absolutely am not looking for “majestic”. I’m not looking for easy wins. I’m looking for the small little bits of human theatre that warrant a second glance, or take a little longer to get, show a risk in valuing subtlety, and have compounding value to them. That, and beautifully considered post-processing, which always makes the heart of it come out stronger. I’m also looking at sideways ways of seeing tone, light, and a diversity of mediums explored.
Q. Anything else you might like to share with folk out there? Could be advice, a lesson that cost you thousands that could save others from making the same errors etc
A. Everything you make has more than one use.
Oli, thanks for being such a sharing and caring human, there’s hundreds upon hundreds of photographers from all over the world who have been fortunate to have met and learnt from and with you. You sir, are a stellar egg.
Oli won the Film Category of the International Wedding Photographer of the Year Awards in 2019 and place as a finalist in numerous others. See all the goodness right here.