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Behind the Lens—Olivia Williams

Every time I meet a young talented person pursuing their passion while being at school and living the dream through the teenage years, I am impressed. There’s something challenging about knowing what you want to do in life, or even what you’re good at when you’re still in High School. The pressure is huge and the world is big. The choices you can take are endless and the fear of missing out usually captures your heart. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was a teenager, either what I was talented at. I was a random girl, not standing out from the crowd. But, this isn’t the case of Olivia Williams, a 16 years old driven girl from the Sunshine Coast. 

At the age of only 16, her photographs stand out from other people work through their aesthetic that are raw and natural. Capturing the beauty of the sea while shooting some her best mates having a good time in the water, Olivia is able to bring her own style to life while having a rad time with her friends. From skateboarding to surfing, she’s everywhere! She has the chance to be surrounded by inspiring surfers, photographers and even shapers, such Mitch Surman, being her boss. Not only photographer on her free time, she’s also filming cool productions that are not corporate at all, but fun as hell! There’s something interesting about this girl and sharing her pictures was something inevitable. 

We decided to email her a few questions to get to know her better. 

We’ve discovered you through your Instagram, which used to be named “Drop in the Ocean Photography”, but has been changed to “Rare Visuals”. What is the meaning behind it? Why this sudden change?

Three years ago when I got my first camera, I focused solely on water-based shooting, hence “Drop In The Ocean Photography”, whereas now I have progressed to filmmaking as well keeping with the surf photography. The name change to “Rare Visuals” reflects my ‘rare’ captivation and a broader aspect of content, which I am currently producing. Having a sudden change is good sometimes too. Also, DITOP was a bit of a mouthful to say!

Being born and raised in Australia, was surfing part of your life since day one? When did you start getting involved in photography? 

I was born on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand, but moved to the Sunshine Coast at the age of one. Surfing culture on the coast has greatly impacted my life. I started photography at age 12, and after shooting with a GoPro for a few years, I wanted to progress within the world of cinematography, which lead me to buying an SPL water housing and Canon off Nick Maier that I saved up for.

16 years old and taking incredible pictures like yours, I am impressed! What are you doing on an everyday basis? Going to school?

Yes, I’m currently in Year 11, however school isn’t my strongest point so suffice to say whenever the conditions are good, I’m in the water shooting the local talent including Jordan Spee, Josh Woollett and Samuel Crookshanks. In the mean time, I am doing a traineeship at Glass Coffee House And Surf Gallery. School goes alright, I guess. The banter I have is sick, having my best friend being the Queensland champion for girls skateboarding. I love to shoot her a lot too.

I believe you must be close to choosing what you want to do as a career. Is photography a goal you have in mind? If yes, what interest you on this path, as it isn’t necessarily an easy one! 

Yes, well I really find astronomy pretty interesting, but seeing that I am not the strongest with school, I would love to work with a magazine, to keep generating photos and short surf films and to travel with creative minds. I don’t want to be stuck at a desk for the rest of my life dealing with shit. Having traveled to a few places around the world, it already gives me perspective towards a move to Bali, hopefully to work on a film in 2018, when I finish school.

From surfing to skateboarding to the ocean, what is your favorite thing to shoot? 

I don’t really limit myself to one favorite subject to shoot, but the surfing culture is so diverse and I like that element of unpredictability in the conditions and the wide array of different surfers that I meet in the water, so I’d say surfing. 

How did you develop your style to be so raw and different from others? Are you trying to share a specific feeling through your photos?  

I always try and shoot in the water as much as possible as I feel there is a more personal connection with the surfer as an individual. In terms of my style, I am increasingly using my Handycam and disposable in order to get back that rawness to my photos/films. I think if you’re only out to make money when shooting, then there’s really no point to be doing something that you only do for money. Money is not everything.

If you are not in the sea, where are you? 

When I am not shooting or at school, I will be working at Glass with the best bunch of people in the world. Having Mitch Surman as my boss provides a great atmosphere. He’s a local shaper and all round legend that has helped me to connect and network with other surfers from around the world. Working on different projects across the coast with creative people motivates me to keep producing films and photos whenever I get a chance.

Best story so far that happened to you while shooting? Anything wild? 

Well, apart from a few hits to the head from waves, there was this one time after work where Sebastian Robison and I headed to the beach for a shoot. It didn’t look that big, but when I was heading out there were a few big ones taken on the head. Trying to keep afloat with only one flipper, holding a water housing another massive set came through. I looked back at Seb and he yelled “keep swimming”, so I tried to get to the sea floor, but didn’t make it in time and I got sucked back into the wave. It felt like I was trapped under for ages. My fin flew off, but luckily the bass man, Seb found it.

Do you sometimes have a creative block and don’t know what to shoot? What inspires you? 

Being 16 and still at school, I am unable to travel as much as I would like so the only real creative block is having to shoot the same breaks and surfers all the time, which is still really engaging. Sebastian Robison (@sea_bass) and Kai Neville inspire me in what they do and their concepts to create diverse content is something, which I have taken to and hope to improve in the future. 

To sum up, she’s the coolest girl we all wanted to be when we were younger.


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