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Fashion Photographer Michael Williams Knows His Way to the Top

By Jessamyn Cuneo on July 31, 2006

Michael WillamsFrom surfing the crests of waves attached to a kite, to shooting portfolios of famous personalities such as Nelly Furtado, Lucy Liu, Denise Richards, Kate Bosworth, and Pamela Anderson—Michael Williams is a guy who seems to know how to ride his way up to the top in any given situation.

He wasn't born with a camera in hand, even though his natural talents in photography seem to suggest just that. Kiteboarding is his latest passion; a technique of surfing both the waves and the wind at the same time. Williams likes to constantly switch it up, and has dabbled in many arenas other than photography.

Previous to picking up the camera, he'd tried acting.

"I just thought, 'Wow, [photographing] is so much more interesting than being an actor,'" Williams says. "That side of the camera is so much more interesting to me. Being a photographer seemed like a really cool job. You don't have to wear a suit. You're able to travel all over the world."

Magazine photography was an original passion of Williams's. He was initially inspired by the now non-existent publication The Face—an original independent magazine that Williams proclaims as "the coolest British magazine," featuring "rock and roll pictures."

"The '80s was the first generation where music and image came together," Williams says. "You had bands like The Clash, who had the cooMichael Williams photography; copyright Michael Williamslest pictures on their album."

Punk rock was a heavy inspiration to Williams as well. The sudden collision of punk, rock, photography, and MTV morphed into a giant comet that Williams couldn't wait to trail. As early as high school, he knew he wanted to be a part in the sharpest wave of fashion/rock fusion imagery up to that point in time.

"I remember looking at old magazines that my mom had from the '70s," Williams recalls, "and thinking they were very exotic pictures, but they still didn't inspire me to become a photographer. It was more punk music pictures, which were more interesting anyway."

Williams has been shooting for about 18 years now. He's lived in New York for the last ten of them. The first half of his life was spent in Canada. He purchased a camera while in college, and photographed some local bands and friends of his who were models. One of those friends showed Williams' pictures to one of the top modeling agencies in Canada, and when they saw his work, they demanded more.

"One day, I was just a guy taking pictures as a hobby," Williams says. "And the next day, this agency called me and had me come in, and I was shooting all their models. A month later, I moved into a studio, and I was shooting for all the top magazines in Canada."