Andrew Semark is a freelance photographer living in Vasse,Western Australia. Andrew spoke to us about being a creative entrepreneur in a small town, the everyday risks of making ocean art and the importance of living in the moment. When Andrew isn’t on his jet-ski shooting waves, he’s home with his wife and two children.
Describe your path to becoming a photographer: How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?
I was raised by my Mum and Dad who don’t really have a creative side to them and was always told to work with my hands. I knew I had to provide for my family, so I when grew up I started working in a workshop – spent my days covered in dirt. But I always enjoyed photography and it all started as a hobby years and years ago, when I began making landscape shots. It took me so long to learn and find what I really wanted to do. I grew up surfing and eventually I just combined my love of photography and my love of the ocean, but it was a slow realization. I remember the first time I shot waves then got home, opened the files on my computer and that’s when all the pieces just fell into place, because I fell in love with what I saw. Gradually photography was taking over so much of my time and eventually just bounced itself to the point when it consumed everything I do. I haven’t reached where I want to be as a photographer yet, but I’m super-blessed to be doing that now. Being in the ocean for me is an escape and then I go home, see everything on my computer, and get to relive those moments and see so many little details that I missed when I was there. When people see my work and say “well, I didn't know ocean could do that” – that’s precious.
Have you had any mentors along the way? Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
Where I live there’s a guy Christian Fletcher who shot landscapes of the area, and I would look at them and thought to myself: “these are incredible” and so I started shooting landscapes too. Then I met this guy named Russell Ord, he is the person I admire very much: from his amazing work to his outlook on life. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him and he’s the one who mentored me. He’s the kind of person, who’d tell you if your work was crap. I learnt so much from him: from photography to doing business, to people management, to handling situations.
What was your first photo-related job?
My first photo-related job was a wedding - a good friend told me he’d love me to shoot his wedding. Personally, I love weddings - spending this day with a newly married couple is really precious and you can’t help being happy at a wedding. So I took it on board, did the day, got a super-good response from them and that really kind of pushed me to the next level. I had been avoiding it, because with photography - put your work out there and there’s a lot of potential for disappointment, but then it worked and I realized I’m going to find people who love what I do and people who don’t but I’m loving what I’m creating and that pushed me further to keep doing work as a photographer.
Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?
My wife is my rock, she’s behind everything I do. I spend a lot of time in my head and she helps me get out of there and produce everything I’m thinking on my camera. She’s always been so supportive for me throughout my journey and she’s always been amazing, and my kids – just as well. I grew up learning to work with my hands, to make money for my family and support them. I’d like to think that my kids look at me believe that they can accomplish whatever their passion is and You don’t have to work any job but do what you love.
Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
Every time I’m in the ocean is a risk, if you think about it. Moving from working in a workshop to full-time photography career was also a risk and it still is. I live in a small country town and it's crazy here in summer. Then comes winter and it’s like a ghost town. During summer time I’m so busy with the business, in the ocean or doing wedding shoots. So I love it here in winter, because I get to spend time in the ocean and can focus on the creative side of my craft.
Where’s home and how living there influences you?
Living here dictates everything: winter months are hard on the business side of things, but it’s the time when you can build the portfolio. Also winter makes landscape so much better - a lot of people don’t get it, they just see the blue skies and blue water during summer but it is just as beautiful during the winter months. Sometimes there are really tough times, but I’m always trying to stay in the moment.
Do you have a routine?
I do and I don’t have a routine. I like getting up early, so in the early hours of the morning you’ll probably see me shooting and creating. Vasse being a small town, I rely on local business to continue to work and spend a lot of time connecting with the community around me. During the day I might have a coffee and chat with a potential client to see if I can work something out for them. In the evening I’m usually back at my computer, learning new techniques, getting inspiration and staying in touch with what I’m doing.
What are your plans for the future?
I have long-term goals , which I might never reach them, but that’s what I have in mind. I’d love to have my own little gallery, showcasing area, and a little coffee-shop, where people can have their coffee, look at photographs and hang out. That’s the dream. But for now I’d love to keep building my brand as a photographer, and be able to produce what I thinking in my head into my camera and never stop learning.
Why did you join Alter-View?
Joining a community on the other side of the world is pretty exciting. This could take me anywhere – I see other photographers do incredible work, that’s very inspiring.
Your advice to someone just starting out?
The biggest one is your vision will evolve, as you go through photography. What you might start doing initially will eventually change and won’t be where you end up at all, and you might find at times that you’re falling in love with different aspects of photography. Enjoy your journey, enjoy every moment as it comes, don’t take it too seriously, because otherwise it will consume your craft.
To see Andrew's work click here!
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