A QUICK CHAT WITH: WEBSTER CAO
Back a few years ago, when our weekly ride was in its infancy, we copped an Insta DM from a new follower. So far the roll call on Wednesday mornings could be counted on one hand, so having someone new come along and experience our suburban corner of Melbourne was an exciting prospect.
That someone was Webster. At the time he was elbows deep in a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, so appearances on Wednesday mornings were few and far between, but always welcomed. Since he first met the Soup family, we’ve watched him flourish into one hell of a photographer. Following on from his undergrad he jumped straight into a Masters, but has put it on hold to embrace cycling and let his passion for landscape photography kickstart his career.
Tell us a bit about your photographic journey so far…
I started taking photos in 2014 while I was still in high school. At that time, all I had was an iPhone, but I used it to take mainly street style photos anywhere and at any time.
Back then Instagram wasn’t really as commercial as it is today. It was all about celebrating people’s different perspectives and aesthetics from around the world. That’s what led me to get inspired by a lot of other peoples work on Instagram, and really fuel my passion.
Another big motivator at the very start of my journey was by entering a photo contest hosted by the local newspaper. To my surprise, my photos got nominated and were posted in the newspaper in early 2014. My aunty saw potential in me after that, so she bought me a camera at the end of 2015. It’s the same camera I use now, no changes at all.
Since I got that camera, I really jumped into photography. I tried heaps of different photo styles, taking photos of all kinds of things, but then I began focusing on landscape and started to develop my own photographic style little by little.
Over the last year or so, you’ve produced some cracking drone shots. What motivated you to take it on?
I got my drone in early 2017, when they were a little harder to find on the shelves, and drone photography hadn’t reached the popular heights of today. I was shocked when I first found out about drone photography, as I thought those photos could only be taken from a helicopter, but now thanks to drones you can get some really unique perspectives from the sky. I’ve always particularly liked photos from a nonhuman angle, and with a drone that can go hundreds of metres high, or kilometres away it gives me a game changing view up there.
What process do you go through when creating new work?
Some of my works are inspired by other photographers, the way they shoot and the particular locations they were shooting. Choosing a location is the most important thing for me when I look to create new work, because I always want to shoot unique places that not many people know about, or where there isn’t much human activity. I guess the main thing for me is I like showing beautiful places that may be ignored by people.
The process I go through before shooting is really simple: I’ll take a look at Google Maps and scan for a desolate looking place. Then it’s just grab the camera and the drone then hit the road. I rarely have shooting plans, it’s always about the feelings I get when I am in a particular environment and location.
Do you find there is a crossover of reference points or concepts between your photography work and your studies?
Yes, especially with material studies. Timber, concrete, soil – they all have different textures, and people would have different feelings when they experience these materials. I try to bring the same concepts to life in my photos. For example with the sky, clouds, buildings, plants, the ocean and the ground, I want the viewer to see these different textures and colours and have that same emotional connection as if it was something they could actually touch, hold and feel.
Do you have any dream photographic locations?
Iceland and New York! One is a country with the most amazing natural spaces in the world, while the other is the most prosperous and buzzing places in the world.
What are you focusing on for the remainder of 2019?
I’m really excited to continue exploring the little towns, hills, forests and seashores in Victoria.
Tell us a bit about your cycling journey so far…
I started cycling when I was really young, all mountain biking before I came to Melbourne. I’ve fallen off trails and cliffs hundreds of times, gotten injuries, but I just can’t stop myself from riding down fast trails. I guess I just love creating my own speed, not taking it from engines or power.
Do you see photography becoming more of a focus in your career in the future?
Yes for sure. I recently got a job opportunity in a Melbourne based landscape architecture firm as a graduate Landscape Architect. Part of my job is site visiting and taking photos of existing sites, which can allow our team to have a better understanding of the space, leading to them being able to offer better design proposals. It’s a really good start for me, and I will definitely incorporate photography as a design tool as my career grows.
Webster’s Instagram shows fantastic variety and contrast between regional Australia and the concrete jungle. Check it out here.
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