At the ripe old age of 20, Sydney based photographer / videographer Billy Zammit has already established a firm industry foothold and sought after aesthetic, shooting for global brands, bands and everything in between. Oh, and more importantly he's one of the most humble blokes you're likely to come across - good vibes are the order of the day.
You’ve shot for some big name brands, how did you get started in the industry?
As a teenager I always had camera in hand, exploring Sydney city and frequenting hardcore shows at the local PCYC. This lead to me working for a handful of publications covering live music and festivals. I was using the best gear I could afford and attempting to match the quality of the gear I needed - however this wasn’t a possibility at the time and I had to make do!
Whilst slowly ticking off artists and acts from around the world, shooting on behalf of various clients - I was also collaborating with some of Australia’s best street artists and muralists.
This allowed me to lend my affinity for street photography and graffiti to a new light, commercialising their works for client projects and leading some incredible campaigns.
Fortunately the combination of all night editing sessions and all day shoots - I was very fortunate to encounter and grow friendships with so many likeminded incredibly driven creatives, eventually establishing a client base in fashion and commercial advertising.
What is your individual style? Do you think your images exude a particular technical or stylistic quality?
It’s taken some long nights and hard work to establish my aesthetic. I like to believe that my work stands out in a saturated market and hopefully be identifiable as my own. It’s taken me the past five years to establish my current treatment and ‘look’ - however there’s always room to grow and I’m truly afraid of getting comfortable, so I like to mix it up whenever I can. Looking forward to whatever the next move is!
I have always had an appreciation for street photography and this is somewhat where my branding elements stem from. I’m a huge believer of capturing a moment and not curating (in the appropriate setting) - this is then reflected in my post production.
For example, If I were to be shooting a live show, I like to work on the images the same night until early hours of the morning - the energy from the crowd, the stage performance, the mindset of shooting stays with me. A combination of this and also playing music representative of the project on hand, it’s extremely important for me to find a middle ground between my personal post production techniques and ensuring the energy from the image or video is represented in the treatment I apply.
What is it about shooting motorcycles you enjoy?
Every opportunity I have to work with motorcycles and shoot these campaigns I can’t help but get excited! From hanging out of car windows, the wind whistling in my ears as we shoot down a highway - to working in remote locations and showing the beauty behind the machine. It’s always an incredible experience and never taken for granted.
The ‘talent’ on these shoots are always the most down to earth people and the whole ‘personality’ behind riders is reflected in their bike! There’s always a story to be told or a complaint to be had about their machine - it’s what keeps it interesting. If it’s creating a campaign around a new release or a blog post about a sick little cafe racer that barely starts, there’s just something special you can’t replicate.
Do you have any particular photographic influences?
Unfortunately not! I try to keep ‘references’ to a minimum and create my work from scratch. Although it’s impossible to not be indirectly influenced from the mass amount of imagery via social media etc.
My post production colour palette and treatment is loosely based on analogue film - not in the way of presets and VSCO. More so in the treatment of desaturated colours and lowered vibrancy, usually including some grain in my images and not being afraid get a little dirt on my filters.
As for my actual image capture - Im always trying to improve on my compositions and move to angles that can’t be replicated with a zoom lens. My whole kit is made up of prime lenses (fixed focal/zoom lengths) which allows me to find a frame and use my body rather than stay static and zoom into an image. I also try to keep my amount of captures to a minimum and not over shoot - try a frame and if it’s not right, move into a different position and find the next one. Again almost bringing it back to the roots and limiting myself to a set amount of exposures rather than having 500 images on a card after a shoot.
What would your ideal project or assignment consist of?
The ideal project to work on would be with an incredible crew, making some magic happen for a client with an open brief. Having a brand bible to adhere to and an aesthetic treatment to create.
An incredible atmosphere followed by a burger and few beers on wrap.
I’ll always take a Euro/States project when they come up though. They’re pretty ideal...