Greg Williams and the Motos

Posted on June 5, 2010


Greg Williams is a photographer pushing the boundaries of the medium as we know it. As a photojournalist Williams shot news features in such trouble spots as Burma, Chechnya and Sierra Leone in the 1990’s. In 1997 he worked on an assignment for The Sunday Times Magazine, a piece which would mark a major shift in Williams’ career. The piece, a reportage photo essay behind the scenes of the British film industry, would later develop into his first book “Greg Williams: On Set” In the book’s introduction director Alan Parker writes:

“The photographs in this book are remarkable not only because they’re so good but because they exist at all. For what is a visual art form, curiously, there have been very few outstanding photographs taken of the actual making of films. However, looking at these pictures I realise how privileged we are because the images also exude great joy, making me anxious to get back onto a film set once more.”

To date Williams has worked as a “special photographer” on more than 120 films which include some exceptional work on the three most recent James Bond films. It was during this period that Williams learned lighting craft and direction technique by watching and learning from those around him. Williams described it as “the ultimate photographic education.”

In recent years Williams started shooting for the fashion world and this combined with his extensive portfolio as a portrait photographer combined to help Williams pioneer the “Moto” or moving photography. By shooting short photo sessions on the RED One camera, Williams is then able to pull 4k high-definition stills from the video for use in print (a single frame is of high enough quality to print over a two page spread). Williams first worked on the technique while developing Quantum of Solace publicity material, with the moto viewable on screens on the London Underground as well as in Times Square and on Hollywood Blvd in LA.

The technique really came to the fore when Williams applied it to his Megan Fox cover shoot for Esquire. Shooting roughly 10mins of loosely scripted footage, Williams said of the process:

“It allowed her to act,” Williams says. “She could run scenes without being reminded by the sound of a shutter every four seconds that I was taking a picture. As in still photography, a lot of it is capturing unexpected moments. This takes that one step further.”

After pulling the best images for print the footage was then chopped down into a short video (see below) for use online. It would be easy to dismiss this technique as lazy photography but consider the scale of the projects themselves. The shoots still need to be styled, art directed and produced. The photographer (or is it videographer?) still needs to direct a model, consider his lens and lighting setup. All this while using equipment (the RED) still very much in its infancy. Hardly lazy.

With the arrival of the iPad magazines are going to have to step up and embrace the future. The moto technique allows for the creation of moving covers and pictorials that compliment and enhance the reading experience. Williams has shown that his technical work on advertising campaigns for the likes of Dunhill or his Esquire covers is every bit as classy and stylish as his photographic style. He is embracing technology and combining it with creative techniques that make sense.

To see Williams’ work and the motos at their best check out his piece for the LA Times Magazine, entitled Dangerous Curves. Viewable on both web browser and iPad the piece was shot using the fledgling mysterium-X and Epic cameras. To quote Williams:

“Much will change for photographers over the next 5 years and I believe that most of us will become directors in some sense or another.”
all work © Greg Williams

Posted in: Film, Photography