10 Qs with Billy Yarbrough
San Clemente native photographer Billy Yarbrough is a surfer, traveler, musician, and yogi, among other personas. The 23-year-old’s work centers on sun-drenched beach scenes and surfer life, but is now gravitating towards unexplored locales and landscapes in California. In this moment of stylistic transition, we asked the young photographer ten questions to lay it all out.
1: How did you get into photography?
My mom got me into photography. She had some cameras she found at garage sales when I was younger and has encouraged my creativity since day one.
2: You’re from San Clemente, California and your sun-drenched photos definitely show it. How does your environment inform your work?
I don’t always notice it, but I tend to say ”dude” and “epic” way more than my friends outside of California. My environment has shaped my creativity in more ways than I can count. I find my appreciation for all terrains to be a result of the diverse nature of California.
3: What are your go-to spots for shooting and exploring?
Ocean based photography has been a big theme in my portfolio mostly because I grew up surfing in California and a few other countries. Now, the beach is probably one of the last places I’m drawn to shoot photographs. I’m inspired by the normalities of life, the quiet moments of intimacy where you might find yourself in deep thought. Currently, the deserts and forgotten towns of California are where I find that.
4: A lot of your photographs have a candid, documentary quality. What’s it like shooting scenes from your own life?
I’ve asked myself the same question many times. It’s a strange balance to be within the scene and to observe the scene. I have to ask myself sometimes whether or not I’d like to participate fully or to detach myself and document. Some things are better left undocumented.
5: Can you talk about your creative process?
It’s about being in the moment. There is not any amount of preplanning that could decide exactly what’s going to happen, unless I’m working in the studio. I do as much as I can to hone my intuition. I can definitely say my creativity has grown as a result of a consistent yoga practice.
I’m not trying to define my style as a photographer either. That needs to come on its own and will evolve over time.
6: How did you start the series I’m Being Watched?
Growing up my family watched a lot of television. Now I really dislike watching T.V. I see the series as a funny way of personifying the T.V.s as trying to make their way back into my life.
7: The age-old question: digital or film?
I find it lame when I see photographers say when they used film, like it’s a selling point. I think it’s a silly debate and a good photograph can come in any form. There are advantages and disadvantages to using either and I like to use both in the right situations. Todd Hido influenced me in the way that he would shoot the same scenes with multiple cameras for his work in “Excerpts from Silver Meadows”. It gives a certain richness to a body of work to use different mediums. I always have digital and film nearby when I shoot.
8: You’ve done some work with video too. Do you plan to do more of this in the future?
I do have plans to shoot more video in the future, but it won’t be in the likeness of my experimentation with music/fashion videos. It would come more as an extension of my photography.
9: You photograph a lot of concerts and you’ve made some music videos. What role does music play in your life and work?
I grew up in a very musical house playing music with my dad and brother. If I weren’t shooting photos I would be pursuing a career in music. I can’t describe my relationship to music enough. I would love to document a band on the road one day.
10: What’s up next for you?
Currently, I’m teamed up with the fine artist/graphic designer Mandellis and were collaborating various projects through our website Pyrite-Studio. Also, I plan on going back to India soon to elaborate on my series Karma Collection.
Check out the Milk Gallery store to purchase Billy Yarbrough’s prints.