Although Wilf began his career without formal training in photography, over the past three decades he has gathered a wealth of experience by doing what he does best, taking photographs.
He became involved in photography in the early 1970s while working as a sales clerk in a camera shop in, Perth, a small town in his native Scotland. Although it began as just a job, he quickly fell in love with the equipment and what could be done with it. In the meantime he aimed for the top and went to work for a prestigious store in the South of England, selling mainly Leicas and Hasselblads.
"My training in life and photography began here,” Wilf said years later. “I was introduced to the best, in equipment and photographers. Over the twelve years I worked in retail photography I met professional and dedicated amateur photographers whose work ranged from wars and famine in Africa to photographing flowers in your back garden, and everything in between.
“In 1975 a friend took me to a lecture and slide show in London given by the great landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, whose photographs and lecture made a lasting impression on me. It was also at this time that the maverick photojournalist John Robert Young became an important mentor. John introduced me to darkroom work, and it is from him that I learned my darkroom technique and my lasting appreciation and love of black and white images.
“With the advantage of being able to look back over my career, I can now recognize and appreciate the richness of knowledge in equipment, photographs and the people who took those photographs that was given to me."
By 1985 Wilf was shooting and selling photographs as a professional freelancer. On one of his earliest commissions, he produced hundreds of photographs for the Brighton Tourist Board in Southern England. Their assignments varied enormously and included photographing stage productions at the local variety theatre, the interior and exterior of hotels and groups of politicians in Brighton for their annual political rally. In the five years he was involved in this work he photographed actors. rock stars, comedians, politicians and all aspects of the seaside town of Brighton.
In the early 1990's he decided to realise a dream and travel around the world, so packing his cameras he set off on a year long trip that took him to North America, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
"It is a decision I will never regret,” Wilf said. “The experience of undertaking such a voyage will never leave me, and the quality of my work increased enormously. No longer did I have to look at the work of other photographers working in exotic locations: Now I had my own photographs."
On his return to Great Britain he first settled in his native Scotland, but soon moved to Paris. Since the move he has photographed in France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and has also worked in the USA and India. He spends his time between his homes in Paris and the beautiful Mediterranean village of Peyriac de Mer in Southwest France near the frontier with Spain.
When he returned with thousands of images the around-the-world trip, Wilf was accepted by the prestigious Telegraph Colour Library part of Getty Images in London. The agency syndicates his work worldwide; to date his images have appeared in more than fifty countries in magazines and books, and as book and CD covers, on calendars, and in editorial and advertising.
Wilf’s work has been shown in exhibits all over Europe and his reputation is beginning to expand in North America. Most recently his work was shown at the “Visa Pour L'Image” - The International Festival of Photojournalism – held in the town of Perpignan in the South of France. 'Visa Pour L'Image' is the largest gathering of photojournalist in the world.
One of Wilf’s most memorable encounters occurred at the Perpignan festival:
“In 1999 I had the honour of having lunch with Joe Rosenthal, who told me the story of his famous picture of the raising of the American Flag on the island of Iwo Jima towards the end of WWII,” Wilf said. “After showing Joe some of my work I asked him what direction I should be going in. A kindly gentleman in his early 90s, he looked at me and said, 'if your love is taking photographs, then just keep taking photographs.'
“So that is what I am doing.“
Wilf's Description of His Photographs:
If asked, ‘How would I describe my photographs and my approach to talking photographs?’ This would be my reply…………
“I would describe myself as a Photojournalist and Travel Photographer. I enjoy the concept of creating a series of photographs that follows a theme, and the end result is a story told in pictures. And yet, each individual image in the theme should be able to stand-alone and relate to the viewer what the photo-essay is trying tell.
A great deal of the work I do is single image stock library photography. At first I thought this would be easy to do. However it is very difficult to end up with a single image that will portray the subject and give a sense of power behind the photograph. I believe this is where I really had to work hard to hone my skills. I have found that what works best for me is to fill the frame. A powerful shot, whether taken with a wide angle or a telephoto lens, has to leave me feeling as if I am part of the image. With portrait work I (nearly) always try and get total eye contact, so that when I view the image I get a sense that no camera existed between the person, and me, and yet magically a moment of intimacy has been recorded.
I have often pondered the question, ‘what makes a good photograph?’ and I have come up with some lengthy answers for myself. The short answer when looking at my work is, ‘it has “IT”’ So when I am sorting through my work and out comes the words ‘it has it,’ the image I am looking at is giving me greatest amount of pleasure to view. If those same images give other people pleasure then that’s a bonus.