I hold a really special place in my heart for those who truly believe in what it means to be young. What it really means to surround yourself with people who are really alive, living every single minute of their day. But what about the people who are actively trying to capture these memories? The ones who work tirelessly, weaving through crowds, sweaty bodies, sticky floors? What of those who are translating these memories of youth into art?
This is where local photographer Sol (aka ‘Sol Took This’) takes centre stage. Sitting down with Solomon Wilks, I began to realise the true complexities behind the great snapshots of our lives. He’s a passionate creative and a wonderful individual. A true artist of his craft. Ever the man about town, I can pretty much guarantee that Sol has snapped you and your mates while, of course, you’re all ‘having the best night ever’, making sure you never really forget those nights you perhaps can’t remember.
But where did it all begin? ‘I’ve actually been taking photos for as long as I can really remember,’ explains Sol. ‘I’ve kind of always had cameras and things because it’s always been an interest of mine, but professionally, only for about four years. That’s kind of where I got my first job – taking photos in a nightclub at the CBD Hotel. It was the first time I’d ever got paid for taking photos and I’ve really been doing it ever since.’
Going from engaging with a hobby to making a creative passion profitable was a big step, but almost a seamless one for the Novocastrian. ‘At the time it was more kind of out of necessity. I really wanted to do that for work, but I really needed a job at the time as well… I realised I was getting paid for something that I enjoy. It’s something that you’re told your whole life: find something you enjoy. I just thought to myself, “Maybe I could keep doing this for a long time.” [That first gig] really changed my perspective in terms of choosing a career path and how easy it was to say, “Hey, I’m just going to focus on this, I’m just going to go ahead and do it.” Everything really opened up from there.’
As a fellow creative, I wondered if Sol had the same thoughts that have run through my mind in terms of taking a giant leap of faith into the unknown that is the creative industry. It’s unconventional, and as artists or creatives, sometimes it can be quite hard to translate to those around you exactly how driven you are by passion. But for Sol, it seemed, that decision was easier than some might anticipate. ‘I never really felt like there was a chance that anything was going to go wrong… There were definitely points in time, though, where I remember thinking, “Maybe I should just get a job”. There were definitely those feelings of sometimes just wanting to go to work in the morning and come home from work at night and stop.’
Working unconventional hours is definitely not for everyone. Most of us tend to savour the evening hours, using the time to let off steam and wind down after the stresses of the working week as we slave away for our smashed avos and long lunches, but these are Sol’s business hours. He works up to five nights a week to capture moments. But being the ever-adaptable and passionate creative he is, Sol enjoys his unconventional schedule and really relishes his office structure. ‘I’ve actually never felt like it’s work, really – it never really feels that way to me at all. Even when I’m just out and about and I’m not shooting, I say to people that I always feel more comfortable when I’m shooting or on a job. I actually enjoy it more.’
The biggest thing about working in this somewhat unconventional setting is at times trying to distinguish between work time and party time. This can be a frustrating feat for many. Not so much for the creatives who are placing themselves within this environment – it’s more those around them who are quick to throw around words like ‘workaholic’. But creativity never sleeps, and once your brain is hardwired to really take notice of what’s happening around you, it’s actually more frustrating when you try to ignore those signs. Personally, I really empathised with this point, especially after recently standing in the mosh pit during a particularly energetic set, turning to a stranger beside me and asking them for a pen. But unlike writers, who are definitely known to get lost in their heads, photographers need to be more calculated, continually noting the changes in light, texture and the people swirling around them.
‘Once you kind of switch that part of your brain on, it’s really, really hard to switch that off,’ says Sol. ‘You’re always kind of looking for shots, and it’s this feeling of horrible frustration when you see something happen that you should have been holding a camera to capture. You find yourself feeling like you’re missing all of these opportunities, but you kind of just have to put that in the back of your mind. Because it is good sometimes to just be out and having a good time instead of worrying about what you’re missing. It’s like a really intense form of the whole fear of missing out. Because really, you might miss that key shot that could be the best photo you’ve ever taken in your life.’
It really brings a whole new sense of appreciation for the hardworking photographers who are putting themselves on the line to get that shot. Because really, life is all about those moments, and as a photographer each and every second can present as a make or break moment. ‘You really start to develop this photographer’s mindset, where you’re always trying to place yourself in the best spot in a room or predict where people might walk. Or if you’re shooting a band, you’re thinking about what direction the singer is going to sing to, just so you can be there in the right spot at the right time.’
Ever the nice and humble guy, Sol talked a little bit about embracing his role and the space he takes up as a photographer, and how important it is business-wise to position yourself to always get the shot. Initially a little apprehensive about the space he takes, Sol reflects on how this mindset had to change in order for him to become a much more effective artist. ‘A few guys I’ve been working with recently basically told me not to worry about where I was standing or whether I was taking up space. Sometimes I do have to occasionally stand in front of people to shoot a gig, but it’s important not to feel nervous about doing so. It’s important to go and stand where you need to be and take the photo, but then of course walk away after you’ve gotten the shot. Once you picture yourself as the photographer and you put aside your fears about whether you’re going to be bothering people, or whether or not you should be going up on stage at that particular time, you just need to do it in order to get the result you want.’ In this case, the proof really lies within his work, with Sol capturing some incredibly beautiful shots, artistically narrating our wonderful town.
But where would someone, who consistently has his ear to the ground in terms of the best places to frequent, take a guest? ‘Even though it’s not this crazy cool boutiquey thing we have here in Newcastle… Honestly, I’d just take them to Kingas (King Street Hotel),’ he says. ‘I just reckon it’s a sick place. We have some cool venues and nightclubs here, but I call it kind of a “Newcastle privilege” where people kind of bag out these really quite cool places, but it’s only because we have nothing to compare it to. I really think these nightclubs, no matter how salty their reputation is, they are really cool venues and a lot of people have put a lot of hard work into making them fun places to be. If someone I knew wanted to see what Newcastle was really all about I’d definitely take them there because, really, it’s about as Newcastle as you can get, and I love that place.’
If you want to see for yourself exactly what’s going on both behind and in front of Sol’s lens, you can check out his spectacular photos on Facebook (facebook.com/soltookthis) and Instagram (@soltookthis).
Also, P.S.: Always, always credit the photographer!