Written By Ruthie Snow
Photographed by Lindsay Higgins
Will Dunlap is a photographer with a natural eye for story. He crosses his arms against his black sweater when he answers my questions about his passion for storytelling: “The camera is such an impactful way of viewing people,” he says. “It’s the most genuine expression I know.” For Will, photography is not only a personal expression of creativity but also a way to connect with those in front of the camera. “I want my photographs to feel almost like they have a personality, and you get to see all their different moods or emotions.” At seventeen, Will bought his first digital camera after taking photos on his smartphone in high school, and he has been devotedly refining his craft ever since.
Although a native of North Augusta, Will has lived most of his life in Anderson with his incredibly supportive family: “They have affected my drive in my art. They motivate me to do better.” With two sisters who graduated from Anderson University, it was natural that Will decided to come here. Now a junior Psychology major, Will is learning to combine his passion for photography with his interest in human behavior.
Will’s inspiration for the photographs that appear in Ivy Leaves largely comes from Nicolas Bruno, a New York-based photographer who suffers from sleep paralysis. Bruno began to have visions of demons, malevolent presences, and other terrifying dreams at age fifteen. “He uses photography as a kind of therapy to help him,” Will explains as he scrolls through Bruno’s gallery on his phone. “He recreates what scares him. As someone who studies psychology, that’s really interesting to me.” Bruno has served as a mentor for Will since they met at a photography event in 2016. “I ended up striking up a conversation with him at the event about our shared passion, and then had the chance to observe his expertise in action. Ever since then, Nick has become my number one advisor for my photographic endeavors, and I hope he continues to be for years to come.”
Will’s style, like Bruno’s, is thought-provoking. His subjects, in this journal, are blindfolded and posed in a way that suggests a dark, psychological struggle. Whether it’s a stimulating, challenging image, or a simple portrait, Will’s favorite shots are ones with people in them. “Landscapes are attractive, but you can’t get a story out of a picture of a flower,” Will says. Will views photography as a way to relate a person’s story and as an intimate, emotional way to get to know them. “It’s personal when I get close with my camera,” he says. “It’s almost as if I’m respecting them by taking their picture.”
Following graduation, Will plans to combine his academic passion in psychology with his creative passion in photography. “I want to use photography as a therapy for people with mild depression or unexplained fears,” he says. “If we talk through their emotions and recreate how they feel in an image, photography becomes art therapy. Maybe it can help them overcome some hurdles. But I haven’t really told anyone about this yet.” He pauses as he smiles. “And I don’t know who would want to sit down with me.” When asked where he sees himself in ten years, Will sits back and laughs as he answers. “I want to continue to work and to allow myself to be taught by others with experience and talent… I see myself still holding my camera.”