“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” – Oscar Wilde
In this series we shine a light on artists expressing their individuality, documenting what they love, working hard on their craft, and sharing it with the world.
We spoke to Liam Vandenberk, a commercial and landscape photographer and videographer who’s using his work for what he says is most important in life — “happiness”. Liam is based in Tauranga and currently living on the coast of Papamoa.
Liam says he left school with no interest in anything but gaming, something he "wasn't proud of”. His first job was as a road worker for Higgins, climbing through drains, pressure testing storm water systems and cementing manholes. “I can tell you now that this was not a fun job, but it was the starting point that changed my mindset, to look further into my future and see what else is in the world I could put mind to, and make me what's most important … happy.”
Liam says he started taking photos with his phone when he was around 17 years old and working for Higgins. “Each morning I would be there from 6.30 am – 7.00 pm, catching both sunrise and sunset on my phone, brief moments in time, nothing too special, but this led me to want to explore further, so I purchased my first camera, which was a Canon 70D, and started shooting friends as much as I could to amplify my knowledge with the settings and framing of the camera. This became a ritual. Every weekend I would shoot another person, if not two or three, and I started posting the photos on Instagram. My photos started to get noticed as I went along, and featured in online magazines week after week. I think that's what sparked a passion and the start of my photography journey. It was no longer gaming that took over my life, but me finding a real interest in the real world.”
Liam eventually turned to shooting video as well as photography, and uploaded a video online called ‘My 2016 Show Reel’. A marketing firm hired him as an intern after viewing the video. He stayed there for a year and moved on to work for himself after he was offered his first ever commercial job, working for Speights.
“We ended up flying to the South Island and jumping out of a hot air balloon in Canterbury. This led to travelling for a full year around the world for different commercial clients, Bali, Thailand, Hawaii, USA, Vegas, Sydney…”
In the beginning, Liam’s parents didn’t really give much thought to him being a photographer. He guesses this was due to the idea of him not being financially stable.
“In reality, I guess that's what most parents think. Go with a stable job with a weekly income, and play it safe. Buy a house too.”
However Liam knew he could do it. He then started with wedding photography while commercial jobs slowly started creeping in.
“I don't know why, but brands were interested in my moody style, such as Mercedes Benz, Canon, Kathmandu, Hallenstein Brothers, Speights….”
Liam says films have a massive impact on his life, and inspire him as a photographer and videographer, The Joker (2019), Revenant, BladeRunner 2049 to name a few.
“The mood, tone and feeling I get from these films inspire me deeply. These movies all take you along the same path as the actors.”
Asked about his favourite spots in New Zealand, Liam said, “Milford Sound. The entire route is stunning, every piece of that side of the country is beautiful, I would highly recommend a visit. My other favourite would have to be the Coromandel. Endless pristine beaches, beautiful bush and sea life everywhere... I guess that's why parts of the movie ‘Narnia’ were filmed there.”
And finally, what about photography does he find most rewarding? “Living and breathing, taking in the moment before I capture what is in front of me, whether it be high up in the mountains, or in wilderness and snow, this is where I feel welcome and at ease.”