After 20 years in the corporate world, Park Hill resident Willy Wilson picked up a camera and “took a chance on the surprise factor,” she says. She launched her portraiture business, Life Unstill Photography, about a decade ago, and in January received one of the top honors in her industry, the Photographer of the Year award from the National Association of Portrait and Child Photographers. Wilson’s photos have garnered national attention not only for her exquisite attention to light and movement but also for where she captures her images: underwater. Wilson is a leading underwater photographer who produces artistic images of “people expressing themselves in ways not possible on dry land,” she notes.
Wilson’s enchanting photos are a result of her unexpected journey into photography. “Photography was a creative thing on the side,” she says. “I saw men running the field, and it didn’t occur to me that this was a space for me.”
Wilson studied fine arts at the University of Colorado Boulder before pursuing a career in business and consulting. It was not until she took a few film courses at the Colorado Film School—between caring for her children and holding down a day job—that she “rediscovered that the camera was my friend,” she says. Gradually, thanks to word-of-mouth, her “photography hobby” evolved into full-time work. “I had to take my foot out of one financial pot and make the other enough,” she continues. “I went all in.”
Powered by Wilson’s “perfectionist approach” to each photo shoot, Life Unstill expanded from family portraiture to branding art and, more recently, underwater photography. Wilson recalls, “I knew underwater photography was hard, and I fell in love with it.” She smushed her cell phone into a waterproof case and began photographing volunteers in area pools. “I love the surprise element with photographing humans. You don’t know what they’re going to do,” she says. “Photographing underwater is another part of that, like making magic.”
Wilson soon upgraded to a Nikon camera in waterproof housing, yet “the variables and breakthroughs remain,” she says. For many of her clients, being photographed underwater is a transformative experience. “Everybody forgets to worry about how they look,” she comments. “We use the water, the light, the poses to tell a story visually.”
Wilson’s Life Unstill packages provide softly and heavily edited photographs, with the serious edits delivering layered images of ephemeral light and mesmerizing fluidity. Wilson is increasingly concentrating on the fine arts, with the hope of fulfilling her longtime dream of a gallery show. She is especially proud of the collage of her images displayed on a billboard at Times Square in New York City, where her work was featured in recognition of her Photographer of the Year award.
In addition to her lengthy list of professional ambassadorships, Wilson volunteers with New Legacy Charter School for parenting teens in Aurora. Each spring Wilson and fellow photographers donate free senior portraits to New Legacy graduates. “It’s one of the best parts of the year,” she says.
To see more of Wilson’s work, visit www.lifeunstill.com.
Photos courtesy of Willy Wilson