Paul Ward Who?by Roger Young / 13.01.2011
Paul Ward runs a social photography blog called Diary Of Ward. Mainly it documents his party life in Cape Town. He was also one of the photographers on the M-Net reality show Sharp Shooter where he made the final three. If you’ve been out in Cape Town over the last year, chances are you’ve seen him and his gang at at party wearing their I AM PAUL WARD t-shirts that make them look like they’ve watched the “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” video one too many times. The photography on Diary Of Ward is a few notches above most other social photography blogs but, once you’ve seen him out, you can’t help but wonder what Paul Ward is actually after and the moment you do that you have to concede that his strategy is working.
Mahala: So, you’re aware that a lot of people think you’re a massive douche?
Paul Ward: Yeah, I’m aware that some people are very much against Paul Ward, but I don’t know, it’s probably people that don’t actually speak to me but they see my t-shirt or they see my hat or whatever. Once people talk to me and I explain that it’s like a brand, a trade persona, it’s not necessarily my personal persona… But when your name is your brand, I don’t know, it’s not the same thing. I’m not going out there promoting myself, it’s my creative persona and a lot of people are loving it.
So then what is Paul Ward? Where does Paul Ward the person end and where does Paul Ward the photographer begin?
It’s obviously not my birth name, I would never wear my own name on t-shirt. So when I go out as Paul Ward that’s when I’ve got camera in hand, I’m interacting and capturing people. I’m still the same person, my personality doesn’t change, I don’t become arrogant. But when I’m wearing my shirt and stuff and I’m out there, I’m trying to interact with people, I’m trying to socialize and maybe I wouldn’t be as confident if I was just myself. At least if they’re hating you, they’re talking to you and they’re looking at you and making some sort of comment.
You studied marketing, right?
Brands and Communication.
And you didn’t study photography?
I did photography in high school. I excelled at it. Got 100% for my final matric exhibition and I loved photography. It was always my biggest passion. Out of school, I wanted to get a degree, wanted to learn something more than a craft, something that could help a craft. Advertising seemed like the right way to go. Then once I had my degree, it was basically my gap year to try and see what I could do with photography, to see if it was for me. For the first time in my life I could actually just give everything to photography. I shot a lot of other stuff and then got the Sharp Shooter request in early 2010.
So how did that come about?
I literally got phoned 7’oclock on a Friday morning and Sunday morning I was flying up to Jobrug. I started Monday. Somebody dropped out so I was the last person to get called. I never went to an interview or anything. Someone sent them a link to my site. I probably wasn’t ready for it, but no one really was.
Back to the idea of what you are doing with Paul Ward. Is It more of a marketing exercise than a photographic exercise? I mean, it’s a diary, you’re not making art with every picture.
Yeah, maybe in a broader sense, I’m documenting a time in Cape Town. I think because I’m showing so many photographs, this is more for everyone to share. It is going to change slightly and already in February I’ve got an exhibition which is just “by Ward” linked with the Design Indaba. So although it is like a popular thing where people are going to look at themselves, I do think there is an art aspect to it and you’ll see when it evolves this year, like there will be art sessions and there’ll be broader photographic sessions, like it is now. But I think the overarching look and feel is quite arty.
Well look, it’s not thunda.com
It’s not thunda, it’s not we-are-awesome.
How has Diary Of Ward influenced you getting advertising work and other work?
Marketing wise Diary Of Ward has got me a lot of exposure. I don’t think the big dogs go to Diary Of Ward, but A lot of young creatives have noticed me and a lot of stylists and young models who get small jobs and they want a photographer. Maybe it’s because I’m cool, but its got me some cool, small jobs. It hasn’t got me any big jobs, although some brands pay me now to go to parties and shoot. I make more money off that than anything else.
The aesthetic at the moment is quite 80s. Your shirts remind me of Frankie goes to Hollywood. How much do you think that that aesthetic influences what you choose to shoot?
I have my own personal style. Because of how I dress and where I go, you say it’s 80s, but a lot of people on the scene see me as like a jock or this arrogant douche cause I don’t wear skinny jeans and stuff and then they hate me. But when they speak to me and realise who I am, it surprises them and then they are almost more easily accepting of what I’m doing.
So who are your biggest heroes? Who are the photographers you look up to?
From a young age, Warwick Saint just because he is also South African born and I saw his work and I found out the story behind him when I started getting into photography. He shoots all the cool brands and a lot of nice celebrities so I’ve followed him for a long time. Cobra Snake is another; as a party photographer and for creating a brand. Something similar to Paul Ward in turns of personality is like Terry Richardson like, how people hate him. I don’t know if he’s good or not but people want his name behind their shot so I aspire to him in that sense, as a brand.
When you make an artistic decision how much does your marketing head get in the way of that?
I don’t think it gets in the way. I was never an artist, I was always more commercial. Photography is my medium but I consider myself a creator above a photographer. I can do many things.
A lot of people go around wearing the Paul Ward cap, like Paul Ward groupies.
We call them Wardens.
And you don’t take all the pictures?
No. I set everything up and I’m the one that selects all the photos at the end of the day and posts them, but often my friends, only certain friends, mainly my one close mate, he knows how to shoot like Paul Ward. And it wasn’t so in the beginning but like after the last two months I can’t actually tell the difference.
So they’re just like groupies. What does that mean?
None of the guys that wear the shirts are groupies, they are all my close mates. Like if I do a creative project with someone them I give it to them and the whole point of I Am Paul Ward is like when I work with someone in a sense they become a part of me. Giving them a T-shirt means that they have somehow affected me and that they are part of Paul Ward.
So did everyone on Sharp Shooter get a Paul Ward Tshirt?
No, they are very select. At the moment it is just close people that have affected me personally.
On Sharp Shooter, you seemed to know the least but you always seemed to go like, fuck it I can do this. That seems to be your attitude. How much do you think that attitude over your technical ability got you into the final three?
The thing about Sharp Shooter is every week is a different type of photography like there were these guys that were amazing at wedding photography but they get thrown into journalism and they don’t know how to shoot that stuff. So I think the fact that almost every task was like this scary new thing for me, helped. The other guys were comfortable in the first few weeks and then they get thrown into something that weren’t used to and they get flustered. With me, whether it was shooting cars or underwater, it doesn’t matter, it’s just shooting. I was just worried about getting a nice shot. Sharp Shooter wasn’t like this hectic photography competition, there were like a lot of other things that made it intense. I don’t think the photography was too technically hectic.
If you had to choose between photography and marketing, if someone came to you and said we want to hire you to do marketing but we are going to hire another photographer.
No, that’s not me. I’ll step away from that. I’m a photographer if you buy me as a creative. I wouldn’t be a brand strategist for a campaign. If they want to create a Paul Ward thing then that’s ok, but I’m not a marketer as such.
So for you the process is more about the making than the marketing?
I’m quite fixed on marketing myself hoping that it will lead the better things. But I’m not going to be a 45 year old going to parties and shooting Diary Of Ward. It’s a fun, nice thing to do now when I’m young and I’m going to parties and hopefully make some money while I’m still struggling to become famous.
Do you shoot Diary Of Ward every weekend?
I basically stopped drinking for three months and I said let’s take a camera out because it’ll give me something to do while everyone gets drunk. Then I started taking photos and I was really loving what I was getting. It was never an idea that I’m going to start a photo blog, I never saw a niche in the market, it just happened. The main thing is it’s my diary so it’s what Paul Ward wants to do. So if it’s on the diary it’s things that I think are cool.