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HomeLifestyleDenver Photographer Willy Wilson Celebrates Award

Denver Photographer Willy Wilson Celebrates Award

Featured photo of Willy Wilson by Mary Bea Photography.

Denver photographer Willy Wilson started her journey in the industry as an assistant to her high school’s senior photographer. Although she didn’t initially pursue photography as a career, years later, she received the National Association of Professional Child Photographers’ prestigious Photographer of the Year Award in January 2023. 

Wilson’s brand involves framing her subjects in an unconventional manner. Some photos are shot underwater, her subjects draped in vintage clothes from the thrift store, while others may include overlays with older pictures she’s shot during her career. Her unique vision has allowed her to carve a lane in local photography, and now, with the award under her belt, she’s made a name for herself on the national stage. 

“This year, having won the award, it’s been nice to tell myself, ‘you are doing something that’s right. You are weird and it’s ok to be weird,’” Wilson said. 

The photographer bought her first digital camera 15 years ago, and she has refined her practice by working with businesses, high schoolers and volunteer models over the last decade. 

“For a while, I shot everything on film and focused on being in galleries,” Wilson said. “Then someone from Camera Obscura said, ‘Have you thought about being a portrait photographer?’ All of a sudden it was a career.” 

Receiving the award was a goal of Wilson’s for many years, and was even a subject of her annual vision board at the start of 2022. Though she focused more on the contest and goal of the trophy than any other year prior, winning the award stirred mixed feelings. 

“I found it hard to believe that I had won it, even though I had been working towards it for years,” Wilson said. “When I won I had full-on imposter syndrome about it.” 

The imposter syndrome she speaks of is common among creatives. The mental tendency to trivialize one’s own work is innate to artistic pursuit, but receiving recognition can also validate one’s vision. 

“Being a creative person, it’s easy to second guess anything you’re doing,” Wilson said. “It kind of validated what I’ve been doing, and made me shut down that inner critic.”

She receive the award at a convention in Nashville and had her photos featured on the cover of Inspired Magazine, but her winning photographs made an appearance on a Times Square billboard—a surreal experience for the artist. 

“It was totally unreal. We stayed there for two or three hours because it’s on rotation and it only came up like, once every thirty minutes,” Wilson said. 

One series that was featured amongst the winners was her underwater project, one of her most significant undertakings in recent years. Subjects are framed underwater in a swimming pool, and the photos are edited to create ethereal and dreamlike compositions. 

“I find it interesting to see how I can make things that don’t go together, go together—evening gowns and swimming pools, ice and summer,” she said.

Wilson has been quick to move on to other pursuits. Her new series involves blending photography and sculpture in three-dimensional paper designs. Her company, Life Unstill, works with brands, families and high school seniors to create unique and inspired photographic art. 

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