EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Dennys Ilic at the Adelaide Oz Comic Con
ADELAIDE – Dennys Ilic.
At just forty years old he decided on a monumental life change; to pursue a career in photography. His ardent style has allowed him to pursue his career both nationally and overseas, attracting attention from both the film and photographic industry. His images have been featured in publications such as Lime, Studio France, Rolling Stone, In-Style, Who Weekly, Beat and Impress, GT, Wealth Creator Magazine, Qantas In-flight, Virgin Blue Voyeur Magazine, Film Ink and many other local and international media outlets. Not only has he photographed high profile names such as Daniel Radcliffe, Amanda Tapping and Harrison Ford, he has also worked on films such as The Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter, Miss Congeniality 2 and the Matrix Revolutions as a special photographer. What was most striking about Dennys was how genuine and humble he was in the interview. His kindhearted personality is reflected not only through his work but through the people he has met along his journey.
I sat down with Dennys to talk about how his career developed over ten years, and how if you put your mind to something you can definitely achieve it!
What is it like working over in LA compared to working in Australia?
“Los Angeles is the ford factory of the film industry. It’s where people go if they want to be filmmakers, actors and cinematographers. We create beautiful, talented actors and actresses here (Australia) but it is a very diluted and dispersed country – the film industry is sadly not as strongly supported by the government like it is over in L.A. Most of our great actors cut their teeth here on Neighbours or Home And Away and then go on to America and become mega stars. It is very hard for me to find work in Australia, I am always left with so much spare time. In contrast to L.A I have little to no time away from work. Americans are very passionate people, they’re very kindhearted, much different to the way the media portrays them currently.”
How did you develop your style?
“Everything is derivative, there is no originality anymore. We derive what we become through the passion and love of what other people do. My style developed through me imitating the style of the photographers that I loved – but you’re never good enough to do the same shot as them (laughs). You do the best you can and by default you inject your own sensibility and style which makes it your own. A lot of people ask me how I get so many raw and vastly different emotions in the actors I photograph – I really don’t know. To be honest I have come to understand that it’s the relationship you form with your subject, I love the people that I photograph and I usually gravitate to photographing people from the shows that I have loved and watched throughout my life. My passion for photography, which by the way I have no education in (laughs), I am completely self-taught, I just started by surrounding myself with books and images from the photographers that I love. I’d have no respect for the books that I’d buy either, I tear out pages and pages from $200 photographic books and hang them on the wall so I’m always saturated with inspiration. Hanging things on my walls in my office or work space, seems to work so well for me because even if I don’t look at them directly every day, I’m always subliminally getting fed these creative inspirations. I was forty years old when I decided on a career change, I never really had the time to go to University and study for three years.”
Interesting Experiences when photographing someone, or how you were able to photograph them.
“My two favourite subjects that I’ve photographed have to be Daniel Radcliffe and Amanda Tapping I think. Amanda Tapping, that was a very weird situation (laughs). I’ve been watching Stargate for fifteen years and I watched it here in Australia. When they came out back then, I never had any concept that I would ever meet them. I photographed Ryan Robbins for Sanctuary and after the photo shoot we became very good friends. All well and good, I went back to Vancouver some time later and Ryan told me that he had showed some of my work to Amanda and she said that she wanted to meet me. It was very surreal. We met, we became good friends and then when she visited Australia last year we decided to a photo shoot for fun. It turns out that we actually really liked the photos and we decided on creating a photo-book of the images from the shoot. Daniel Radcliffe I have been ‘shootagraphing’ (laughs – that’s a new one!) for about five or so years, I’ve known him since he was fifteen. It’s been amazing to watch him grow into a fine young man and not type cast which you often see a lot of these days. He was literally one of the first high profile people that I photographed. When he came to Australia looking to do a photo shoot here, I submitted my portfolio which at that time didn’t have many portraits or shoots, it was totally full of just indie bands (laughs) and it turned out he just loves them. His family felt that I was able to provide what they wanted. That was a really profound change in my life, having the credibility from photographing the lead actor in the biggest film franchise on the planet, it really elevated what I did. I owe a lot to Daniel and his family, I love them dearly and they’re such lovely people.
It’s a great thing to pursue your passions because you will never know where you might end up. The advances of the internet and social media has allowed Australians especially, as we’re such a vast and wide country that is very separated from the other westernised cultures, to explore different opportunities and have their work online for everyone in the world to see. Before all the internet really became big, TV shows and films might as well have existed on another planet, just due to the fact that things were not as accessible and so instantaneous. A film would come out a year later from when it would in the U.S, so when I was ten or eleven, I wouldn’t have even entertained the thought of ever meeting them in person. To see a friend I’d have to jump on my bike and ride down the road, now it’s just 30 SMS’s at once and you still miss each other (laughs). My whole business model and my life is sort of based on social networking and the media that comes with it. A lot of people don’t understand how powerful it is and it’s the way business is changing. I challenge anyone to talk for three hours over coffee without touching their phone (laughs).”
Do you ever find you miss Australia when you’re working overseas or vice versa?
“Mainly my family, but I honestly love travelling and I’m an aviation expert due to flying so much, I love airports (laughs). Probably the only difficult aspect of my type of work is me not sort of able to have that, significant other be a wife or a girlfriend because of the travelling – but I’m very committed to what I do, and I love what I do so it sort of balances out I guess with the people I work with. I get so much emotion out of the photo shoots and the people that I photograph. As long as I can take a photo and help out someone whether it’s an aspiring actor by doing a shoot really cheap or just photographing someone I’ve always wanted to, I’m happy. As long as I can eat and lie down with a roof over my head I’m content, I don’t need anything else. I honestly just feel so lucky that I’ve found my ‘calling’ this late in life. If I could go from working in retail (at JB Hi-Fi) at the age of forty, to having worked in all the greatest film franchises in the world such as Lord Of the Rings and Harry Potter, imagine what you could do at 17, 18 or 19 and you’ve got a camera, you love photography and you commit yourself to that for the next 20 years and you’re passionate about it . You could be the next Annie Lebovitz and photographing Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone. Actually that’s one of my dreams, to photograph the cover of Vanity Fair (laughs). In complete truth, hearing feedback from young people that I’ve inspired them or I’ve affected one person, it’s a big deal, it means a lot to me. It’s kind of very important to me now to become a good role model.”
Any advice for aspiring photographers or for people who are unsure about where they want to go in life?
“I think that no matter what career you choose, you need to not let anything interfere with your passion. I spent all my young life doing what I thought my parents wanted me to do. I studied Engineering but by the time I got to my late thirties I was working in these high paying, go-nowhere jobs and I became very depressed. To get away from all that I went and worked in retail and this gave me a bit of time to (not) think (laughs). Whatever I did I was always committed to, which is what is so hard to see these days. That’s basically how it all started for me. I was always interested in the customers that would walk in and buy a camera for their honeymoon and always put 110% percent into my work. One day a manager for Warner Bros. films in Australia walked in and I always helped them out, we became good friends and suddenly he was inviting me to movie premieres and I’d take a few snaps and was just always being kind to people and very grateful for their opportunities. So what I can say from that is, even if you are working in retail, give it 100% or 110%. It’s so cliché but you really have to follow your heart, work out what is important for you and be a sponge to all the people around you. Take advice from your parents and the people you talk to, and from there you’ll be able to follow your dreams. Being a good person to everybody, it doesn’t matter what walk of life they’re from, that’s the number one thing.”
Thank you for this interview and good luck with the rest of your career! I’m sure I’ll see you in America sometime in the future!
“No thank you! I should probably get back to my stall and continue on ‘fanboying’ (laughs). Good luck with your photography and your writing!”