In addition to being the chief storyteller for Mojang Studios, makers of the popular video game Minecraft, Lydia Winters has also become known for her product photography where she specializes in watches and inspires others looking to break into underrepresented spaces.
Storytelling in Video Games and Photos
Winters, based in Sweden, creates narratives for a living, whether it’s video games or product photography. When she first started at Mojang Studios, she was the first woman to join the company. Now, she is the chief storyteller for Minecraft, a game that attracts players from all over the world and has been critically acclaimed. Her creativity needed another outlet, though, and Winters found it in photography.
“I started product photography a little over a year ago and started off with simple images of my watches,” Winters tells PetaPixel. “I started learning that in product photography there’s a balance between showcasing the subject while still creating an overall interesting aesthetic.”
Winters’s approach to product photography is similar to shooting portraiture. She decides what characteristics she wants to highlight, how she can make the product stand out from the background, and how the surroundings can help build the story she’s telling.
“As soon as I shifted towards this approach, my photography started to shift and I felt my style emerge,” she says. “With editing, I’ve realized that it is my least favorite part of photography, so I work to get as much right in-camera as I can!”
A Search for the Perfect Camera
Her current camera system is Hasselblad, a brand that also recognized Winters’s achievements and named her Hasselblad Heroine. But, the road to finding the right camera system wasn’t a smooth one.
“I’ve always considered myself a camera system ‘goldilocks,’” Winters explains. “I have tried almost every camera system — Fuji, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, and Leica — and bounced between systems and film and digital cameras.”
“I loved that film cameras helped me slow down and focus on composition, but also loved the immediacy of digital photography,” Winters adds. “In 2012, I bought my first Hasselblad camera, 500CM, and fell in love with medium format film. I shot a magical roll of film during my sister’s wedding — they are still my most treasured shots. I understood the magic of shooting with a Hasselblad, but quickly went back to digital photography as it fit my lifestyle.”
In 2017, Winters picked up Hasselblad 501C and shot daily for 100 days, and in 2020, tried out the Hasselblad X1D II 50C, and “it was love at first click.” From the first time she picked it up, she knew it was the camera for her.
“My photography relies on feelings and I connect with the soul of Hasselblad,” Winters says. “I finally found the camera that combined my love of medium format with form, design, and digital. With Hasselblad, I’ve finally found a brand and camera system that speaks to my photography philosophy, and style, and inspires me to want to shoot more.”
Dropping Trends and Finding Her Unique Style
During her photography journey, Winters realized she had tried to “desperately” follow the styles and trends of other talented photographers, which for the most part meant following what men were doing in the industry.
Breaking away from the constraints of preconceived limitations placed upon herself, Winters saw that creating and capturing her own stories made her fall in love with photography again. And, it helped her nurture her own style regardless of what others are doing.
“You can’t develop your style when you’re busy trying to replicate or compare yourself with others,” Winters explains. “As an individual, it’s about being true to who you are, standing up for what you believe, and what your art says about you.”
“For women and people of color, we have unique stories and perspectives that help our images stand out,” she adds. “Instead of shifting away from what makes me who I am, I moved towards it.”
As Winters builds her photography business, she contributes to the photo community by posting behind-the-scenes with each image and sharing tips for product photography, which attracts followers who share similar values to hers and those looking for inspiration.
It is a part of her community-minded mindset that Winters takes from Minecraft to be able to inspire other people to create something unique of their own.
In addition to sharing advice, Winters also actively connects with women and people of color, because she wants to ensure the community she interacts with has broader representation. This is another piece Winters has taken from her experience working in the video game industry, having felt what it’s like being the minority in a room.
“More diversity and representation make our community better,” she says.
So far, photography has helped Winters express the creativity she has in abundance, as she “loves” every step of the photography process — from creating the concept to creative directing, and taking of the images. There is no reason for Winters to slow down in the future.
“I definitely have lots of ideas!” Winters says. “I’d love to collaborate with major watch brands on their photography storytelling — to create more inclusive campaigns and shift the perspective of men’s and women’s watches to how watches can be (and are) worn by anyone.”
More of Winters’s work can be found on her Instagram.
Image credits: Photos by Lydia Winters.