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The Short

Having honed his craft as a student of the ‘film era’, a young Rob found himself exhibited in the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia) with a shot from only his third roll of film. Since then, he has taken this natural intuition and nurtured it to professional advantage, constantly hitting briefs on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th frame and editing on-the-fly for greater efficiency in post.

The Long

ROBERT EARP – PHOTOMAKER

“At art school, my mentor, John Cato, explained that there are two kinds of photographers – there are ‘takers’ and there are ‘makers’. The takers are your photojournalists, documentary and reportage photographers, whereas your makers are the ones that make a photograph from scratch say by building a set or finding the perfect location. It starts with a conceptual idea and they build it into something. I immediately recognised what I was. I was a maker.”

Rob is an onion…but I don’t smell like one

My work is totally about creating worlds. I love the composite, I love the layers. I like the idea of travelling with an art director, or with my assistant, or just by myself to get background cells for the environments or even building them myself. I shoot the talent separately and composite the talent into the image.”

“This technique is something that photographers have been doing since photography was invented. I don’t see it as CGI, I see it as an analogue procedure, which is nice – to carry on a tradition.”

Depth of detail is what makes the unreal real. Layering the story to create a beliveable world

Robert Earp is a conceptual photomaker shooting global brand campaigns for agencies worldwide. He is owner and native of Glow Studios in Melbourne AUS; a former partner in the boutique agency, FUSE ADVERTISING; and a maker of many, many, many photographs

Rob takes everything personally…

“I approach my personal work in very much the same way I’ve been taught to do my commercial work. If I get a brief from an art director, in my treatment, I will explain what I will bring to the table – the way I will shoot it, the way I will light it, what colours we might use, the way I see it as a creative.”

“To keep myself in practice, I do the same thing for my personal work. I will draw it out – or digitally pull it together – as the first step. I will do a treatment and that way I can show my crew exactly what I am thinking and how it’s going to be shot. It’s also a way of involving the other creatives too – gets them thinking about ways to approach it or alternate ideas.”

Rob likes meeting people and walks on the beach…

“When you’re working on a campaign, there’s a lot of input from others. The key visual you come up with is usually an amalgamation of many ideas – from the art director, from makeup, from the stylist and so on – so the image is still yours but it’s got this ‘accent’ from other people.”

“I love true collaboration, where you’ve got a perfect brief – a nice dance – and it makes you grow. I like to influence a work, and work with the influences of others.”

Rob prefers briefs, not boxers…

“Sometimes a perfect brief is having the freedom to create my own. I did four to six campaigns with Spencer Lacy for their nightwear. We really made them a fashion label. I worked very closely with the designers so I could identify their influences.”

“The first Spencer Lacy campaign we did was art deco. So I researched art deco – researched little statues and lights – and we mimicked that. And it just brought it to life. That happens in every campaign. It all comes together in the details.”

Rob is a hunter, not a fisherman…

“I tend to hunt for an image – I don’t throw out a big net and trawl for one – I’ve very much already got the whole concept in my mind so I’ll shoot very specific things. I know exactly where I want them to go. Once the image is in my head, I know I’ve got the photograph. It’s just a matter of doing it.”

Rob pulls rabbits out of hats…

“I really like the magician’s trick where you’re at a magic show and there is a woman floating, and the magician is putting a ring around her to prove she is floating. You know in your head there are strings attached but you still feel as though the woman is really floating. I like to bring that trick into photography to add to the composite – to give it gravity. Even if it’s something that’s totally surreal, it gives it realness.”

Rob is a daydreamer believer…

“The process of making a photo usually starts with daydreaming. I think daydreaming is a tool that gets looked down upon. Kids get slapped at school for daydreaming but, probably, what they’re doing is processing and thinking creatively.”

“I find that, today, the concept of daydreaming is being lost in the intrusion of technology. We tend not to sit on a train and daydream, we tend to sit on a train and tell people what we’re eating tonight. That has a place but, for me, ideas really come from letting myself daydream.”

Rob can hold his breath under water for a long, long time…

“I remember the first time I’d ever shot underwater. It was an Evelyn Miles campaign. I didn’t even think that, as the photographer, I was going to be underwater too. So that proved interesting.”

“We got amazing shots and we did the shots very efficiently and quickly. But simple things like not wearing a weight belt – I’m a skinny guy and I’m holding this camera that is quite buoyant – means I had a hard time actually getting and then staying under the water. For three hours, I had to exhale all the oxygen out of my body, then go under so, at the end of it, I was blue… and not in the emotional way.”