ModelManagement: Did you expect to be one of the winners of the Strike A Pose Photo Contest?
Rob Heath: I have been taking part in photo competitions for about 6 months now and one of the things I have noticed is the incredible amount of natural talent around. Just taking a technically correct photo however, is not sufficient to win anything. Art is subjective and progressive with smartphones and incredible advances in technology, anyone can try their hand at capturing an interesting shot; so to get noticed you need to strike a chord with a whole cross-section of different people. I find that you really need to differentiate yourself and try to break-out of fundamental concept limitations. So, I was surprised and indeed very happy to be elected as the people’ choice winner for this competition. Much of the credit must go to Chiara who was a fabulous model and effortlessly switched between poses for this session. In fact, I finished the session with a great series of shots that are being exhibited in France in 2014. So surprised, yes and extremely grateful for the award. It’s always good to receive feedback as long as it is constructive and getting the people’s award for this competition gave me a huge boost in confidence and confirms that, what I was trying to achieve, also sparked a positive response from others. Since taking part in this competition, the same photograph has also been voted in the top 10 photos for Nikon France’s “Dance theme” competition.
MM: When did you first become passionate about photography?
RH: I have been developing my ‘artistic eye’ for about 10 years now. I must admit that I was sorely tempted to buy a Ricoh film camera about 30 years ago but at the time, the funds just weren’t there and whilst I was interested in capturing some form of scenic interpretation, I didn’t immediately take the plunge with photography. Instead, I tried my hand at drawing and painting. Having work and travel commitments meant that I didn’t really have the time to commit seriously to my hobby and only after emigrating to France in 2002 did I find that I could use the time saved from my 5h daily commute for something more productive and satisfying. I took up painting as a serious hobby and in 2009 had my first solo exhibition in France. Since then I have exhibited in London, New York, Las Vegas, Budapest and Manchester and have been published in a few books. However, I still had a yearning to learn the techniques of photography and so I enrolled for various courses and learned the studio techniques necessary for a successful shoot. I now book studio time whenever I travel to my office in London. Once you have the basic techniques learned, it becomes completely addictive!
MM: What fascinates you the most about photography?
RH: The light, the light and the light. I know exactly the effect that I am trying to create in many of my shots before I take them and unless the balance between light and shade is just right, I’m really not very happy! Knowing how light can render a scene really profound with a certain depth compels me to persevere until I get it ‘nailed’.
I am also a bit of a gadget fan and I just love reading up on the latest advances in camera technology. However to counter-balance this I recently acquired a 45 year old Rolleiflex which is a real leveler and great fun to use. Photography is like many things in life, you can never say that you have mastered it completely as there are always new ways of seeing things. We can always learn from others and improve and in fact that’s what keeps the interest going; it’s not about being a famous photographer, it’s the journey of discovery that’s the fun part.
RH: I have just joined this great community of artistic people and already I can tell that it could be a game changer for me. There are many sites on the web that are just galleries or forums without any real vision or meaning and they are not really going to lead to anything, but having all the creative parties under one banner really sets this site apart. I think having more models than photographers is, for me a real bonus and the fact that it is truly international and not just US based also means that I’ll get the chance to meet like-minded creative from around Europe. The premium Pro memberships will enable me to fully exploit this artistic community and really make it work for me without any limiting factors.
MM: You are also a painter. Do you prefer using a camera or a brush?
RH: Ha! Yes, the million dollar question! I am both a painter and a photographer which for me is ideal! When I started painting portraits I used to use pictures found on the web to practice techniques and I was in awe of many of the great photographers who could capture stunning portraits. Having learnt the basics of photography and spent numerous sessions in photographic studios I can now really appreciate the time and effort it takes to make a great portrait. I would not consider myself to be solely a painter or a photographer as I fully intend to make use of some of my photographs in future painted artworks. You could say that I am just giving myself as much ammunition as possible to create my art. At the moment I am going through a photography phase and am enjoying it hugely. I can’t say if I will ever give up either of these two creative arts as they both fulfill a particular need and as long as that continues then I shall continue to do both.
One major difference between the two arts for me is that I approach painting in a far more relaxed manner and often without a pre-conceived idea as to what I want to achieve whereas with photography I always have the end view in mind before I start! I would say that painting is more evolutionary in nature whereas photography is dictatorial; it needs to be controlled and mastered.
MM: Any advice for those who want to become photographers?
RH: I am not a full time professional photographer as I earn my living in another sector of the media industry so I wouldn’t presume to know all of the pit-falls or aspects to avoid. I like to think that I create Art rather than take pictures and hence classify myself more as a part-time, enthusiastic amateur / semi-pro photographer.
However, I think anyone who wants to become a full-time photographer needs huge amounts of dedication and belief. They need to be flexible and open to new ideas but also need to carve out a specific style. In addition, ‘People photographers’ need to be excellent communicators and a little extravert. In my relatively short time as a photographer I would say that you need to create a bond and really understand the subject matter before you can fully exploit it. This applies to all genres of photography and is often the major difference between making photos and just taking photos.
As with all of the Arts, photography is highly subjective and so there will be highs and lows. Resilience and acceptance of criticism can be difficult at the start, but it’s all part of the learning curve! In my humble opinion, if you don’t experiment, show your work and solicit advice from others, you simply don’t progress.
To learn more about Rob Heath, connect with him on ModelManagement.com!