This In Focus interview is with Robin Gregory and was conducted by Sarah Fitzgerald-Jones.  Sarah says :-

I would like to introduce you all to a great friend of mine whose work I hugely admire. Robin works hard in the construction industry but also enjoys one of the best hobbies ever, Photography and the art of using Photoshop to create a whole range of different images yet still showing his own unique style. His art ranges from portraits to street and right on down to the amazing little people and much more. His love for his hobby has taken him one step further in doing the most incredible talks which are certainly worth going along to and guaranteed to inspire you. With huge thanks to Robin for taking the time to do this interview, again grab your favourite tipple sit back and enjoy, don’t forget to follow the links bellow showing more of Robin’s work and a little insight to what his talks involve .

1: How long have you been interested in photography? Was it the art you could create in PhotoShop or the photography itself that first got you hooked? 

I’ve always enjoyed a good image but never been able to paint or draw so photography seemed to be the way to go. The first camera I had was a film camera, a Zenith E but I soon realised to produce the image I was after I would need to develop the film myself which would mean creating a dark room which at the time wasn’t possible. A few years later I was in ‘Smiths’ and picked up a ‘Digital photo’ type magazine took it home put the free tutorial disc into my PC and was totally amazed at the type of image that could be produced . So that was me… ‘Hooked’

2: I believe you are self-taught?

Yes I am. I don’t do the technical stuff, I think a camera is like a car…. As long as it gets me from A to B I don’t really worry how it dose it, the same for Photoshop I don’t care how it works as long as it does. When I looked further into digital photography I soon realized this was for me. The first digital camera I bought was a Casio something (can’t remember numbers after Casio….) it had less than 2 mega pixels. I also managed to get ‘Elements 2’. The learning part came mostly from magazines and some internet. I also joined a camera club, I know some ‘professional’ photographers mock the camera club world but for me it really worked. The best way to learn is to go out take pictures put them into your computer and have fun.

3: Your work varies greatly from portraits to landscapes and little people images. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into some of the images. Do your images always finish looking like the original idea you started with?

Nooo, The only images I sort of plan are the little people. An idea comes to me (little people) then I look on the internet to see if anyone else has thought of it (someone usually has) I then set it up on the kitchen table. ‘Lovers on a motherboard’ was done this way, for the lighting I used a wind up LED light. Images like ‘Blue Angel’ start with a bit of an idea which I try to keep to but sometimes they sway other directions. ‘Blue Angel’ was originally more a landscape image with a fairy flying through the grass….. Funny where your mind drifts to…

4: You work in the construction industry where some of your portraits like ‘Steve’ have been captured. Obviously because of health and safety regulations you can’t walk around sites with lighting and an umbrella. Can you tell us how you capture your portraits in this type of environment?

I have a Panasonic DMC-LX3. It has a metal body, fixed lens (x2 zoom) it shoots in RAW but most importantly, it fits in my pocket. I am beginning to use my phone more at work but it doesn’t have RAW (some phones might, I don’t know) I lost the lens hood for my Panasonic years ago, my pockets have all sorts going on in them brick dust, loose change, keys etc. etc. so the lens has a ‘few’ scratch’s, the screen on the back has a crack from corner to corner and I use a piece of string as a wrist strap when needed. I’m guessing it’s a well-used camera. It took a few days to get a photo of Steve as he was a little camera shy, I managed to get grab shots but I wanted him looking at the lens. Over a few days I showed him some of the pictures I took, let him use the camera, I was able to get my photo, just the one.

5: If you were to make a decision to do a location shot or a Studio shoot which would be your preferred and why?

If I’m taking a photo of a model which will be used in something like a Levitation image, then a studio would be nice. I also love street photography, so I don’t really mind either way

6: Each of your images either portraits or little people are story telling. What gave you the idea for ‘Book of Eve’ 

The original image was a ‘grab shot’. I was helping a friend in his studio. He wanted some images of ‘Eve’ biting into an apple, while he was resetting his camera I grabbed a few shots myself. I had noticed that a number of the top entry’s in some Salons were images with a portrait to one side (foreground) and something happening in the background, all composites with a lot of editing. With this in mind I put this image together, I already had the photograph of Eve which I used for the foreground, the two hills in the background are actually two separate photos warped using the ‘Puppet Warp’ tool. I was lucky that the camera club I was with at the time entered it in to a ‘Western Counties Photographic Federation’ competition where I won a silver medal for it. The following week a critique at the same club ripped it to bits……. That’s the camera club world for you.

7: ‘Blue Angel’ and ‘Butterflies’ are both very different in mood and completely different images, yet your editing style shows us this is a “Robin Gregory” image. It would look to us that a lot of time in Photoshop has been done to create such outstanding art. How long would you spend on images like these? At which point do you sit back and smile and say “yeah finished”? 

Some images can take for ever, I had one that took 3 months, kept going back to it adding a bit more of this and that, tweaking bits and pieces. I now love the image, it’s not a competition winner but it’s hanging on my wall at home looking dandy. Most of my images take a few evenings to complete. Quite a lot of images are started but then never finished, I might have over 100 ‘started’ images which I may go back to one day. It’s hard to know when to actually stop editing a picture. That is a hard question…..

8: You also show a love for street photography, this is something many photographers are scared to attempt as they don’t want to be spotted capturing people.. Give us your best tips for street photography. Your image ‘Haribro’ I’m guessing is a composite, did you venture out in the hope you would find a situation allowing you to pop a rhino in? 

Street photography is something I have no problems doing. I don’t have a problem asking anyone if I can take their picture if the answer is “No” I thank them for their time and walk away. If the answer is “Yes” I take the photo, ask them if they would like a copy, thank them and walk away. I never ask a person to pose this way then that way, I take the photo very quickly with no fuss. I use my Panasonic DMC-LX3 which I hang round my neck so I look just like a tourist. If you’re looking for a candid type of street photography image then it’s a good idea not to use a DSLR type camera with a lens as long as a football pitch ‘cus you will get some strange looks, also if you’re in a shopping mall with a DSLR camera there’s a good chance security will be having a few words with you. Street photography is about catching that moment in time, it doesn’t matter if the camera is only a point and shoot camera , it doesn’t matter if the image is over/under exposed, blurred, has lots of grain (noise) as long as there’s a story. Street photography isn’t only ‘people’ images it can be pattern images or architectural, it can really be anything.

The ‘Haribro’ image started off with the couple looking at the Pump rooms In Bath, it was a nothing photo really. I thought if there was something else they were looking at then it might be an interesting image. I went to my ‘zoo’ file and found the rhino, added him/her to the picture but it needed a little bit more, the rhino had to be eating something… what else but Haribro Teddy’s!

10: ‘It’s Over’ is very powerful and gentle image. It’s also quite thought provoking to the viewer, can you tell us what this image means to you?

When I’m doing this type of image I like to have my IPod or IPad plugged into my ears real loud! One of my favourite pieces of music at the moment is the soundtrack from the Batman movie ‘The Dark Night’ It goes on for about 2 hours it can take you anywhere your mind wants to go. This image comes from a very dark part of that soundtrack. Forget that its music from a Batman film, let yourself drift deep into it then start to work on your image… ‘It’s Over’ is the end of a relationship, the relationship you thought was going to last forever but there is no more, the moment when you realise it really is over, you can’t feel any lower then you do at this point, the moment just before you say to yourself…. Bollocks! Let’s crack on!!

11: You do many talks about your art which I have been fortunate enough to come along too and well worth the traveling to see, tell us Robin a bit about what the talk involves as its very unique compared too many others.

My talks are very loud and very fast. When I first started going to camera clubs within half an hour of a speaker starting his talk a member of the audience would start snoring, this is a fact! Even if it was an interesting talk it would happen  zzzzzzz  I wanted more people to see my pictures so I put together a talk. Because I don’t stick to one type of photography (landscape or Portrait or whatever) I am able to show many different aspects of photography.  The talk is called ‘Oh Yeah’ it starts with the Beatle song ‘Glass Onion’ which include the lyrics ‘Hello Hello, Nothing is real’ As different lyrics are sung different images come up on the screen. I find this introduction far better than me saying “Hi my name is Robin Gregory….” The punters are still awake, about the 5th image I have a ‘funny’ image if the audience laugh (they always have…so far) I know I have them interested, so my job for the next 2 hours is to keep them awake. I use Audio Visuals to show how some of my images are put together, part of the Batman theme is played as the image ‘Its Over’ slowly evolves. Its similar to a slide show but each slide is the image gradually coming together in time to the music. I haven’t had any one fall asleep at any of my talks… yet…

11: Finally what is it that inspires you and keeps the energy flowing in your images?

I get inspiration from all over. Talking to people with the same interest is very important, being in the same room with say 5 or 6 photographers and talking about the art of photography is totally mind blowing to me. (Not the technical stuff that’s totally mind numbing) Books inspire me, more than the web. I like to hold a picture, study it, and enjoy it. Photography is not my job it’s my hobby. I am never put under pressure to produce the perfect photograph. If I don’t want to take a picture for six months then I won’t. I enjoy my hobby.

More of Robin’s work can be found on his websites at :-