Art of Drive: An Interview With Sydney Based Photographer Andy Roberts

Our Art of Drive series interviews artists, designers and photographers to find out what inspires them.

For how long have you been taking photos, and how did it all start for you?

Years back I started with film and a make-shift darkroom at college with my mates, but that didn’t last too long as we spent all of our money on beers. I really got back into it properly a few years ago. Two decent neck operations were the catalyst for me to quit my full time job, study a diploma in photo Imaging and become a full time freelance photographer.

Who and what do you cite as influences and motivations for your work?

There are too many world famous influencing photographers spanning different genres to mention here. As far a motorcycle lifestyle photography goes though, Aaron Brimhall in Utah is my favourite. Chris Burkard is another. I’m hugely influenced by a lot of the raw portrait work published in magazines like Monster Children, C-Heads, B-authentique and We Are The People.

On a local level, I still have a ton of respect for Bondi surf/landscape photographer Uge from Aquabumps, a consistently awesome, dedicated photographer and business mind. I read his blog every day.

Take us through the process of planning and working through a shoot.

I come up with a concept, select and meet my subject, find a location or studio, research lighting conditions, confirm equipment & props…etc.  All in no particular order, however, pulling them all together and executing with a decent plan is the key.

How do you feel your photographic style has changed and evolved over your career so far?

I guess the more I shoot, the more assertive and adventurous I get. That is not to say that shoots necessarily always get bigger and more complex. Sometimes just having the confidence to know when simplicity with a strong aesthetic or narrative is what’s needed. Composition and lighting is what it all comes down to.

What equipment do you work with, and why does it suit you best?

The basics: Canon 5DIII with workhorse lenses; 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8. I still love shooting with just the classic 50mm f1.4 as well.  A decent tripod with a geared head is pretty important for me. Depending on the job, then you start introducing lighting and all sorts of stuff, but those are my basics.

Which item do you never leave home without?

My iPhone! It has a much better brain than I do. I’m not always out to take photos. For me it’s important to put the camera down sometimes and do something else, but having a smartphone is an awesome way to remember stuff, record ideas, references and locations as and when they come up.

When planning a new project, what do you look for in a subject, and how does the project take shape?

For personal shoots, naturally my subject has to fit the idea or the brief I’ve given to myself. More importantly though, they have to be someone I want to work with. Life is too short to work with people you don’t like…especially if you have the choice.

Tell us about some of your more interesting commissions that you have been asked to do.

For an early commercial job, I was flown to Alice Springs to photograph for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. It was my first time to the center of Australia and it was very interesting to meet and photograph Matt Wright (‘The Outback Wrangler’), an ambassador of theirs at the time. The RFDS are such an iconic Aussie service, I felt privileged to work for them.

Much of your work brings bikes and people together. Explain your interests in combining the two in your photography.

I’m lucky to live in Australia where the custom bike scene is exploding right now. Every month I have a new friend starting out with a new bike licence. Riding on two wheels gives so many people so much joy, freedom and sense of community. As a photographer with a love of motorcycles, it makes sense for me to choose friends and their machines as my subjects.

How do you see your methods and style changing and developing in the future? What’s next for you?

I know both my commercial and personal work and style will become more defined and unique to me over time. That is always a major goal as a photographer. If people immediately recognise your work then you know you are doing something right. I want my personal work to influence more of the commercial work I do, producing the types of images I love, for the lifestyle, people and brands I admire and respect.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in photography?

The camera itself is just a box with a hole in it. Photography is way more than just that thing.

Give it everything and don’t look back. Experiment, fail, succeed, network, make friends and enjoy it…see what happens.

Where can people see and follow you and your work?

Insta    @andsroberts

FB        Andy Roberts photographer

Web     andyroberts.com.au    (new website coming soon)

Also hoping to do an exhibition in Sydney later in the year too…. working on it!