CCP asks Robin Sellick the deep questions about his craft
1. What gets you out of bed every day?
The unceasing beauty of light and an insatiable curiosity.
2. Who is the photographer that has inspired you the most?
There have been so many. Helmut Newton was always a strong influence in my work also Bill Brandt, Arnold Newman, Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Frank Ockenfells. So many and different ones more so at different times.
3. What camera and lens do you like shooting with and why?
I shot most of my work in the nineties and into the 2000s on a Mamiya RB67. I shoot really quickly and it was a heavy and slow camera to use. I had to pull this lever and that lever in between frames which forced me to pause for long enough to think in between shots – make adjustments, give a direction quickly to improve the shot.
I loved the 65mm on that camera – it seemed to match the way I saw the world back then.
4. When you are shooting do you listen to music, and if so; what genre and/or band? and if you don’t; are there other essential items that you use?
Shooting someone’s portrait is an extremely intimate and personal experience. It requires my absolute and full attention, so I’d no more listen to music while shooting someone’s portrait than answer the phone.
Music is an effective and easy way to create an overall atmosphere – one that allows everyone to feel relaxed and comfortable in a way that assists them to do their best work, but once I’m actually taking photos, nothing else matters or exists.
5. In the digital world how important and significant is the print?
When you’re talking about the high level, quality prints that your lab produces, prints remain as important as ever. They are an expression of the pinnacle of the idea as you’ve seen it at that particular time.
Digital photography allows us the freedom to reinterpret our work and allow our original ideas to evolve and change over time and with the times.
6. B/W - Colour - Analogue - Digital. What are your thoughts and ideas about these 4 different photographic concepts.
They all represent milestones in the evolution of photography and the technology around it and each requires a different kind of discipline to create successful work.
I’m very interested now in the arrival of the next one - AI - which will again require a whole new kind of discipline to create successful work, and we’re yet to know what that is. We’ll also see the market and society more broadly navigate this new medium as it disrupts their normal understanding of what a photograph is and does.
That’s an exciting thing to watch.
7. Have you exhibited your work, and other than the print, how important was the framing process to you?
have and it’s important both in its presence and its absence. When you think about framing an image, use the word in its broader sense - in the same way you’d think about framing an idea. That’s the context for framing.
It’s not the same as pinning a written explanation to an image, which undermines and diminishes its integrity, it’s finding a way to help the viewer better connect with the idea, whether it’s clearly defining its edges or “framing” it in a way that’s familiar and easier to accept.
It's a delicate dance and requires talent and expertise.
8. What is it that defines a great image?
One that speaks for itself. The idea that a photograph needs to be accompanied by a written explanation is absurd to me. A successful image communicates thoughts, ideas and emotions of itself, without external explanation, otherwise that image has failed.
9. What is your favourite genre of photography and why? and also your favourite photo?
When I first discovered photography at High School, I used it to explore the landscape around Broken Hill, where I grew up. Ansel Adams was my strongest early influence. Before long though, I discovered that photography allowed me to learn a lot about people – I was a shy and awkward kid and hiding behind a camera was a great way of observing how humans behaved.
So, portraiture is my favourite genre, and I went on to make a career of it.
10. What is the best and most enduring advice about photography that you have received? Tell us by who if you can or want to?
When I was in my early twenties, I had this unshakable determination to become a successful photographer. I spent 6 months in New York, meeting and working with all of the most successful and famous photographers I could find. I met so many of my heros, it was an extraordinary university for me.
I’d show them my folio and we’d talk about what great photography is, then at the end of the meeting, I’d always asked them the same question: “I want to be the best photographer in the world. What do I do?”
They all gave me exactly the same answer. “Take photos every day”.
11. When you are not taking photos, what are you doing?
One of the most exciting things about being alive in this time, is that there is more music available to me and more great photography all available at my fingertips, than I have time left alive to be able to listen to or look at.
So much great art, so much beauty. What a great time to be alive.
"I take photos every day – when I’m walking down the street, when I’m looking at a tree or a cloud, but I rarely use a camera. Photos exist all around us. Moments in time, things and people lining up and fitting together like they’re all part of the same moving thing. Like music appearing from inside of noise."
-Robin Sellick - May 2023