Photography courtesy of Robin Roemer
Getting up-close-and-personal with the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry is all in days’ work for this lady of the lens, and with snaps across the pages of two New York Times best-selling books and titles including NY Magazine and InStyle, Robin Roemer has come a long way since cutting her teeth at MTV Networks, photographing musicians, before stepping out on her own in 2008.
The Los Angeles local (and “neurotic schnauzer” owner) chats to Collective Hub about capturing celebs, glamming up YouTubers for The New Hollywood project and her lesbian kickball team. You heard right.
Hey Robin, where have we reached you today?
I’m at my Los Angeles studio which I named for the joint production company my wife and I started, Scheme Machine Studios. It’s a beautiful 3000 square foot space I started leasing back in June.
Was photography always your craft of choice?
I’ve always loved taking pictures, even as a kid I had a disposable camera and I used to arrange my stuffed animals into little tableaus and take photos of them. I also used to write and was really into theatre back in the day. I loved to act and sing. I think that’s why I’ve been enjoying recent DP and directing work. I just like telling visual stories. I just DPed my first feature film, Suicide Kale, which I’m really proud of.
You shoot everything from celebs to campaigns for not-for-profits – what are your favourite projects to tackle?
I love personality portraits of interesting people. In particular, I love photographing people in their own environment and space.
We just love The New Hollywood project – how did that idea come about?
I became fascinated with this idea that [some] YouTubers, who let their audience into their lives in this really intimate way, were polling among young people as more famous or interesting than your traditional actress or pop star. The idea that fame was a kid in her pyjamas talking directly to camera is so vastly different than the idea of fame from the 1930s golden age of film where we knew nothing about the real lives of unattainable movie stars. And knowing at the time that YouTubers were not often photographed professionally, I wanted to show them in this very glamorous way as a throwback to the 1930s and ‘40s stars and starlets of film who were changing entertainment.
What tricks do you use to get the most out of your subjects?
I’m really into genuine images so I try and make people feel comfortable. I like to foster a professional, but relaxed environment. We play music, we eat snacks and we get to work. Sometimes I take a couple more images to “test light” than I need to if the subject looks particularly relaxed or in the moment.
Biggest blunder on the job?
A funny thing happened to me years ago when I agreed to photograph a baby shower for an “unknown person”. It was laundry day so I threw on some ill-fitting black clothes without much thought. No one cares what the photographer at a baby shower looks like as long as they are professional looking, right? WRONG. I showed up at the very colourful baby shower of a very famous fashion designer. OOF. It was bad. I stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone was so sweet and pleasant to me, but I really wished I had known so I could have stepped up my game. They loved the images, but I wasn’t hired again.
Outside of work, what do you do for fun?
I play on an all lesbian kickball team. I also like to cook, I love to swim, and I spend a lot of time on the couch with my wife and my dog watching Netflix.
Top pieces of advice for budding photographers?
1. Be a team player.
A lot of photography is working with clients, art directors, and other people who will sometimes have a hand in what you are creating. Many times the larger the project, the more collaborative the effort and the less control you might have. Learn to pick your battles and listen to what your clients want. Being easy to work with will get you repeat work.
2. Do your own personal projects.
When you are doing your own personal projects on the side you can have ALL the control and that helps you keep that creative outlet. Work on projects and photograph things you love so you are building a portfolio that will get you the work that you want.
3. Put value on what you do and if necessary, SAY NO!
If you really want to do something and need the experience, that is one thing. But don’t be afraid to turn down work if it’s not benefitting you.
4. Don’t sell your copyright.
This was never a thing until very recently. No one needs the copyright to your images and if they do, they better be willing to fork over some major cash.
5. Invest in yourself!