An interview with Robert Law

September 02, 2019  •  Leave a Comment


An interview with Robert Law 



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Copyright Robert Law


RH: Who is Robert Law?

RL: Robert Law is a photographer based in Wales in the UK. He specialises in documentary photography, often with a minimalist slant.

He aims to maintain a cohesive style of observation and picture taking that provides the viewer with a fresh honesty and reality.

Robert is a contributor to the London photo agency, Millennium Images and has been shortlisted for the 2019 British Photography Awards and the ESPY Awards 2019. His work has been featured extensively, including Documenting Britain, Aint-Bad and Professional Photo magazine, amongst many others. Twice exhibited in the Reclaim Photography Festival, his work has also been shown at theprintspace Gallery and Safehouse1 in London, the Brighton Photo Fringe and the Elysium Gallery, Swansea.








Copyright Robert Law


RH: What attracted and inspired you to your current documentary project?


RL: My current project involves documenting the seaport town of Holyhead, Anglesey. It started off as a curious enquiry into a largely overlooked town 30 minutes away, but also quickly took on a political narrative due to the decision by local voters to leave the EU. This presented a paradox for a port that funnels the majority of goods between the UK and Republic of Ireland and has also been in receipt of generous EU funding for its local projects and infrastructure. Perhaps by honestly observing the town and its people, we can start to decode this paradox.



RH:  Can you talk us through the planning stage for your project?


RL: The project has been organic in its execution. No deadline and no specific brief. I do this to challenge myself. Because it’s distant enough not to warrant daily visits, but still close enough to visit during breaks in regular work, wandering the town and looking afresh and recording has produced the content I always enjoy looking for. Opportunities to discover ‘the quirky’ and meet interesting people only come through time put in on the ground. There’s also a challenge in recording the banal, the ubiquitous, pebbledashed housing, for example, and I enjoy that. 



RH:  Is there anything you wish you had done differently? 


RL: Given the amount of time I have and my flexible approach, I have no second thoughts at all. In fact, the further the project progresses, the more potential presents itself. Simple luck and serendipity play a part, especially when meeting people is concerned.



Implementation and Completion

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RH: How have you dealt with any challenges and difficulties within your project?


RL: Portraiture is definitely an aspect that I’ve approached with a little trepidation. As a documentary photographer, I knew it was essential to include people in this project. But by approaching people cheerfully and engaging with them meaningfully, I’ve not only started to overcome this initial fear, but also gained tenfold back in what I’ve learned about my subjects. As far as completion is concerned, my end goal is a solo exhibition and possibly a book. This will involve a massive learning process which I’m looking forward to.



RH:  How long do your projects tend to take from start to finish?   


RL: My previous projects have been time-limited due to the fact they were taken whilst travelling, sometimes abroad. They also lacked commitment. My current project was a step I wanted to take in my photographic journey and dedicate a least a year before thinking of publishing. It also has the possibility of being on ongoing project for many years.



Editing and Sequencing

Copyright Robert Law

RH:  Do have several images to edit of one fleeting moment or do you have one well-constructed precise image that you have captured?


RL: The latter, definitely. I select and compose with attention and care, until I’m satisfied. Typically with a roll of medium format film, I’m aiming to have, say, 8 frames out of 12 suitable for publication. I’m that cautious.



RH:  Within the editing stages, have you felt the project has taken on a different narrative than first envisaged?


RL: No, but it has ‘grown’. Taking stock of the content so far may dictate looking for specific content on my next outing, for example, portraits or close-ups/vignettes. Also working mainly analogue lets me reflect on what I’ve taken while I wait for the results.



Tips and hints 

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RH:  What would you recommend for people starting their own photographic project?


RL: Do what you enjoy. Don’t expect instant results as projects take time. If you can speak to someone who can offer a little mentoring and review your latest work, that’s like pure gold.



RH:  Does the camera really matter? 


RL: For those that obsess with the ‘tech’ - absolutely not and I wish people could get that on board. Different cameras can affect your workflow and practice, but I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to work in a way that reduced all the technical variables to a minimum. This is the only way as a beginner to produce a cohesive body of work. So keeping it simple by using just one prime lens, using the same film stock and only applying the lightest corrections in Lightroom taught me so much. I now have the discipline to vary if needed. You wouldn’t let a 17 year old new driver loose with a Ferrari, so why a newbie with a pro digital camera and zoom lens? The results are a car crash in both cases. I have images with a premier photo agency shot with a charity shop compact camera and Poundland film. It’s always about the image.



RH: Any books you would recommend reading to get the creativity started?


RL: Personally, ‘The Life of a Photograph’ by Sam Abell of National Geographic taught me a lot. He has an excellent video presentation on YouTube that accompanies it. Books by Chris Killip, William Egglestone and others gave me visual inspiration. ‘On Photography’ by Susan Sontag was just plain hard-going. I would also recommend the podcast ‘A Photographic Life’ by The UN of Photography for raising interesting questions about our practice.



RH:  Would you recommend attending photography workshops?


RL: I never have, but would certainly consider. I’m on a massive learning curve and will continue to be on one. And that’s my greatest joy of photography.

Copyright Robert Law

Copyright Robert Law

Copyright Robert Law


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