Meet Rob Jenkins, Portrait & Landscape Photographer:
When I was a boy, growing up in the U.K., I remember watching my father with his cameras. It all seemed so mysterious and technical, not to mention grown up, this little black box with dials and buttons – I was definitely intrigued.
I had my first camera before I was 10, and reveled in the whole process beginning with the choice of what to take pictures of, finding the right angle, the clicking of the shutter & then the magical period of getting the film processed and seeing the images for the first time. This has changed a little with the advent of digital, of course, but that feeling has never left me, in many ways it has intensified, and is really what keeps me taking photographs.
As a professional, the preparation that goes into each session is huge, but when I get behind the camera, and the choice of location, angle of light, the expression on a childʼs face, all comes together in one moment, captured by a click of the shutter, it is all worth it.
Photography has taken me on an amazing journey, from the happy days of art school, to working in Paris, a couple of years at sea as a cruise ship photographer (during which I met my wife), and on to the rich experiences of being a photographic assistant in both Portland, Oregon and here in New York City.
I have been involved in creating images of many subjects, and came to the idea of photographing children quite by accident. I took some shots of a friendʼs little girl as a favor – another mother saw the results & asked if I would do the same for her little boy. I enjoyed both experiences immensely, and was pleased with the images. When I presented the prints of this second shoot to the parents, the mother asked if Iʼd ever considered doing this as my specialty – it was the catalyst that started my business.
The premise of my work is to photograph children being themselves. I try to keep it simple, using available light wherever possible. To put my subjects at their ease I shoot everything on location, wherever they feel most comfortable – at their house, the local park, anywhere that will produce natural, happy behavior. Through this mode of operation I have met some wonderful families and discovered some beautiful, hidden corners that I may never have noticed.
Children have a way of not being self-conscious in front of the camera, which lends itself to incredible moments of serendipity. This is a gift and a challenge to me as a photographer, and attempting to capture that spirit is what continually draws me to them as subjects.
For more info: http://robjenkinsphotography.com
On Twitter: @Therjphoto
1. Back in the Halcyon College days, I became friends with a photographer in the year above me, who introduced me to the work of Fay Godwin. Growing up in Birmingham, the UK’s second city, life around me was full of energy and chaos, much like any urban environment. Fay’s work was a window into a peaceful, simple, seemingly uncluttered world of the rural British landscape. To me, this represented an escape, a breath of fresh air. The image that I recall seeing is ‘Markerstone on the old London to Harlech road 1976’, an image depicting the round-shouldered hills so common in the UK, punctuated by the linear form of a dry stone wall and, in the foreground, what appears to be a standing stone, leaning over with age. Not only do I love this as a photograph, but to this day, I still want to step into that frame and walk to the top of the hill.
U2’s Joshua Tree. Photo by Anton Corbijn
2. My second photo is an image familiar to millions of music lovers around the world, and is the work of a dutch photographer, Anton Corbijn. It is a shot taken for U2’s ‘Joshua Tree’ album, and shows the band clustered tightly on the left hand side of a panoramic frame, while the remainder of the space is given to the stark, desert surrounding them. Seemingly flaunting the golden thirds law of framing, having the group almost pushed to the edge allows the landscape to take equal billing, mentally balancing the importance of the musicians and the environment. As with the Fay Godwin image, I am drawn to this shot for the location, this time the American Southwest, an area I fell in love with through pictures and movies long before I visited as an adult, but also for the unconventional framing. I cannot look at this without hearing the echoing guitar, and feeling a desire to lose myself on a hot, dusty, desert trail.
The Endurance trapped in the ice. Photo by Frank Hurley, OBE
3. I cannot recall when I first saw my next photograph, only that it made me want to know everything about it. Taken by Frank Hurley OBE, an Australian photographer, who shot through both world wars and for several expeditions to Antarctica. He was a part of the team, led by Sir Earnest Shackleton, who attempted to cross the Antarctic continent on foot in 1914. Their ship, The Endurance, became trapped and eventually crushed by sea ice, ending the expedition as intended but beginning a story of survival that ended two years later with all crew being saved. Throughout all of this, Frank Hurley documented it all, on glass plates, on a hand-cranked movie camera, and finally on rolls of film and a pocket Kodak camera. He was described as “a warrior with his camera”, doing anything to get a shot, once lugging 40 pounds of gear to the top of a mountain to photograph The Endurance at anchor in South Georgia. He used a pioneering technique, the Paget process, to capture color images of the expedition. When the ship eventually sank, Shackleton threw his gold watch and other possessions onto the ice, ordering each crew member to save only two pounds of belongings. He and Hurley went through every negative that had been shot, selecting those to keep – when a glass plate was rejected, Hurley smashed it to avoid second thoughts. All in all, he destroyed about 400, keeping only 120, a heart-breaking moment after all his effort. He sealed the remainder of his record in a metal can, and it now provides a glimpse into the golden age of exploration.
The shot that drew me into all this is one of the ship held fast in the ice, taken in the middle of the Antarctic night, and illuminated by more than 20 individually triggered hand-held flashes. The sheer determination to accomplish this one image, under those circumstances, is amazing to me.
Serra Pelada. Photo by Sebastião Salgado
4. My fourth image is another black & white (I’m seeing a pattern here), and was taken by Sebastiao Salgado. When I have the time, I love browsing the shelves of the photography section in any bookstore, losing myself in pictures from a diverse range of disciplines. This is how I came across the shot of the gold mines in Serra Pelada, Brazil. It feels biblical in scope and content, a huge muddy pit, seething with humanity, and in the foreground is a man leaning against a pole, glancing over his shoulder, above it all both physically and in attitude. There is so much going on here, my eyes drift across the frame, finding new details all the time. It is one of the richest frames I’ve ever seen, and the polar opposite of every experience in my life. It reminds me that everyone’s reality is different.
5. The fifth image that I will include here is by Philippe Halsman and, upon first glance, is a straightforward portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Indeed, when I chanced upon it as I flicked through the pages of a book of portraits, I gave it only the a perfunctory viewing before turning the page. Something about it stopped me several pages later, so I turned back and realized what it was – the subjects were jumping! Not in an exaggerated, or extroverted manner, but holding hands, dressed formally, and set against an unassuming background – GENIUS! That moment not only made me smile, but began a series of self portraits that I have continued to this day, and intend to keep adding to for the foreseeable future – jumping in dramatic or iconic locations! I began back in 1995, and am still going strong:-)