Would you mind introducing yourself? My name's Robin, I just finished my Ph.D. and I currently teach various English classes such as American or British History or translation at a French university near Paris. I'm from Paris and that's also where I currently live as well, but I lived in Austin, Texas for three years in 2013-2016, where I had a fantastic time. I got to see a wide variety of places and landscapes while I was in the US, but also experience different forms and styles of art, which all definitely participated in shaping my photography style. Even if my style has evolved quite a bit over the years, partly because of my trips, but also because of practicing with other photographers around me. I'm mostly into landscape, street and architecture photography, but what I think has defined my photography style is my time in Austin Texas, and my regular trips to the small, artsy town of Marfa, in West Texas, which is known to be a hub for minimal art aficionados. This is where I got acquainted with minimalism, minimal geometry and symmetry, and it has had a profound impact on my shooting style. I tend to look for symmetry and geometry everywhere I go, whether it’s in building, streets, or in water reflection.
Robin’s Instagram - @robinooode
When did you first fall in love with taking photos? I think it started fairly late. My parents both had cameras, and I did buy one when I first went to the US by myself when I was 21, but it was a very low quality, bridge type of camera. I guess I became really interested in taking photos when I got my first mirrorless camera, a second-hand Olympus E-PL2 when I started hanging out with people who really were into photography. The moment I really started paying attention to the photos I was taking was when I took a trip to New Zealand in July and August 2013. That country has such gorgeous, marvellous, unreal landscapes that I tried very hard to do justice (unsuccessfully, I think) to those places. But this really was the first defining moment for me, as far as my photography is concerned.
Do you have a favourite photography related memory, whether it be in front or behind the camera? It’s hard to choose just one moment, but It would probably be some of the times I stayed in Marfa, Texas with my friends. As a European, it is a very unreal region to me: the yellow and orange gigantic desert meets the mountains from which you can easily see the whole Milky Way at night. The ruggedness of the landscape colliding with minimalist works of art made it a very special place to photograph and experience, especially during sunsets. Texas sunsets have remained in my memory as very colourful: shades of blue, purple, orange, yellow and pink mix together and compliment the arid landscapes of the region. So I’d say the few times I was in Marfa, sitting on the railroad tracks by that weird, fake Prada Marfa store at sunset are very special, peaceful, innocent moments for me.
Who/What inspires your photography? I believe that if you’ve read thus far, you know that nature inspires me, be it the desert in Texas or the green hills and mountains of New Zealand. Since my time in Texas, I’ve been looking for some simplicity in my shoots. I can’t always find it, but I feel that symmetry and geometry can transform a photo, and make it very peaceful to the eye.
More generally, I tend, as a person, to have my head in the clouds, and look up a lot, especially when I’m in urban areas. Living in a major city can make you forget to look for those unusual, pretty, or plainly weird things around you, and the unusual, bizarre, cute, or ridiculous you can find in the common is something that inspires me a lot too.
Camera & Editing Process? As I briefly mentioned, I had an Olympus E-PL2 for a while, and then an E-P3. The one thing that bothered me with them was feeling that it was complicated having total control over them. So during my last year in Texas, I decided to switch to a second-hand Fujifilm X100 camera. I think it made me enjoy shooting much more, as the use of the dials showed me I could have direct, instantaneous, easy control over my setting. and having a fixed 35mm equivalent lens also forced me to deal with space and composition in a very concrete way. I upgraded for an X-T2 on my 30th birthday, and I’ve had this camera ever since. It’s a very comfortable camera to use, and also extremely discrete when I shoot on the street because it kind of looks like an old analogue camera, even more so after I put some gaffer tape around bits of it to make it look like it’s falling apart (a tip that a street photographer named Cyril Abad once gave me).
My editing process has evolved quite a bit as I learned to use Adobe Lightroom over the years. Having a camera with a lot of pixels has helped quite a bit, as cropping my pictures is less problematic with a 24MP camera. Being so focused on geometry and symmetry, and because I rarely use tripods, cropping and making sure that my picture is not crooked in any way is what I usually start with. I don’t usually use the grid displaying thirds when I crop, but rather the one that’ll show the center of the image. But as far as colours are concerned, I’ve come to realize that I have a very different editing style depending on the season. When it’s Autumn, Winter, and even the beginning of Spring, I tend to go for a more faded, muted, moody palette, while I like more saturated colours in the summer. It might be that I have not completely reached some sort of photographic maturity, or that I’m just torn between my Texas and French Riviera (where used to go every summer as a kid) memories and my Parisian upbringing, where it’s more cold than warm during the year.
Also, I recently tried using Capture One to edit my Fuji pictures, as I've heard it seems to deliver much sharper images on this brand than Lightroom. It's been a pleasure to use the 30-day trial version, and I've noticed that it has my pictures a touch moodier, so that's probably a direction I'll take over the next few months, especially once I invest in a proper Capture One version.
Are there any tips you would like to give to anyone out there who would love to create similar style photos to yours? Forget the rule of thirds. Or maybe master it first, and then forget it. And have your head in the clouds, look up!
Who are some of your favourite photographers? I try not to look too much for famous, classic photographers, otherwise I’d probably feel they’ve done it all. In general, as far as nature is concerned, I don’t think I have one specific favourite nature photographer. Over the last couple of years, it’s always been a pleasure to browse through Les Others Magazine (@lesothers), which is specialized in adventure photography. I particularly enjoy the way colours and textures are handled there.
There are some photographers I’m happy to call my friends that have inspired me a lot on Instagram. The man who’s probably inspired and influenced me the most over the past couple of years is Andria Darius Pancrazi (@pancrazi), for his peaceful, serene shots of Bastia, in Corsica, France. I’m always amazed at the way he handles geometry, repetition, colours and composition. In just one picture, he sometimes manages to make me feel nostalgic and lonesome, but also at the same time soothed and relaxed. It’s something I haven’t found in a lot of other photographers’ works.
Another person I find very inspiring these days, even if we don’t necessarily have the same photography style is Matt VS (@matt_vs). I find his work on light and shadows impressive, and the way he looks at his city, Amsterdam, and mine, Paris, is always an inspiration. He’s managed to make me see my hometown differently: right when I thought that Paris was a very intense, maximalist city where it’s hard to find good light, he’s shown me that you can find it anywhere, provided that you actually look for it!
I deeply enjoy June Assal’s (@snappedbyjune or @june.assal) inventive, colourful portraits. And otherwise, I’m also a big fan of Aurélien Essaïdi (@aur.essa), for his ethereal, meditative, soothing picture, and of Kévin Maes (@mskevin), for his colours, composition and daily scenes in European cities. I haven’t met the last two yet, but I’d love to do a photo walk with them soon.
What would be your number one dream destination for a photography adventure? Tough question. I’m not going to be very original, but I would love to go to Iceland and to the region of Yucatan, in Mexico. Obviously for different reasons and climates!
Which time of year is your favourite for taking photographs? Another tough question. I used to hate autumn as a kid, mostly because it was getting colder, and I hadn't really realized how colourful the landscape becomes. As I was explaining with my editing style, I’m torn between summer and autumn, I think I love them both for very different reasons.
The coolest place you've ever been? So many tough questions… I’ll make a top 3 in no particular order, because this is so hard.
- West Texas, because of the colours.
- Mount Sunday, New Zealand, because I’m a Lord of the Rings fanboy.
- Milford Sound, New Zealand, because it’s ineffably beautiful.
Do you have any upcoming photography trips/sessions that you would like to share? I’m hoping to either go to Iceland or Yucatan in the summer of 2019, and maybe visit some islands of the Cyclades, in Greece, this year, too.