Robin Bernstein (b. 1990)
What kinds of things do you most enjoy photographing?
I enjoy environmental portraiture, real life culture and documentary style. I’ve always been drawn to subjects and their relationship to the urban spatial environment.
Describe your photographic style.
Documentary rooted in contemporary culture, and its relationship to urban structures of the past. I find this (I like to think optimistic) way of looking at South Africa’s present state against the backdrop of its troubled past acts a fertile ground for the making of relevant and interesting pictures.
Photography is a lot about the journey. How has it influenced your personal life and the way in which you view the world (around you)?
Photography wholeheartedly grips and governs my life. From the age of 19 I’ve tailored all aspects of my life around photography, from business through to leisure.
Photography is also about capturing a moment in time. What is your approach to a shot and your approach to a body of work?
For me, photography is also about capturing a moment in time that embodies or signifies a larger span of time. Regarding shots, I try to take the Eggleston approach; edit with the viewfinder, shoot only one frame (or less rather than more) of any particular subject. Bodies of work for me generally refer to long term well considered photographic investigations of a particular subject.
Personally I enjoy working on longer term bodies of work, that may morph and change in their vision slightly as a result of the time I spend on them. I find this brings a certain realness through timeous consideration to the work.
Is photography your professional career? Or do you work in another field?
Photography is my professional career. I take pictures, work as a lighting and as a digital assistant in the commercial industry, and I also co-own and act as crew manager at Cape Collective Assist, a stills crew agency/collective based in Cape Town.
What gear do you shoot with? Specifically camera arsenal and film stock.
Currently, I bounce between a Fuji GW67ii rangefinder and a Mamiya RZ 67 Pro ii for most of my work. I love the rangefinder for its relative compactness and portability. I always carry an on-camera flash. I also occasionally shoot a Nikon L35ad point and shoot for my 35mm stuff. Film wise, I shoot mostly colour negative; Kodak Portra 160, 400 and 800, as well as Ektar 100.
Growth is important for any artistic craft. How do you stay motivated and enthusiastic about your work?
You just gotta keep on shooting.
In the age where digital photography is prevalent, what draws you to film and what makes it special to you?
Many reasons. First off I prefer the aesthetic quality that film gives when it comes to my personal work; softer grain versus the clinical perfection that digital cameras strive to reach. Colour negative has a particularly large dynamic range, which is great. I enjoy the way focus fall off reacts to your film plane on larger formats. From a work-flow point of view, I really enjoy the consideration one is forced to make when working with film — your mind has to be much more focused while shooting.
What are your influences? Please list other photographers you look up to or things that generally inspire your image-making process.
Photographically I find myself always turning back to a pre-Instagram golden era of photographers such as Phillip Lorca Di-Corcia, Stephen Shore, Martin Parr, Garry Winogrand, Bruce Davidson, Susan Meiselas, Edward Burtynsky, Jeff Wall, Alec Soth, Rineke Dijkstra and Andreas Gurskey— masters all in their own right. I find myself appreciating and drawing on various aspects from each of their work, from composition, conceptual backing and direction of subject, to use of colour and use of light.
My current ‘day job’ is working as a digital operator and lighting assistant in the commercial photography industry, and as such I’m continually exposed to, and influenced by, the workflows of some prolific and highly skilled individuals on the international stage in that industry. Despite my inherent lack of interest in commercial work or fashion for fashion’s sake, through working in in this area of photography I have developed a great interest in fashion as a vehicle for modern culture, and I feel that this new found interest plays heavily into my more recent personal work.
Finally – and most importantly – I try to let the world around me shape my way of seeing and recording it. I try to allow happenings in my personal life; emotions, music, motion picture references, as well as those from art and literature sit on the peripheries of my mind while I photograph.
What else do you enjoy? (Hobbies, etc. – Any other creative exploits or interests?)
Surfing, being in nature, really long drives, music.
Any tips for aspiring film photographers?
As a photographer, whatever your medium of choice is just make sure you aim to master it, but never at the expense of missing the shot.
What lies on the horizon? (any plans for series, exhibitions, travels, etc.) And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
As I mentioned earlier, long term projects are my thing. I have a number of them in the pipeline, some of which I hope will come to fruition soon.
All photos by Robin Bernstein
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