It’s challenging to find a more honest word to describe Robb Siverson’s photography than “variety”. Mingling in a bit everything, from the dark room to commercial shoots, Robb’s work explores the vast possibilities of modern photography. As a photographic ‘jack of all trades,’ currently working in the Midwest, Robb explains to us his many photographic pursuits.
I’ve Spent The Same 15 Hours
Your website displays the description: Fine Art, Commercial & Aerial Photographer. How did you come up with that unique trio?
My main objective is always my art but I have found a niche in the commercial photography world that I am also very passionate about. I try to divide my time in half with my art and the other half with my commercial work. Recently I just wrapped up a national catalog shoot for a high-end patio furniture company and now am gearing up for my aerial season in the agricultural industry. When I am not shooting commercially, I am in the field shooting with my 4×5 view camera. I work with such a wide variety of industries, which keeps it interesting and challenging. Especially now that the economy is in the toilet, I’ve found that the commercial and aerial photography can help pay the mortgage during slow print sales.
What is the history of Robojack Studios? And, as a photographer, what have you learned in co-founding this business?
Robojack Studios was conceived my senior year in college with a graphic designer friend. Today we collaborate on many projects ranging from constructing web sites to advertising for a diverse range of clients and industries. It has been a wonderful experience as far as a business orientated and a massive learning adventure. I serve as project manager for most major projects so I am always dealing with high-energy clients that expect top-notch results.
With such a variety of commercial photography, how do you approach each new ‘assignment’? What elements do you always try to keep in mind?
I always try to keep in mind what the client wants, their vision. It is easy for a photographer to want to take over with the creative direction, but I am always reminding myself to perform and deliver what the client wants while always bouncing my ideas off of them. This usually involves a lot of research and meetings with the client to get a grasp on their creative vision. This method has proved to be successful for me.
Can you explain the process you use to create bromide stained photographs and why you chose to work with it?
I have been working on bromide staining techniques since 2002. It is a simple silver process that omits the Fixer step. By exposing an unfixed image to light creates a palette of warm and sometimes cool colors. I then use exhausted fixer to paint on the photograph with a paintbrush. Once the process is complete and I am satisfied with the marks on paper I fix the image like normal, creating a unique one-of-a-kind image.
Unfortunately, most of the papers I’ve used for this process are now discontinued; Agfa, Kodak and Forte papers worked very well but have been unavailable now for a number of years. I still have a freezer full of paper that I am waiting to use for the right project. I’ve always wanted to be a painter, but my drawing skills were not much to brag about. Bromide staining is a process that let’s me use a paintbrush to fulfill my itch to paint.
What other processing techniques do you use?
Right now I am really concentrating on traditional black and white silver processes. I am always striving to be a better printer in the darkroom and recently I have found a method that really works for me. I am always playing with new ideas and processes though. Lately I have been experimenting with Polaroid Photograms, which like my bromide work it is becoming obsolete due to the shrinking industry of traditional photographic products. (RIP Polaroid).
There are so many new contempary digital products and techniques now available. I am trying to incorporate both analog and digital techniques with some of my various processes. For example, I have found that using the Polaroid negative when wet and then scanning it digitally can make wonderful works that create a unique painterly quality to them.
Where did you draw inspiration from for the series “When You Can’t Stop Thinking About Nothing”?
When You Can’t Stop Thinking About Nothing started back in 2002, it was a darker period in my life and I wanted to incorporate my inner feelings through various human models in a variety of obscure, sometimes uncomfortable situations. These emotions I wanted to express through my photographs, it was essentially my therapy. Using long drawn out titles evoking an intimate frame of mind concerning my own human psyche.
Long Time Since You’ve Been Around
What kinds of challenges have you faced in trying to establish yourself as a photographer?
The biggest challenge is getting your work out there. I’m always trying to bring a wider audience to my work. I have discovered at an early age that you cannot wait around for someone to discover you but you have to get your work out there for others to see. If it’s art fairs or juried shows, I am always looking for opportunities to introduce my photography to a wider audience around the globe.
Drinking Away The Day
I’ve Changed My Mind So Much I Can’t Even Trust It.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now I am working on a body of work incorporating my native landscape in the Northern Plains, where I grew up, my backyard essentially, a landscape I am very familiar with that many might dismiss as uninteresting. Most of my black and white photographs in the last year have been taken within an hour of our home. I am currently putting this body of work together with hopes to exhibit this next year.