EPISODE 5 - Rascals of Society
‘So I went for it and ended up crowd surfing around this gig with my camera on me‘.
Robbie Atkin is one of those blokes who is simply talented at a bit of everything when it comes to life in general. You know those people that somehow you’ve know your entire life without having full interaction throughout your life? If you don’t too bad, I’ve just explained that shit. But Robbie Atkin is one of them people to me. He’s been in sport teams of mine since the grommy days, attended various schools together, skated similar skate parks and drunk at similar bars on the Sunshine Coast. He just floats in and out of your life as he pleases doing his own thing! I haven’t seen him in a while though, but I realised theres a good reason for that…he’s been making live music photography his little bitch! But really, this guy serious has it dialled when it comes to live music photography, in fact he shoots a sick portrait too…talented bastard!
Hear what he had to say to us on photography, the time he crowed surfed whilst taking photos and the numerous bands he’s shared a beer with.
Robbie how you doing?
I’m doing great cheers, just had a real chill, quite weekend for the first time in a while which is a nice change.
What were you doing before this shitty interview took place?
Uhh watching a shitload of Dexter and editing photos from last week haha
Name + Nickname(s):
My given name is Robert but I’ve pretty much grown up being called Robbie, as for nicknames, I never really had many during school but over the last year ish, Bobby has come out of nowhere and managed to slide into all my mates vocab, which I haven’t really decided if I like yet or not haha but it looks like it’s here to stay! Other nicknames I’ve been getting recently are Bobbo, Bob, Harombie? and Penis Bobby (don’t ask, I have no idea where that one came from)
Its pretty obvious live music photography is your main jam, how’d that come about and has it always been your style of photography?
Well yeah when I first moved to Brisbane I was kinda couch surfing around for the first few months and hanging out and partying with a lot of other guys from the coast and I ended up going to a few house parties/shows at a mate’s place in Taringa where I was introduced to a couple of local bands called Pall Smony (now called Good Boy) and Rabbit (now Jouk Mistrow). I started shooting them at those parties and then small gigs around The Valley and West End; through that I met heaps of other bands and awesome people in the music industry.
As for my style/ preferred genre of photography, I actually started when I was about 15 shooting mostly skating and a bit of surf stuff which I loved but my main focus quickly turned more towards shooting with interesting lighting and trying to shoot in really challenging situations which I wasn’t really getting with skating/surf, not saying that stuff is easy, I was just used to it and ready to progress my photography into something more you know. I think that’s what really got me hooked on shooting music because it’s was so hard to get a good shot, especially at a house party when you’re working with one, maybe 2 shitty low powered lights in a small crowded space and you’ve got multiple subjects constantly moving around which makes getting the focus right near impossible let alone the correct exposure. I mean granted now I’m working at venues and festivals which for the most part have great lighting so it’s not terribly hard anymore. The real challenge now is getting a shot that hasn’t been done thousands of times before in the same venue, ignoring the obvious/ easy shots and searching for that unseen angle haha
Would you say you have a preferred genre of music to shoot? What kinda shows get the most wild and provide sick shots?
Ahhh not really, I guess I just prefer to shoot genres that I’m into you know? It’s a lot more fun shooting music you like than music you don’t. As for the loosest shows, I would have to say some of the heavier rock bands are the best because they generally play with really high energy and tend to do more wild shit on stage which always makes for a great photo.
I’ve been to a few festivals and gigs myself, never as a photographer though. What is it like? There’s like a mini mosh pit of photographers before the actual mosh pit at festy’s, that shit looks intense.
Yeah shooting at festivals is pretty sick, as a photographer you get access to the area between the stage and the barrier holding back all the punters but usually only for the first 3 songs of each artist then the seccies boot you out. It’s great because you get so much more space to work with and you don’t get sweaty as fuck trying shoot from the mosh pit with all the punters, however you do have 10-15 other photographers staunching around getting in your way, I mean generally most of them are nice and polite but I’ve definitely come across some proper tools in there before.
Following up on that, how do you set yourself above the other photographers next to you taking the same shot of the same artist? What are the ‘must haves’ in a live music shot?
Hmm this is a tough one. Usually in a photog pit everybody goes nuts and starts shooting the moment band comes on stage because of the 3 song rule you know, gotta shoot as much as possible in that short time but personally I don’t do that, I normally leave my camera over my shoulder for half the first song or so and take the time to look at the lighting and positions of the band members and then figure out the best spots to shoot from and what angle will work the best for the situation. After that I start shooting and I also try to not have my eye staring down the viewfinder the whole time, It’s good to look up at whats happening every few shots or so because otherwise you might miss the best shot happening on the other side of the stage.
The ‘must haves’ in a live music shot to me are
No. 1 good composition, it’s one of the few components you have 100% control over in this situation, if the lightings great and your subject is perfect everyone’s gonna get the same shot as you so you gotta make sure your composition is on point to stand out from the rest.
No. 2 is having the correct focus, this one is a huge pain in the ass when you first start shooting music because it’s bloody hard to get your focus right when the subject’s moving and the light is changing constantly. I can’t count the number of awesome shots I would of had if my subject hadn’t been out of focus.
No. 3 isn’t really a must have but it’s definitely something that can turn a good photo into a great one and it’s just to pay attention to the details. Like are your subjects eyes opened or closed in the shot, are they looking down or up at the crowd, have you caught them mid strum on their guitar or like is it the exact fraction of a second when they are screaming the hardest into the mic?
Wow sorry I just read that back and I sound super serious, fuck I can ramble pretty hard on this subject haha!
Whats the craziest shit you’ve seen at a gig or festival as a photographer or even just as a punter?
Haha ummm there’s definitely a lot to choose from and I’d say probably a lot more that I don’t remember haha. I saw a guy at Falls doing the limbo naked in the middle of the mosh pit during Parquet Courts, that was pretty wild. Also being at a Soho gig and seeing people right next to me pass out in the mosh pit because of the heat. One time I was shooting a gig at The Foundry, can’t remember who was playing but it must have been a sold out show because it was fucking packed out. Anyway there’s no barrier at this venue so I was shooting from the crowd for a bit and I remember getting slammed so hard up against the front of the stage I swear I could feel my femur bone bending over it, which was real scary but that’s not the point! I escaped to the side stage area to shoot from there only to realise there was no way I’d be able to get back to the spot I had at the front to shoot more. I asked one of the guys that works there if I could just stage dive back to the front of the pit and he actually said yes, so I went for it and ended up crowd surfing around at this gig with my camera on me for a good minute or so and yeah that was pretty fucking awesome haha.
You also shoot a fair bit of portraitures, tell us a bit about that. They come across quiet intimate, is it a matter of keeping shot ideas simple?
I really enjoy shooting portraits, I wish I could do more to be honest. Finding the right lighting to match the mood of the subject is definitely a challenge I’m up for and I love working with soft natural light which I don’t get a lot of, if any in music so it’s real refreshing to do some portrait work in between music stuff.
Yeah for me at least keeping it simple is important you know I generally only use 1 or 2 main sources of light, a nice wide aperture to keep the background out of focus and less distracting, smooth contrast between the shadows and highlights is something I look for as well.
Got any cool back stage stories? Any claims?
Yeah I guess. One time I was at a Wavves gig in Melbourne, I think it was a Falls sideshow last year? anyway I met Declan, the front man of British India there and he bought me a beer which was pretty sick because they’re one of my all time favourite Aussie bands. When I went down to Victoria for Falls over new years with Good Boy, we got to hang out and camp with the guys from Hockey Dad and Dumb Punts who are all absolute legends. We also had the guys from Middle Kids a couple of tents away, got to have a chat to them which was sick. Just the other day I did some press photos of Skegss for a Grain article and had a beer with them afterwards, the Dunies guys rocked up too which was pretty cool. Apart from that I’ve just been lucky enough to meet so many awesome artists from all over the place.
Tell us a little about ‘Grain’.
So Grain is basically an online multi media music/art magazine that a few mates of mine started a bit over a year ago. We do live reviews, music/video premieres, interviews and we also put on a few live shows ourself including our Annual Against The Grain Festival that’s coming up in August which everyone should come to, it’s gonna be fuckin’ awesome.
Go to meal to impress people?
I actually love cooking so I’ll give you a few, probably for brekky I’d do a eggs Benedict or a Spanish omelette and for lunch/dinner, can’t go wrong with a good old Thai Curry or classic steak with mushroom sauce for dinner.
Finally what’s next any grand plans, or just cruising?
Uhh not a lot at the moment, gonna try and expand more into the portrait side of things and hit a bunch of festivals this year I reckon haha
Were you thinking what I was thinking? Perhaps something along the lines of ‘fuck this guys life sounds epic’. Thats because he loves what he’s doing and it’s clearly evident in his work! I normally wrap these things up with a nice little conclusion but there just really isn’t much more to say about Robbie other than its only up from here for Robbie. Theres certainly exciting things on the horizon for this dude, keep your eyes 100% peeled.
Go thrash your head around aimlessly in some mosh pit this weekend, I’ve heard its good for your health.