Robin Johnston, Photography, Glasgow, Scotland


EWW: Robin, What do you expect people to walk away with after they have finished viewing “Glasgow Shadows?

Robin: I would hope a slightly different perspective on their environment, especially in the city. Perhaps shifting the way people see or interact with their surroundings, the textures and angles of the urban landscape, taking time to notice detail. Also I hope an increased appreciation of the qualities of light and the way strong directional light can pick out curious aspects of the city that were not immediately noticeable before, making urban exploration an aesthetic adventure.


EWW: I am curious to know, if someone were asked to make a comment about your work as a whole, what do you think they would say?

Robin: Atmospheric, modernist, strong sense of light and shadow, interesting use of angle, composition and texture. Obsessed with shadows, melodrama and a slightly more obtuse or offbeat way of seeing the city and its inhabitants? Perhaps studies in modern urban loneliness?


EWW: What would be your comments about your work, as a whole?

Robin: I seem to be obsessed with shadows and strong directional light, which brings out texture and pattern. I seem to operate better in urban spaces; more visual opportunities present themselves here for me. It is strange how your own subconscious concerns and influences can make themselves known in work, such as a strong interest in the shape of shadows and silhouettes, strong directional sunlight and urban emptiness and loneliness. People in my photographs especially of Glasgow are always quite anonymous, their shapes, silhouettes and shadows almost becoming part of the buildings and surfaces surrounding them.


EWW: If I were to walk into an room which included works of yours as well as others, would I immediately know which ones were yours and why?

Robin: I think so, especially the Glasgow Shadows series, which is quite distinctive, it has a very noire feel, dealing with often extreme contrasts in light and shade and surface textures. Also I think a strong compositional sense influenced by photographers, such as Bill Brandt and Brassai. This is what I like so that’s what ends up in the image, I try not to over-think things when I’m taking photographs, and I usually know instinctively what will work as an image.


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EWW: Excluding subject matter, are there any themes that consistently run from one work to the other such as colors, perspective, lighting, movement, style, etc.?

Robin: There is definitely an obsession with light and dark, strong directional light, and of course the offshoot of that are shadows and strong textures. Lots of expressionistic low or high angles and human beings are often an after-thought, strangers in world around them, so I also think there is still a strong sense of story there, of city structures intimidating and often trapping the people who pass between them, like in some mythical maze.


EWW: Much of your work in Glasgow Shadows is Black and White.   There is however a bit of color.   Besides contrast, I would like to know your thoughts on color vs. back and white. How do you decide when black and white or color is most appropriate?

Robin: I love black and white, however most of my photos are not strictly monotone, if you look closely there is usually a touch of color in there somewhere. I like strong color if it’s going to be there, almost Technicolor, strongly influenced I think by my love of films like a Matter Of Life And Death, which used a contrast of black and white and bold use of color in storytelling. Also modernist and abstract painters like Braque have been an influence on this. I often seem to be caught midway between the two, however I do like this kind of effect. A hint of color can make all the difference in a composition.


EWW: What do you see as the major challenges today for photographers in terms of marketing and promotion?

Robin: I think there are numerous opportunities through the Internet now, however there are also a huge number of very gifted and capable photographers and digital artists all vying for the limelight so it can be hard to get noticed at all. The best way is always to do what you want, express your own visual ideas that you find interesting and don’t be swayed into producing work just for effect and gaining attention.


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EWW: How are you dealing with these challenges?

Robin: I am slowly, with some help from my partner who specializes in PR, starting to get some attention for my work. Shows in large annual exhibitions and a solo show have given me much greater confidence in putting my work out there and every little bit of exposure and attention helps. This is something I am still learning about, it can take some time to find your own sense of identity and confidence in photography.


EWW: Do you use social media platforms to market and promote your work? If you do, which social media platform seems to work the best for you?

Robin: I use twitter and Facebook, however the best way to market my work seems to have been online gallery websites like Artpistol and yourselves, or having my work shown in galleries. I recently had my work shown at two of the larger arts societies in Scotland, and also had a solo exhibition of the Glasgow Shadows work at the Hidden Lane Gallery in Glasgow.


EWW: Robin, just to wrap up the interview, do you have any final thoughts about you and your work that you think would be important for others to know about?

Robin: I have recently started to make a breakthrough as far as exhibited work is concerned, printing and framing can bring your images alive. Having my own solo shows and being included in larger arts shows around Scotland are giving me more and more confidence in what I can do. I still have a lot to learn technically, however the feedback I have received about my work over the last five to six years has been largely positive. I think my work can be very specific, about small details and moments. There are so many great landscape photographers out there that can do that so much better than I could, so it is important for me to find a niche within which I can express different ideas and create my own distinctive style. I think I have so far been successful in achieving this. I’m not sure what comes next however I am looking forward to new creative challenges in the future.




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