Photos © 2002, Robin Hill,
All Rights Reserved
From the start, everything about
this photographer's success story fascinated me. First, Robin Hill was
born in Nottingham, England (home of the legendary Robin Hood), and moved from
England to Miami, Florida. Talk about culture shock...but he made it work
for him. Second, he pursued a style of photography he truly loved and third,
he opened up a new market for his photography services by combining all these
elements. Here is his story:
Charles Giller designed this arch in 1964. Miami's answer
to Eero Saarinen's arch in St. Louis.
did you find the lighting and photography style you now use, this "being
in the moment"?
Robin Hill: We have to blame Miles Davis, jazz musician--my inspiration.
Listening to his music one day, I asked myself, "Why don't I apply
what he does to photography?" I took some acting lessons a few years ago
to explore this and it helped with my photography, but it was really music,
and in particular jazz music, that had the most profound influence. I was listening
to Davis' classic album Kind of Blue one day a few years ago and suddenly
realized what he was doing; he was actually being totally spontaneous and improvising
the creation of music. For photography, it means being aware of the present
moment in order to respond authentically.
So I called up my friend Taylor, who used to dance with the Harlem dance troupe
and was photographed by Mapplethorpe back in the 1980s, and we went to the beach
to shoot. The resulting photos transcended anything I had done before and there
was an amazing synergy created between myself and Taylor. One of the photos
from that day has taken on a life of its own and since Taylor passed away due
to AIDS in '99 it has been used to raise funds for artists and dancers
living with AIDS.
Taylor Clifton soars dramatically above the Atlantic Ocean, holding
an impressive pose for 1/4000 sec.
Then the MiMo people saw my travel
work and loved the funky, whimsical style in that work and wanted that applied
to their buildings. That's how it all started.
SB: What effect has this had on your career?
RH: All of this started before 9/11. About 70 percent of business
was in travel and in-flight magazine photo assignments. After 9/11 everything
changed completely. Just before the attack I got hired by the Urban Arts Committee;
they work on the preservation of Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture. They hired
me to shoot these mid-century buildings in Miami--they are both futuristic
and optimistic and very inspiring. I knew I could not use a conventional architectural
photography style. When I started getting into architectural photography I noticed
that most photos of buildings were of a similar type. Technically most of them
were flawless but there was something that missed the "essence"
of the building. I decided to approach architecture in the same way I had been
shooting my other photographic subjects. I shoot quite fast, move around a lot
with a minimum amount of equipment, and play around with the interplay of light
and shadow (something the best architects know how to do very well). There's
this great marriage between architecture and photography because of the fact
that architects use light and shadow to make their buildings look interesting
and light and shadow is the very foundation of a photographer's work.
Road in Miami Beach there is a piece of public art designed by
famed architect Carlos Zapata. The reflecting pond was being cleaned
by the city and they were draining the pond through "escape
holes." The light and shadow is reflecting off a skyscraper
next to the pond.