I've learnt to shoot for myself, shoot the things I love and shoot whether people like it or not.
Christopher Robert is a self-taught photographer living and working in Melbourne. The Olympus ambassador and co-creator of Bare Mag spoke to Penthouse about his “moody nudie” style of shooting, his go-to gear and why he refuses to describe his nude photography as erotica.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I often use “moody nudie” as a throw away term to describe my style but I think that’s the core of it. My style has developed a lot over the last year and moody nudie pretty much sums it up. I love exploring shape and shadows with skin and natural light, creating images that have an artistic and creative element while capturing the female form in its natural beauty. I try and take the sexual element out of the images I create; I naturally connect with more candid, natural images where naked doesn’t mean sexual. Images that have a mood and feeling to them are what I love most.
How did you get your start in photography?
I’ve always loved shooting. I studied photography back in high school in the dark room days and it’s stuck with me ever since. It was a hobby of mine for a long time and I started shooting long exposure landscape images predominately. I started to shoot more portraits with friends and family and loved the connection I felt with portrait work. The more I shot the more I naturally gravitated towards what I loved shooting and here we are.
Why did you become a photographer?
It’s always been my creative outlet. It enables me to get completely lost in it and forget about the rest of the world where I can breathe and feel free. My passion for it has grown so much and the more I shoot, the more I learn about myself. Photography is such a huge part of who I am now and where I want to go. The people closest to me are all connected through photography.
What makes a great photo to you?
A great photo to me is one that people connect with, one that makes someone pause and stare a while, and can bring about wonder and intrigue. I love how universal images can be, like songs to a degree, people can view them and connect with them in their own way for their own experiences. A great image is also one that makes people feel included, better about themselves and realise they’re not alone.
Tell us about your most memorable photoshoot.
I was in Iceland with a good buddy of mine and we were at the famous Skógafoss waterfall, one of Iceland’s most popular and spectacular waterfalls. We wanted to make it interesting, so many people have shot there but we wanted to make it different so the best way we thought to do that was to get naked. We took some shots of each other completely nude in font of this crazy massive waterfall with about 40 or so tourists watching on. The images are incredible if I do say so myself and we inspired a bunch of other tourists to do the same thing! It’s amazing how you can inspire other by stepping outside your comfort zone.
How has your approach to photography changed since you began shooting?
Since I moved from shooting long exposures to shooting people, mainly women, I’ve always been really conscious and aware of making them as comfortable as possible. I really focus on creating a safe and free environment where they can just be themselves without worrying about being judged or objectified. My approach to actually shooting hasn’t really changed but I’ve learnt how to read people and communicate a lot better. With so many images out there these days and the power of social media, it’s easy to get lost and start shooting what you think people will like but I’ve learnt to shoot for myself, shoot the things that I love to shoot whether people like it or not, whether it goes against societies standards or not, shoot for yourself first and foremost.
What draws you to shooting nudes and erotica?
I wouldn’t really describe my work as erotica, that’s probably the opposite of what I’m drawn to. I guess that’s the thing with photography, it’s so subjective, I probably have images that could be viewed as erotic but that’s not my intention. Like I said, I try and take the sexual element out of my work and celebrate natural beauty but I can’t control how my work makes people feel so that’s always going to be a factor.
Have you ever had a muse?
Hmmm, I may have had a couple but not one in particular. I enjoy creating with so many different models and love what they bring to the shoot and how they inspire me that it’s hard to just have one. But it would be amazing to find that person
What gear do you shoot with?
I shoot with Olympus gear. I was lucky enough to be sponsored by Olympus Australia a couple of years ago and I’d never shoot on anything else. It’s such incredible equipment. I was shooting with a Nikon D810 and it was just heavy and clunky, I felt like I was just doing the same thing over and over so I bought a little Olympus E-M5 Mii and started using it on my shoots. It brought back so much fun for me during the shoot, enabled me to do things I couldn’t do with the Nikon gear and was so easy to shoot with. Two years later and I’m shooting with full Olympus gear. I use an E-M1X and E-M1 Miii with mostly their range of 1.2 prime lenses. The quality of the gear is incredible, I have full waves wash over my cameras while shooting and they don’t miss a beat, I’d highly recommend them to anyone and can’t thanks Olympus Australia enough for all their support, they are an amazing company to be partnered with. I also have a range of 35mm film cameras that I love shooting with. There’s a character to film that is unique and unpredictable
What’s your process when shooting?
I can gauge pretty quickly if a model is on the same page as me. We’ll throw some ideas around do get a feel for what the shoot will be like, what they’re comfortable with and exchange some reference images etc Then we’ll lock a time and location in. I don’t go in with a set plan as this will undoubtedly change so I like to keep an open mind. I shoot very relaxed and candid, making sure the shoot flows. The best shoots are the ones the flow, with time disappearing and forgetting about the rest of the world. Sometimes you can go into a shoot with one idea and come out with something completely different, it just depends on the vibe and connection between myself and who I’m shooting. One thing I love is getting to a location and working on the fly as to what areas, compositions and lighting is going to work best, using the location to our advantage.
Do you prefer shooting in a studio or outdoors?
I prefer outdoor/natural light conditions. It takes a while to learn how to read light, to know where to place someone so that the light catches the right part of them. I still shoot some studio also, it’s a good skill to have and obviously isn't controlled by the weather, which during Melbourne’s winters can be super handy.
Do you prefer shooting in natural light or artificial light?
I’m natural 90% of the time. The only time I use flash is if that’s the look I’m going for or it’s too dark or I’m in a studio with no natural light options.
Do you have a particular type of model you like shooting?
Not really, I love shooting all types. I guess I love shooting those that are comfortable in their skin or stepping outside their comfort zone to explore their skin. You don’t have to be a ‘model’ to shoot with me, I shoot a lot of women that just want to feel better about themselves, to see themselves in a different light and to start the steps to loving their bodies. This is something I’m very passionate about, we all live in a world now where everyone shares everything and people compare themselves to others all the time. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, it’s the little ‘flaws’ that make us who we are and different from others. I don’t change body shapes or photoshop anything, I’ll remove anything that’s superficial but anything permanent stays.
You shoot a diverse range of different models. How do you build rapport with models during a shoot?
It’s just about creating a comfortable environment. I always have music playing. I’ll ask them what their favourite band or style of music is and put that on. I’m pretty much constantly asking questions, telling stories, talking to them and building rapport. The more you can get them talking the more they open up and forget about the actual photos. If something isn’t working you don’t have to voice it, just change it up, change location or position or wardrobe. I’m very particular with the language I use when talking to them, there’s a way of speaking and suggesting things without it being creepy or rude. And I’ll always keep showing them what the photos are looking like on the camera, so they can see what’s happening and if there’s something they don’t like or what to change up then they can, it keeps them involved and part of the whole process.
What’s something about you we might not expect?
When I was a kid I travelled around Australia with my family for 2 years in a caravan. We started up the east coast all the way to Cape York, across to Darwin and Alice Springs, over to Broome and down the west coast back through Adelaide and back home. Funnily enough the camera we had while traveling was an Olympus Trip 35 which I still have today. I think this is where my love of photography stems from. We have so many photos from our trip that it’s a reminder that we should get more images printed in this day and age instead of them all being stored on digital devices.
Tell us about Bare Mag.
Yes! Bare Mag is an online monthly magazine that my buddy and fellow photographer Dan Wilson and I have created. It’s a place for us to share our work and what we stand for and inspire others. We feature all types of models and it’s all about embracing and uncovering the beauty of the female form. We also release sets in between each volume to keep our supporters engaged and updated with new work. Once we have established ourselves, we’re thinking about releasing a limited edition bi annual print edition.
What have you got coming up work-wise that you’re excited about?
I’m excited to keep expanding Bare Mag and I have a couple of trips planned once everything calms down a bit from COVID-19. Dan and I are doing a road trip up the east coast, shooting and exploring along the way. I’d also like to get over to Perth to create and meet with some fellow creatives over there.
Follow Christopher Robert on his website, Instagram and Patreon. Check out Bare Mag on Instagram.