MEET PHOTOGRAPHER | DIRECTOR: ROB HOWARD / by Conor Bettendorf

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Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, The Dalai Lama.. What do these people have in common? They're all individuals who have graced Rob Howard's Instagram. Just like everyone else who has ever met Rob, we're sure they fell in love with him instantly. With an infectious laugh and an unmatched lust for life, every set Rob steps on immediately becomes a good time. The perfect combination of fun, easy-going energy, and relentless, unwavering work ethic. You can see the excitement in the photographs he takes. Rob is as passionate about life as he is about photography. The portfolio he boasts is a work of art, life, and the love he puts into every shot.

Picking up a camera much later in life hasn't stopped him from getting to the very top of the photography world in record time. Working with massive brands like Bose, Verizon, Chase, Facebook, Heineken, Coca-Cola and countless more, we clearly aren't the only ones who feel this way. Rob Howard is as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey... and who doesn't love Tennessee Whiskey?

We can't meet Rob for the first time again; but you can. So please enjoy one of our favorite Photographers west (and east) of the Mississippi.

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Tell us about your art and how you got involved with photography? 

I bought my first camera at a pawn shop at the corner of Queen and Church streets in downtown Toronto. It was a Nikkormat, with a Nikon 105mm lens. It was so random, as I knew nothing about photography, much less about cameras. I just bought it, and started taking pictures. I’d been studying Literature and Philosophy at University of Toronto, but was beginning to feel that I wanted to create something, as opposed to just reading books and critiquing them. As soon as I held that camera in my hands, and started clicking, a whole new world opened up to me, and I was hooked. There was a lady named Judy Welch, who owned a modeling agency in my parents' neighborhood, and she took an interest in what I was doing, and let me take test shots of her models. I was like a kid in a candy store, with an endless supply of captivating subjects. Judy was fabulous, as she encouraged me, even though I totally sucked. I started renting a little studio from a photographer who’d moved to Japan, and he let me use all of his lights while he was gone. It was such an incredible, yet naive education. I’d look at magazines, and study the pictures of Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, and Peter Lindbergh, and try to copy them.  These guys were my heroes, and my teachers, even though they’d never heard of me. They were my unwitting gurus. My little studio in Toronto was the perfect place for me to make a ton of mistakes, play with light, and learn how to process my own film and make prints. I had a blast!

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What was a pivotal moment in your photography career?

I’ve had so many pivotal moments in my career. In fact, it seems like it’s been an endless chain of pivotal moments that have been happening to me since the first day that I bought that first camera. I’ve discovered that if you have an idea, then work to execute it, magic happens. You can create your own pivotal moments, and you can will them into happening. It takes a ton of work, though.

What has been your favorite set to work on and why?

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I’ve had the good fortune to work on countless incredible sets all around the world, but I just had the opportunity to shoot a campaign for a major brand on my own property, here in the Catskills, in Upstate New York. It was such a fantastic experience hosting my team, and my clients, in my own neck of the woods. I’ll never forget shooting a scene on the dock of my pond, where the light was absolutely gorgeous, and everything unfolded beautifully. I mean, how perfect is that, that I got to shoot pictures in my own backyard that will manifest themselves on billboards all around the planet? Pretty cool, eh?

What is one of your proudest moments in your career?

Again, I’ve had many proud moments in my career, but one of my favorite memories was visiting the Obama White House with Oprah for O, The Oprah Magazine. I’d spent days walking door to door in Toledo, Ohio, canvassing for the Obama campaign, and then watched him become President on TV.  Getting the opportunity to photograph him in the White House was a surreal and extraordinary experience. He, and the First Lady were even cooler in real life than I’d imagined. What a thrill!

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What are some other things you enjoy when you aren't shooting?

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When I’m not shooting, I’m hiking, skiing, camping, or just being outside. The great outdoors is my church. Also, I’m still a passionately voracious reader. I love to learn about anything and everything!

What is your favorite part about being on set?

For me, one of the best things about being on set is the creative energy that flows. I love collaborating with everyone around me, from the hair and make-up person, to the wardrobe stylist, the prop stylist, the creatives, and especially the talent. The energy that we all create together gets me pumping, and it’s just a huge buzz. It’s fantastic. It’s all about the energy for me.

What does #createmoments mean to you?

#createmoments addresses perfectly what it is that I do. I love to create moments that tell stories about real life. Creating moments demands a great deal of thought, and preparation. My whole process is about building the foundation of an idea, with my team, and then letting it breathe, and following that idea to it’s conclusion. Once we’ve laid the groundwork for a moment to happen, or a series of moments, I never know what’s ultimately going to unfold.  The trick is to follow the moments with great attention, guiding them with subtle direction, but ultimately allowing them to take on a life of their own. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s a really fun dance. I love creating moments.

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What is one thing your fans may not know about you?

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One thing that people may find surprising about me is that being a photographer was one of the last things that I ever imagined myself becoming when I was younger. I was always disaster in art class at school, and had no clue that I possessed a creative bone in my body. My teachers weren’t able to spot any nascent aptitude, that’s for sure!  It wasn’t until that fateful day, when I bought my first camera, on a complete whim, that I felt the creative juices course through my veins. From that day forward, I’ve always felt that anything is possible. What an epiphany! Oh, and I’ve never tried drinking coffee, despite the fact that I love it’s aroma, and I really like eating coffee ice cream.

What advice can you provide for aspiring photographers?

Many years ago, I met the photographer Sebastião Salgado, and he told me that he approaches every situation with humility, and respect. That always resonated with me, so I’ve tried to walk through life with a sense of humility and respect. I also like to add a huge dash a humor. For me, having a sense of humor makes a career in photography possible. Also, always march to the tune of your own drummer. It’s all about finding your own voice, with your distinct point of view. Tell your own stories.

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What current projects are you working on?

I’ve got a few ongoing campaigns that I’m enjoying immensely, but a huge passion for me is an ongoing personal project that I call Greetings From Anywhere. (greetings-from-anywhere.com) It allows me to spend a day documenting the life of someone who I find captivating, through stills, sound, and motion. I have big plans for 2018, in that I’m determined to travel the globe in search of all kinds of Greetings From Anywhere stories. I’m seriously pumped. My career has never been more exciting than it is today… I feel like I’m just getting started! I also want to become a better telemark skier...

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Check out Rob in action:

Website: Rob Howard

Instagram: @robhoward10

Email: rob@robhoward.com

for booking: Sarah Laird & Good Company