An Interview with Robert Fairer - a member of our Photography Award panel

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

In this blog I would like to share with you an interview with Robert Fairer @robert_fairer - a leading fashion photographer, a member of our panel of judges for the #AnnaSteinhouseAward Photography Competition, which we are running until the 19th of August (incl.)

In this interview Robert tells us about his impressive career, shares his views about the Award and tells us what he will be looking for in the submitted works.

Hello my name is Anna Steinhouse.

We are running a Photography Award until the 19th August 2020. Please do enter if you are a professional or an amateur photographer, the theme is MY NEW WORLD and the purpose of this theme is to depict and create a collection, combined our experience during the lockdown.

So do please participate.

And encourage your photographer friends to do so.

Over the course of the next few days, I will be interviewing the members of our judging panel, we have a diverse panel, from Fashion Photographers, Street Photographers, Lifestyle and Food Photographers.

Today I will be interviewing with well-known fashion photographer, Robert Fairer.

Please welcome Robert.

RF: Hello, how are you?

AS: I'm recording this, hope you don't mind?

RF: No of course :)

AS: Robert is a Fashion Photographer, he's the first member of the judging panel that I would like to interview and thank you for joining us today.

RF: Thank you very much for having me today, on ZOOM, and on board this wonderful competition.

AS: The pleasure is mine really! So I've got a few questions, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your amazing career.

RF: I wasn't really destined to be a photographer, one of those wonderful things that happens to you in life. I did a business degree, to start off with, but very soon decided, that wearing a suit every day wasn't for me... So I switched when I was about 23 - went to London College of Printing - and came out a fully fledged photographer. (maybe!) But that's where it all started.

So that was in the early 1990s - I actually wanted to be a National Geographic photographer, when I first started.

But I did have one trip away, which was three months long, and when I came back, my girlfriend (who is now my wife) was standing at the door, drumming her fingers, going "na, na, na... no" (wags his fingers) three month trips to Outer Mongolia - nope.

So I reassessed very quickly, and her Mother was involved in Fashion, and invited me to a couple of Fashion Shows, and I of course had all of the big white lenses, which we were using at the time to photograph animals, which were also used on the runway, and I started shooting the collections, that was in about 1993 - but very soon after that, I discovered that something more interesting, was happening behind the curtain, and that was backstage - so I moved very quickly into that.

And fortunately, I got to work with British Elle, which was a wonderful outlet for my images, they used them as main fashion stories, 12-15 page and occasionally on the cover of their supplements, and that was picked up by a lovely lady at American Vogue, who then apparently, would go into meetings, with Anna Wintour on a Monday morning, and say "we need this boy to photograph for us!".

They had fallen in love with the pictures, and so at that point I had actually, moved to American Harpers Bazaar, which again was another great outlet, and took about two years, and I started working for American Vogue, just before the Millennium - And here we are now! Twenty years on!

AS: What an impressive career! Amazing, you must have had amazing experiences and stories behind all of this.

RF: Lots of stories, lots of wonderful experiences, but of course we don't talk about any of it ...

AS: For another day

RF: For another day! We are very discreet in our world.

AS: Thank you so much for sharing that, another question, why is your participation in this prize is important to you - why do you think it is important.

RF: I think that anybody with a slightly creative bone in their body has been stifled for the last three months, four months, the world has changed so much, the thing initially that drew me to the competition, was the idea of the breadth, in that it could appeal to anybody, anybody could find a change in their world, so it's not exclusive.

The prize is very very generous, surprisingly so, for a Photographic Competition that's open to amateurs and professionals alike. More importantly, there's no rights- grab - so it's more of an altruistic competition, there's no company behind, saying "well, submit your pictures, £10 each and you might get a nice accolade but by the way we are going to use these images to promote our business and actually once you've submitted them to us, you have no more rights we won't pay you any more money the images are ours to use as we like" - and that's the case with SO MANY of these competitions out there.

So I'm very encouraged by that - and I am absolutely fascinated to see what people come up with, I'm prepared to be very very surprised, have my eyes opened and be astonished by what people have seen over these last few months, or how it's affected them.

AS: Thank you so much, yes that's great, a good summary. Could you share what specifically you'll be looking for...

RF: Anna, that's such a difficult question! I don't know, I'm prepared to be surprised - my lockdown was possibly very very different from many other people's - I'm fortunate to live in the countryside, I've been able to walk every day and we have lots of space. There are so many people who have had a much harder time than I have. Not that I'm a voyeur, but I am very interested and curious, and I guess will be very sympathetic to the circumstances that other people will have been surviving in in these passed few months.

But the pictures don't have to be negative, or show suffering or hardship. They can be optimistic they can be going forward, what people hope for, I think there's so much scope and hope from the title #AS_MyNewWorld that I think that people will be able to get behind. Anybody, amateur or professional will be able to get behind and come up with something wonderfully creative I'm sure.

AS: Thank you so much, and one thing that probably everybody will agree, no matter what experience - is that the world has changed, so it's a 'new world' - reassessing priorities, and other things in life, that are really changing fast.

RF: There are things that you and I haven't necessarily thought about, on everybody's different level, it's something very significant.

But really, I don't like this new world, new beginning, way of thinking, I think we need to change.

AS: Yes we need to definitely change. Once again, I'm absolutely delighted that you are on our Judging Panel, so it's really a great pleasure to have a photographer of the calibre of yourself, and it's great to see that there are some submissions already.

RF: already? oh wow! Fantastic

AS: yes, it's getting traction - which is amazing.

RF: I'd like to encourage everybody to get on board, and have a go, as I've said, there's no particular format, no particular skill, apart from being able to communicate an idea, this could be shot on your iPhone, this could be shot on a professional camera it doesn't matter - from my point of view, I've said I'm prepared to be surprised and have my eyes opened but also, things don't have to be technically perfect. It's more about sharing the emotion, and the experience, and just your vision of where this will, or could go. Don't be intimidated, have a go - it's FREE - do it! It will give you a focus, something to do, get creative.

AS: Thank you so much for your time today, and let's see what it brings, I look forward to working with you.

RF: I'm looking forward to that too Anna, thank you very much for inviting me.

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