Featured Contributor: Robert Kerian
Los Angeles based automotive, landscape and commercial photographer Robert Kerian has taken the phrase “aesthetically pleasing,” and elevated it to the next level. An adventurer in his own right, Robert has the remarkable ability to create imagery that encapsulates the spirit of a nation in under fifty photos.
His landscape work nearly transcends the lifelike and looks as though it could be the sets for the next big fantasy trilogy. He has a talent that can only be described as instinctual and intuitive. One look at his work and you are instantly transported to the vast lowlands of Burma, the mountainous regions of California and the immense fields and captivating abandoned buildings in rural America.
Pairing luxury cars with opulent views, Kerian captures the speed of the automobiles, the rush of the sport, the acceleration of the drive and the velocity of the vehicle. After speaking with Robert, it became abundantly clear why his line of work lead him to photographing the thrill of freedom out on the open road. A visual adrenaline junkie, Robert’s incessant motivation, lust for life and wildly creative spirit has allowed Kerian to stand out amongst his peers as a true visionary. For the past sixteen years, Kerian has been astounding viewers with his sought after prowess and expertise.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Robert Kerian and discussing his personal favorite things to capture, the connections he’s made with his subjects and the creative freedoms his assignments allow him.
The photos you submitted from Wasteland Weekend 2014 look absolutely insane - and I mean that in the best way. After reading that it’s the “World’s Largest Post-Apocalyptic Festival,” my mind has been running a mile a minute trying to envision how that might pan out. I figured I’d wait to hear from the pro himself. Can you please tell me all about this event and what brought you to photograph it?
I’ve been covering Wasteland Weekend for a couple of years now. I never knew anything about it until a German magazine ‘Grip.de’ gave me the assignment to cover it. It’s basically a bunch of people taking over a part of the desert and creating a post-apocalyptic world. It has been compared to Burning Man, but it’s nothing like that. For me, it was like walking into a “real life” Mad Max - a film that not only captivated me, but actually inspired my love of cars and counter culture. I was immediately at home and completely captivated by the light and the subjects. I go there to be free and ignite my passion. Today, I am engaged as one of their contributors as well as many media outlets like Yahoo.com and other global social media.
While you specialize in creating some of the nation’s most luxurious automotive photographs, making magnificent automobiles look even better, it is some of the black and white city work you captured that truly piques my interest. The decrepit buildings, abandoned architecture and dilapidated homes that resonated strongly enough within you to create an album dedicated to these structures. It seems the aesthetic choice to depict these landscapes in black and white enhanced your vision tenfold. Can you tell me more about these places? What inspired you to step back from the usually color saturated, breathtaking landscapes you often photograph and choose a grittier scene?
I have always been inspired by places that are in transition. I’m not quite sure exactly what draws me to this. Maybe it’s because I’m always shooting pristine subjects like cars and products and this is my way to cut loose. My father was a photographer and my earliest memories are in the darkroom. I grew up shooting B&W and it is a luxury for me to shoot in B&W. I love the tonality, especially when printed properly! This is a series that I have been shooting since becoming a photographer. B&W is the only way to capture the grittiness of cities like Detroit. I first experienced Detroit at its lowest economic state. The lights were off because the city didn’t have the funds to keep them on. The skyscrapers were standing but completely abandoned. Entire city blocks and row after row upon row of homes were empty. Since then, much of the city has been bulldozed and leveled in the name of progress. I was fascinated at how an entire population could just pick up and leave. It’s a story that has been repeated throughout our country. It fascinated me to learn more about the social and economic issues behind this movement. This series is my visual documentary and commentary about our morality as a civilization. My goal is to create an exhibition or book.
So I watched the Little Tribe! Pow music video you directed and absolutely loved it. Since I was a little girl, watching music videos by the dozen has been a huge pastime of mine. When getting into photography, was motion work always your end game? If not, when did the opportunity to direct music videos present itself, and how much of the finished product is your vision embodied?
My original intent was to be a Cinematographer. A bad accident on a film set caused me to change directions and apply my lighting skills to another craft. That’s how I started shooting commercial advertising. Now I’m shooting more and more motion projects and I’m back as a cinematographer/director. It was an unconventional path to get here, but I think its made me much more rounded than if I just stayed in the film business and worked my way through the Hollywood system. I was on a photo shoot with Pow and we hit it off. We had a lot of mutual friends and the vision was there. We made it happen. I have to give a lot of the credit to the team who helped shoot and to Shinya, the editor. The vision of this video is really from Pow and I helped her bring it to fruition.
Under the category “Life” on your website, there are 40 images of individuals with remarkably different stories. There’s the child batman standing alone in an empty room, a proud man standing tall decked in pins wearing bandana-clad pants, and a guy riding his bike below stormy skies. These are just a few of the stories I want to explore further. While it is clear that some of these photographs likely fall under the advertising category, I’m curious to know what brought you together with the other subjects, and what you saw within these images that you want others to as well?
One of the real benefits of my car work is the travel. I get to explore some really unique places. This brings me the opportunity to meet unique people from all over the world. This project started out as just a way to show my friends and family what people looked like in say, ‘Fort Wayne, Indiana’. Its grown into something more. I need to keep shooting and letting this work evolve. It’s really a work in progress and I honestly hope it’s never completed. To answer your question, I want people to realize that if you are from LA and you think that’s reality, you are wrong. What I’d like people to take away from these photos is a feeling of compassion. In all of them I try to connect with the subject on a ‘soul’ level. I’m deeply spiritual and I can feel the energy of people. Sometimes good, and sometimes not so good. For whatever reason, I see a lot of pain and struggle in these particular subjects. I want people to have compassion.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists, struggling artists and successful artists alike?
Simple. Learn your craft. Respect the craft. Assist as much as you can with a photographer who does the kind of work you like to shoot. Shoot as much as you can…keep shooting. Don’t stop shooting. Experience being so broke from photography you have to decide whether to process a roll of film or eat. Know what it means to be in the game for the long haul. I mean yes, it’s great when you are on top, but there will be extremely tough times. Acknowledging the tough times and surviving them is part of this journey. If you came into this rich and without struggles, God bless you. That hasn’t been my journey and I can’t relate. Persistence is the answer.
To view even more of Robert Kerian’s work, visit his site.