Photographer spotlight: An Interview With Rob Jones

Photographer spotlight: An Interview With Rob Jones

11th December 2022

Earlier this year, we launched the inaugural Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards, the first ever awards to celebrate the art of music photography and the talent behind the lens.

The competition ran across a series of distinct categories, with winners selected by a panel of photographers, music artists and creatives. The awards recognised 2021’s most unforgettable, unique and unsung music moments and the varied and talented photographers who captured them.

Shortlisted emerging & professional photographers were unveiled and celebrated at an exclusive awards ceremony, hosted here at Abbey Road.

We recently started profiling some of the talented photographers who participated and had their work shortlisted by our judges, including Rankin, Shygirl, Jill Furmanovsky, Moses Sumney, Sacha Lecca, Dana Scruggs and Simon Wheatley.

You can read some of the previous pieces in the series below:

- Anthony Harrison

- AboveGround

- Chris Suspect (winner of the Zeitgeist Award)

- John Lyons (winner of the Live Music Photography Award)

- DeShaun Craddock

- Riccardo Piccirillo

- Neelam Khan Vela

- Hana Kovacs

- Jason Sheldon (Junction10)

- Nat Michele

- Joe Puxley (winner of the Undiscovered Award)

- Thomas Weidenhaupt

- Jérôme Brunet

This week was the turn of Rob Jones, a British photographer living in London.

Check back every week as we continue to profile some of the talented photographers who participated.

Photographer spotlight: Rob Jones

Co-founder of UK-based photography collective, Khroma Collective, he has specialised in the events and nightlife industries for the last five years, shooting at some of the most renowned venues, clubs and festivals in the UK and Europe.

Rob was nominated for the Championing Scenes award at our inaugural Music Photography Awards for his photo from Homobloc, so we recently sat down with him to chat about his humble beginnings, shooting Pharrell, advice for emerging photographers and more.

How did you fall into music photography specifically?

I secured work experience writing features and reviews for a friend's music blog. On one occasion in 2015 I was asked to provide photos to accompany a festival review so I borrowed a friend's DSLR camera and decided to take the photos myself.

From here I began shooting small club events in Manchester for friends and local promoters, which in turn led to me securing more work experience at a club in London. After moving to London I realised the potential music photography could offer me so began working to build both my skills as a photographer and the network of people around me.

And was there a particular image or body of work that was a major inspiration when starting out?

I’ve always been fascinated and inspired by previous generations, particularly with a focus on music and club culture at that time. This led me to discover Peter Walsh and Dave Swindells’ (amongst many others) work.

Peter is known for his candid black-and-white club photography, notably from the acid house period in Manchester. And Dave’s work features the club scene in London as well as hedonistic Ibiza in its clubbing heyday. Both of these photographers inspired me to pick up and film cameras and start shooting in clubs and festivals.

What makes a good subject in music photography and what makes a good music photographer?

Music photography has in my opinion always been one of the most challenging environments to be a photographer. When you’re in a dark, smoky, sweaty club using your camera it's a real challenge at times, but with it comes the reward of capturing subjects at their peak of pleasure. For many, the club is where they can really be themselves and put many of their day-to-day worries to one side temporarily. Having access to this kind of environment means you’ll always manage to capture something special.

A lot of the time I shoot events that I would usually attend even if I wasn’t working. A good music photographer has got to have an interest in their subjects and the wider community involved with the event, you’ll often find you take your best photographs when shooting something you care about and have a strong interest in.

What advice would you give to someone getting started?

Find out what music and events resonate with you, whether it be the type of music that is played, the artists on the lineups, or even the types of people who attend. After doing this you can begin to reach out and offer your photography services to the community you’re interested in. I also wouldn’t be too concerned about having specific equipment such as which camera or lenses you use.

Becoming comfortable and knowledgeable with your existing equipment is the key to everyone starting out. Be enthusiastic as well, when you meet people who have a real love for what they’re doing it creates a much better working environment.

Have you ever been starstruck when photographing someone? How do you overcome that?

I shot Pharrell Williams a few years ago at a festival and given there was limited pit access I was one of the only photographers shooting him up close. At the time I was pretty gassed to be there with my cameras and like in this instance, your adrenaline and excitement usually combat any nerves which prevent you from shooting.

Who is someone, alive or dead, you’d love to photograph?

Benji B

I’ve listened to Benji’s Radio 1 show for many years and he’s always been a big inspiration coming from the music and fashion world. His longstanding club night Deviation, which he co-runs with Judah, brings together some incredible people from creative scenes around the world, and I’ve been fortunate to shoot many of these events.

However, I’d love to shoot Benji in a studio environment one day, rather than a club.

How did it feel to be nominated in the Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2022?

It was a real highlight of 2022 for me. Having recognition from the industry that I work within was a great feeling and I’m grateful to Abbey Road Studios for initiating these awards.

The opportunity to share an evening with photographers and other creatives whom I wouldn’t usually have the chance of meeting was a real bonus as well. It was also pretty mad seeing my photograph printed on the walls outside Abbey Road Studios too!

What have you been doing since the awards? And what do you hope is next?

I co-run a photography collective called Khroma Collective and between April and September 2022 we shot 16 festivals, in the UK and Europe. So that kept me pretty busy...Aside from festivals, I have had my photographs published in Mixmag's recent book about dance music culture, and a few magazine features, and I shot an album cover for my friend Jordon A.K.A. Mall Grab, for his debut album.

Next, I want to get out of my comfort zone somewhat and start shooting more portraiture but keeping the subjects related to the music industry. Artists and collectives that inspire me are something I want to try and shoot more of.
Don't forget to head to the official MPAs website to get a comprehensive overview of all the participants, nominations and winners. Also, follow us on Instagram at @abbeyroadmpa for more MPAs related content.

To keep up with Rob, follow him on Instagram at @hirobjones and his website.

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