When someone picks up a camera for the first time, what will they create? Will they endeavour to take portraits, landscapes, strictly black and white or delve into the depths of fine art photography?
Robby Cavanaugh is a fine art photographer and creates images that portray emotions or ideas that have occurred to him in his day-to-day life. The element about art that stretches through into the photographic medium is that people can interpret an image in a tumultuous number of ways – which is why it is brilliant to create. If art disturbs you, makes you question physics, question reality or remember a dream; it has done its job.
After working in a portrait studio for two years, Mr Cavanaugh wanted to do photography, in hopes to be professional at it. Fresh out of high school, he continued to work throughout starting college and started fine art photography around his sophomore year of college.
“Exploring emotions is key to creating impactful work,” he said.
“Especially emotions that tend to focus on the negativities of life. It really brings out work that is meaningful to you. I have many images that focus on the theme of escape, but this piece was the first to represent that, “the fleeter’s find.”
What has been one of the most interesting experiences for you whilst out photographing?
I wouldn’t say this was an interesting experience but it was horrifying! I went into an abandoned shack that didn’t have very sturdy flooring. As I was shooting I fell 5 feet into a pit full of the nastiest water and a bunch of spiders. I emotionally have never recovered (laughs).
You used to have a chameleon for a pet. Could you tell us a little story about it?
I love my chameleon! Unfortunately I had to give him away because my new apartment doesn’t accept terrarium caged animals. It was very hard to give him away because I had him when he was just born. Most veiled chameleons are aggressive, but he loved people. During my edits I would let him crawl out of his cage and he’d crawl on my head.
Working with him for shoots is hard. Chameleons suffer from massive anxiety and doing a photoshoot with them can take years of their life if they are stressed. So I have to work very, very slow.
“From Cinder” is certainly a very exceptional piece that you put a lot of work into. What theme or idea were you pursuing to create and are you happy with the final result?
Thank you so much! It was such a challenge. I was pursuing the theme of rebirth. I came back to shooting from an extended absence. Life sometimes does that. So I wanted to shoot something along those lines of coming back, being reborn with my work. For once (haha), I am pleased with the result, it is kind of like my comeback piece and I’m proud to look at it.
“Captive of her will” is another interesting photograph. What was the idea behind that and how did the process go on the day of the shoot?
This is a personal favorite of mine, theme and process. The first attempt of this shoot failed and I had to come back the next day to reshoot it. The desk I had my model stand on got destroyed by a massive wave, so I had to remake the desk. Concept wise, sometimes it is easy to feel trapped within yourself. You are the only one that can really hold you back. So I have a one-sided cage to represent that. You are trapped within yourself but you have the option to extend beyond that and free yourself from your will.
You’re also a wedding photographer. What is the element or part of photographing a wedding that drew you into that aspect of photography?
Yes I am! I really just enjoy photographing people in general. Being a part of someone’s wedding is such an amazing honor. Everyone looks their best and the couple is so in love. Photographing them is truly a privilege! I also enjoy the challenge of never having the same lighting situation. With fine art, I pick the spot, so I have control of how I want things to look. Wedding photography is totally on the fly and you never know what type of lighting you will end up with. It really has made me a better fine art photographer.
Do you have any advice for amateur photographers or people who are just dipping their toes in the photographic field?
I always love this question. Those who pursue photography all have one thing in common, a camera. Yet, there is only ONE you. There is no one on this planet that is the same as you. Create work with that uniqueness; create work that represents you as a person, body and soul. People get caught up in what is “popular” and they worry about creating a photo that is appealing to everyone. Yet if you create work that is 100% you, you will stand out, because it will be something no one has ever seen before.
Where do you see yourself in five years and what do you hope to have achieved by then?
I hope to have a larger body of work, have gallery representation, make a book, and have workshops for people. Those are my current goals and I hope I can make it happen!