Interview with Robert Wilson: Emotive, Elegant Portraiture

Photographer: Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson_Mark Rylance

Actor Mark Rylance for The Times Magazine, London

Are you self-taught or photography school taught? Blackpool and Fylde College in UK.

What led you to photography?  Was going to furniture college and changed my mind at last minute.

What is your greatest professional achievement?  Becoming a British War Artist and producing the book Helmand and the Helmand Return project.

Who do you admire from your profession, past or present, and why?  Most of the classic photographers, Penn, Avedon, Leibovitz, Watson.

What’s missing from your career that you could add to make it complete? Plenty.  Probably getting into moving image more.

What part of your work do you find most demanding? The shoot days. When I shoot I put everything into it and it can be incredibly draining.

Can you tell us about your state of mind when you are shooting/creating? Focused! Constantly questioning, particularly lighting, and keeping the subject relaxed and comfortable.

How do you work best – in teams, with assistants, on location, in studio, etc…? Equally comfortable on location but love working in the studio with a team, but also love the freedom of travel projects with a small team.

What is your work philosophy? Research subject.  Plan angles, compositions, lighting… have a definite shooting plan, but try to free up and be prepared to move from it during the shoot.

What adjectives describe who you are now, at your core?  What adjectives describe who you want to be in the future? Genius.  Liar.

What are you looking for thru the viewfinder? What thoughts go thru your mind?  Once happy with the lighting and composition it’s all about capturing a moment… the expression, mood.

What’s your advice to handling rejection? Vodka.

How would you describe your brand? Emotive elegant portraiture.

What’s your advice for photographers just starting out? Learn the history but embrace the future.

How do you market yourself? Metaphorically or practically? I advertise in literature such as Archive and At-Edge, but am not good with social side and need to improve.

How do you approach your down time? It’s hard to switch off from imagery… Everything all around can be an inspiration.

Robet Wilson_Afghanistan


“My favourite image is the helicopter in Helmand.  It was shot during the Afghanistan conflict in February 2008 at the height of the conflict.   Shot in Musa Qala, it shows a British helicopter taking off causing a huge dust cloud to engulf the soldier walking below.  It’s probably my favourite as it takes me right back to being there, with an experience I’ll never forget. I also love the cinematic nature of it.”