Let's talk to an amazing photographer Robbie Byrne from Based on a new story...
El Chalten Mountain 1 – Robbie took this one on a mountain in a national park in southern Argentina, a place called El Chalten
Tell us a little about yourself and your passion - Based on a new story. How did you start? Why? Etc
Based on a New Story originally began as a world I formed for people to find my creative writing. In coming up with the name, I was trying to find something that was interesting and a little cryptic. One night I put a movie on and right at the start there were the white words on a black screen “Based on a True Story”, that’s when I thought what about Based on a New Story came to me. I thought it was cool because it was like the term New & Improved which I’ve always had a problem with. How can something be improved if it’s new? I had the same thought with based on a new story, how can it be based on something that hasn’t been told yet. The way my brain works is a little weird sometimes.
So as I said Based on a New Story was originally created to showcase my writing. I write for Australian techno label Chameleon Recordings as well I am in the editing process of my first novel. The concept we have for Chameleon Recordings is trying to combine different artists for each release. I name each EP and then write a story to go along with the music and an image that amazing photographer David Lazar provides. Now that my photography has started to take off I have been asked to do the images for the next ten releases which is pretty cool.
So where did the photography come from? It’s an interesting one because I used to do it when I was a lot younger but gave it up because developing film was quite expensive for a young guy. In 2012 my wife and I decided to quit our jobs and travel the world for a year so I could work on my novel. Little did I know that after taking over 14,000 photos on that trip I found a couple of them to be ok and my love for photography was rekindled.
I didn’t know straight away but in 2014 I started my own business in a totally different and corporate field called Numinous. While I was building my website for Numinous, I was looking at other sites and was really uninspired by many of the boring stock photos out there so I decided to go through the photos I took in 2012. It was funny because at that point I hadn’t gone through them since taking them but found a couple that I liked and my website and branding was done.
The feedback on the quality of my site was something I was very surprised with to the point where one of my customers offered to buy one of the photos on my site for his wall at home. It was at that point that I decided to look at the world trip photos more closely and after finding a couple of hundred that I liked in black and white I decided to start a based on a new story Instagram account and see what would happen.
The interest and support of my work has been quite incredible.
For me I think looking at things from different perspectives has always been in my blood. Not to ramble on too much about my past but in my early thirties I was talking to a dear friend one day about how unsettled I was in life and not totally sure what my purpose was. He suggested that I should go and talk to my parents and ask them what I was like as a little boy. His reasoning was that when you are little you are just you, with no influence taking hold by things around you. It was a fascinating exercise but at the time gave me no answers as what my calling may be. My dear mother said she used to love to watch how I would just sit and look at things. But not just look at things and move on but really study things with a serious frown across my brow. I thinks it’s only now that I understand why I love photography I just love to look at interesting things and from different angles.
Exactly what it is you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?
Great question. I don’t know if it’s necessarily that I want to say anything particular with my photos but more so I want to see what they say to me after I take them. If I dig them and I find them interesting, I share them and hope they find them interesting too. For me it’s not about structure setting up a shot so it’s exactly how I envisaged it. I take more of a free flowing approach with an open mind and wonder what the best way is to look at something. If I get a feeling about a subject, I just try and fill the frame in the most interesting way. I really look forward to getting home and getting them on the computer as there are always surprises for me and I love that. Sometimes it’s the places that I least expect that turns out to have the best images. It’s a natural flow and discovery rather than any rigid and structured rules that excite me about what I do.
What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?
Well the camera I use is pretty entry level. It’s a Canon 550D or Kiss 4x as they’re known in this region. It was actually a gift for my wife but it turned into the bowling ball that Homer bought Marge for her birthday as I used the hell out of it on our trip overseas. I have been wondering lately if a better quality camera would improve what I present but for now it’s good. It does have a bit of a lean as I must have dropped it a few times so you have to hold it a certain way to get it to line up right. I kind of like, though, that there’s a special way to use my camera.
In regard to post process, I do use Adobe Lightroom on most of my images. I’ve learnt some pretty cool blends and ways to compose an image which just makes it look a bit better than the raw image. They are not presets though as I like to again go with the feeling of what looks good and find the levels for each image that speak to me so they are different every time.
What motivates you to continue taking pictures? Economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?
I just like presenting interesting photos. All my stuff is black and white which I love because the viewer really chooses what they want to look at. Color sometimes can distract you and force you to notice certain things. I love how dramatic and emotional black and white photos can be. In regard to what motivates me, I just love being surprised. There’s nothing better than getting home and messing around with and image and sitting back and going, “wow, that looks really cool.”
Is there something you always ask yourself/think just before you push the button?
It’s all about the angle for me and I’m always asking myself if there could be a more interesting way to take the photo.
If you could take your art in any direction without fear of failure or rejection, where would it lead? What new thing would you try?
Gee that’s a good question. You know I’ve only been doing this for a short amount of time so I’m still in that discovery phase of working out what I can do. In any creative form I love when it can draw emotion out of someone without them having control over the feelings that are revealed. If I could get my images to that point, I would be wrapped. So the path I’m heading to try and find that is darker and moodier images.
Has social media played a role in the success of Based on a new story? If so, why?
Not to the level that it could. I mean my Instagram support is increasing but I think I can do a lot more work to link Instagram with other social media forums and then employ analytics tools to track what is working and what is not.
What does the future hold for Based on a new story? New projects? Vision?
There are so many ideas and things I want to do with Based on a New Story. At the core of all of my ideas is the goal of reaching people in an interesting way. I’d love to take my photography further and get it to the point where more people would like my images for display. Whatever it is I just want to try my best at materializing my ideas no matter how scattered and disjointed they may seem. There’s nothing better than following a feeling and surprising yourself with an unexpected outcome. To me that is what life is all about.