Anna Tatton_015 1With Volt’s latest issue out now, it’s time to turn the spotlight on our talented contributors which made the latest issue as stunning as it is. Short interviews have taken place, sharing our contributors thoughts and interests. Read here about photographer Robert Charbonnet who shot the editorial “Kaleidoscope” featured in issue 14.

Volt Café: Your interest in photography started already at a young age. What made you decide eventually to become a beauty photographer?

Robert Charbonnet: The beauty side of my photography just came about, It was never planned at the beginning. I was showing my book one day which only had two beauty images in it and the rest were fashion. Those two beauty images were the result of the stylist being a no-show on the shoot and me not wanting to waste the day. From that meeting, I was then hired for my first proper paying job based off of those two images. At the end of the shoot a senior figure involved took me aside and simply said that I was really good at beauty and I should make it a focus of my work.  

2.     VC: In the Volt Magazine beauty editorial “Kaleidoscope” your photography seems both vibrant and energetic. Could you describe your personal style to us?

RC: Thank you. My personal style is a hard one to describe. I’d personally find it boring to shoot the same look over and over. What I truly love about photography is not only the technical side but the freedom of being able to take advantage of what’s around you in relation to light and mood. The best way I can describe it is like taking a bite of a food you’ve never tasted before and being excited by what flavour was to come. Saying that, I do find that I go back to what I like and also have favourites. Additionally, I try on every shoot to photograph the model as a person and not an object. Pleasure to me isn’t achieved from looking at dull and lifeless images. In my head when viewers are looking at my work I want there to some sort of connection, something personal that comes through. Do I achieve in every image, No, but it’s what I work for on every shoot no matter the story or subject. That, I would almost say, is my style. 

        VC: We are very curious about your work process. You have a wide range of work varying from independent to commercial jobs. What is the biggest difference between shooting those two?

RC: The main difference between shooting commercially and personally is that with a commercial shoot it’s about selling a product. Also with commercial jobs you’re hired on your book but it’s almost always to recreate something that the client or art team loves and has seen of yours already. A pre-approved brief is almost always created well before you’re in the picture. So most of the time I look at my position as being more of a technician, I’m there to recreate briefs, drawings and someones dream or ideas. Regarding the final look, yes, you do have a bit of say but in no way have I ever been able to propose a completely different direction then what’s been presented to me. Additionally with commercial jobs you have to realise how much money is involved in the entire production from start to finish and the fact that it is very clearly your job. You’re brought in to deliver a job, make the client happy and the art team look amazing, so that the client in turn keeps using the ad agency who then you hope uses you again, and that’s about it. If something in that circle fails you’re pretty much fucked. With personal or editorial work you have freedom and more room to explore. Sometimes that freedom can come back to bite you and sometimes it can enrich your work. I take these times to explore mistakes, spent time on them and see what they grow into and also expand on ideas.

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4.     VC: Your work varies from vibrant colours to black and white photography. Does the meaning of imagery change by its colour?

RC: Colour to me tends to be seen more as shape and form, be it black, white or blue. Most people don’t know but I’m partially colour blind so I really like my colours to stand out and the same when it comes to my black and white. In my eye, colour and tone is energy so yes, it definitely does and can change the meaning of an image.

5.     VC: What kind of photograph would you be (as a person)?

RC: A swirling mass of confused shapes and lines.

6.     VC: If we were you, where would we go to for inspiration?

That’s a hard one, I find it everywhere and sometime in the weirdest of places. But I do have a love of classic pieces of work and the photographers or artists that have created it. I tend to pick things from that and focus on a part of it but never as a whole. Sometimes it can be as simple as hearing a song and working that energy into a story.

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7.     VC: If  you could capture anything in life, what would it be?

RC: I tend to look at my work as a collection of life. So to be able to see my work as a timeline is what I aim to capture.

8.     VC: Do you have a photograph that has a particular meaning to you?

RC: I do. I tend not to let others know about the meaning or background of a few images. These are my secrets and having others appreciate the work is the pleasure I get from it.

9.    VC: What do you expect from your photographs? When is a shoot definitely done?

RC: A shoot is almost never done. Most always, the day after, you look at the story and think “shit” I should have done this or worked on this angle a bit more. On the day though, when you feel as though you’ve created something you’re really pleased with and the team is happy then you usually can call it for the day.

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C:   VC: If you could pick any photographer to work with at this moment, dead or alive, whom would you pick?

RC: Lillian Bassman or Ruth Bernhard. Both explored form and shape with a completely different eye than most.

       VC: What kind of pictures can we find on your camera right now?

RC: On my phone it’s mostly photos of everyday life and things I stumble upon or want to remember.

       VC: How do you see your future? Where will you be in ten years?

RC: A respected name and being known for my work is what I’ve always wanted so that’s pretty much the same ten year goal. Being hired to create for respected brands and create iconic pieces is what I live for.

       VC: Where would you want to be right now?

RC: Tahiti or Fiji. Surf, sun, sand and salt in the air makes me feel complete. But I’d have to have a great team there otherwise I’d be bored.

       VC: What was your last post on Facebook?

RC: Most likely a rant and a repost of some sort regarding politics, government or thieving thoughtless scumbags, all of which me sick. To counter that, I also like to post things that make me laugh or happy to read. And on occasion my work.

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           VC: What is your ringtone (song)

RC: Progressively louder ringing now as I tend to need something that grabs my attention. Prior, I used to have Kayne West’s song Stronger as well as Hole’s song Malibu. The lyric “How are you so burnt when you’re barely on fire” is what drives me and Kanye’s words “that what doesn’t kill me can only make me stronger”.

           VC: What is your biggest fear?

RC: Vertigo tends to take over at times and I have to fight the feeling that I can jump from high points. The first time was when I was about 7 and on a mountain in Colorado, started to jump and my Uncle grabbed me by my shirt just in time. Then I almost broke my leg about 10 years ago when I was running and came across this set of about 20 stairs. Didn’t take that much time to think and I just jumped from the top. So I guess actually taking it to the next level. 

          VC:Night owl or early bird?

Early. Usually wake about 6 every morning even if I have the day off. Plus I tend not to be good out in loud situations, which tend to be nights out. I’m easily over stimulated and can’t really keep focus in hectic and loud situations. I feel that some people may take that as my being rude whereas the truth is I just can’t focus on one thing.

 Rob and Randi

Words by Lete Hulscher
View the complete “Kaleidoscope” editorial –  buy the new issue here





Lete Hulscher, Robert Charbonnet, Volt14,