Chicago based photographer Robert Randall has had a long career, and one filled with notable names any photography lover would fawn over. He spent time in his early days as a retoucher for Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, and John Sexton to name a few. But before he fell into the worlds of those famous men, he was just a kid who stole dad’s Agfa Range Finder camera from the sock drawer at age 10— he’s been taking photographs ever since.
Robert went to college to study photo journalism and political science, but it wasn’t until shortly after college when he found a job for a set builder at a photo studio in town that photography as a career came into formation. The position for set builder had been filed by the time he went to apply, but the lab at the studio serendipitously had an opening for him at the same time, so he took the job processing film. Robert fell in love with the studio, and bugged the head photographer for 6 months to allow him to go out onto the floor and become an assistant. His persistence paid off, and he ended up working on the floor for 4 years. He moved along to another little studio afterwards, at which he became the head photographer. And when the world moved away from film and into the world of digital, Robert’s expertise in the darkroom allowed for a smooth transition into the digital platform.
The world of digital photography moves at a much faster pace than the darkroom ever did, with new technologies developing every year. Unlike the generation of Millennials who grew up learning how to use these technologies, the Baby Boomer and Generation X population can lose market sharing with the youth. The different generations don’t think like each other, nor do their photographs look very much alike. Though Robert recognizes this divide, he takes it to his advantage, teaching himself the whole work of 3D imaging and making it a key component to his work to set him apart from not only the youth, but also competitors amid his own generation. 3D imaging in a lot of cases is just solving small issues in an image, whether that be creating drop shadows in 3D and dropping them into a composition, or going as far as creating 3D human characters.
The benefits of 3D imaging are great, and help land Robert job’s with the right kinds of clients. He recently received a layout from a pharmaceutical company, AbelsonTaylor, asking for the image to have a large concrete floor, several hundred feet in width and depth, stylistically distressed, and including the letters “B” and “E” in the scene made out of concrete themselves. The average photographer would be left at a loss as how to provide such a demand, but with 3D imaging Robert was able to fabricate the entire thing and save the client an immense amount of stress. The problem at the start was the cost, but with a 3D solution, it came up as pennies on the dollar as to what it would have cost without the technology. This is very much problem solving for sophisticated clients, though, simply because low income level clients cannot afford the task.
These images are not entirely manufactured on the screen, as Robert shoots people as composite elements for the 3D environments. For instance, Robert shot some images for a cold remedy concept, where ice cubes engulf the heads of those who are “sick”. The 3D element completely changed this work, elevating a common scene of an ill person to a whole conceptual world, which the viewer is able to transport themselves into, feeling that exact sensation of a head cold. When his clients find out what he’s capable of, and what kinds of problems you can solve with it, they jump on it.
Most of his locations are created using the 3D imaging software, and this sets him above other photographers in Chicago. There are only a few location scouts in the city, and they have a lock on their industry which makes their prices skyrocket. So, many clients want to know how they can get better use of their money, saving some in the end, which is where Robert’s compositing talents keep him in the front of their minds. And while niche work doesn’t always make the most successful photographer, it’s safe to say Robert has proven that wrong.