Photography – In Focus with Robert H King

Having worked with some of the most important musicians of the 80s, it’s perhaps not surprising that Robert H King takes inspiration from the world of music and record sleeve art. Viewing his beautifully intricate photos what may surprise you more is how they were created and that Robert is partially sighted. Here, he tells us about his fascinating back story and striking collection of images…

‘I’m a Photographer, Digital Artist and Mobile Photography Workshop Tutor working exclusively with an iPhone X as my camera of choice and an iPad Pro (with an Apple Pencil) as my digital darkroom, mobile office and social media hub.

In the 1980s I ran the Pleasantly Surprised cassette label followed by the Cathexis Recordings label in the latter half of the decade. Through these I released material by Cocteau Twins, Primal Scream, The Birthday Party, Sonic Youth, Mark Stewart and The Maffia, Fini Tribe, Pink Industry, Artery, Nico, Shock Headed Peters, Bauhaus and many, many others. At the end of the 80s Rough Trade and the distribution network that was The Cartel collapsed virtually overnight, bringing about the end of a substantial amount of record labels across the country including mine. Around this time I had issues with my sight and was blind for a number of years, essentially putting everything on hold. Following surgery I decided to go to college and study multimedia development. This led into taking up graphic design which was always a big interest for me, my reference library being the artwork that was my record collection. Inspiration came from many sources: Vaughan Oliver / 23 Envelope, Chris Bigg and Nigel Grierson, Malcolm Garrett, Peter Saville, Neville Brody, Barney Bubbles, Brian Griffin, Anton Corbijn, too many to list… For over 16 years I was a freelance Graphic Designer working with arts organisations, record labels, education trusts, galleries, magazines and artists.

Photography, or rather, making photographs, was a source of frustration for me. I worked in a photography gallery for over 15 years and was continually inspired by many photographers and artists coming through the gallery doors. A lot of people were, and still are, fixated with gear and this was off-putting as I want to know about the images and the stories behind them and less about what settings and lenses were used. Having sight issues meant that it was difficult to operate a traditional camera so I tried a bridge camera that had less functions and that I hoped would allow me to get to grips with the thing. After a few months of not having any real amount of success I was about to give up when I was given an iPhone 4S for a significant birthday, followed closely by an iPad. This changed everything.

I could now capture photographs much more easily and create anywhere at anytime. No longer confined to the desktop and expensive software. Pinch to zoom is a wondrous thing! With just a few low cost Apps the ability to retouch an image moments after it was taken and to then create artwork and share it globally was a game changer. It still feels limitless. I had found a way to focus my need for self expression and with it the need to convey the ideas and imagery that fill my mind on a daily basis. The need to be doing something creative is a constant in my life, it can bring meaning and direction.

In 2014/15 my exhibition Seeing The Unseen was the first of its kind in Scotland to consist of work created entirely on mobile devices.

I currently have two main bodies of work that I am adding to on a regular basis. Invisible Soundtracks is a series of works that are inspired by, and a reaction to, song titles, lyrics and references. Equal parts visual soundtrack and imagined fiction. All artwork is presented in the square format in recognition and homage to the artwork, graphic design and photography of the 7” and 12” vinyl records that inspired me and were a major part of my visual education as I was growing up and that still influence my practice.

The second project is Shadowplay. With my background in music, cut-up and remix culture has always fascinated me with the skill of adding samples, layers and disparate elements to create completely new works. I have taken this method into my own visual style by curating imagery from the scenes and passing moments that I capture and combine these with processed sections from found photographs that have resonated with me on a graphic level. The end result is equal parts chance and intention where the story that is emerging suggests new threads as I add the disparate elements together.

Drawing inspiration from the photography of Richard Koci Hernandez, Giacomo Brunelli and Anton Corbijn, I have chosen to present the work in black and white, bringing attention to the textures, moods and tones and indeed the timelessness that monochrome work brings to it.’

All photos are taken and copyrighted by Robert. You can find more images, contact details and information about his exhibitions and workshops on his website. Robert is also on Instagram and Twitter.

16th September 2019