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Roman Robroek: Winnner of Defrozo Portrait Photography Contest 2014

Last month our friends at Defrozo held a photography contest on their Facebook page. The contest was a success with some amazing works submitted by entrants.

Photo by Roman Robroek

Photo by Roman Robroek

There could only be two winners, though. The first one would be selected by Facebook users who voted for their favorite photos, the other winner is Defrozo’s Staff Pick. In this post we’re interviewing Roman Robroek who received the People’s Choice Award.

How did an architecture photographer win a portrait contest with his very first portrait? What are the dangers of being an urban decay photographer? What to take in your photo bag when going to shoot architecture? Read on the interview with Roman Robroek to learn all this and get inspired by your fellow photographer’s great work.

Roman Robroek - Winner of Defrozo Photo Contest

Roman please tell how long have you been into photography? Who or what inspired your interest? What role does photography play in your life?

I’ve been photographing for about 3 years. Not taking the countless holiday shots with a pocket cam before that into account. At some time I saw pictures of abandoned buildings on my timeline (Facebook) and I got curious for the story behind. Researching that got me interested in visiting abandoned buildings to take photos of such and learn about its history. I found out there is a whole ‘scene’ behind this hobby, and that’s how I kind off got into photography. Since then I’ve expanded to portraits and macro photography. For me photographing is a way to escape. Escape from the pressure of life. While taking photos of an abandoned building, a landscape or a flower I feel relaxed and I’m completely focused on my environment. Nothing else goes through my mind and that’s a lovely feeling.

Roman Robroek - Winner of Defrozo Photo Contest

On your Facebook page I read that your favorite photographic subject is urban decay. I really like how you put it: “I take pictures of these locations so they will never be forgotten”. Do you travel often for photography purposes? What was the most remarkable location you’ve ever visited with your camera?  Have you ever thought about creating a book about the places you shot?

Thanks! Urban decay is indeed my favorite area to photograph. It’s a combination of several things. There is often incredible beautiful architecture, I am taking a peak behind closed doors where no one is supposed to be which is thrilling, every location has its own story and history, the atmosphere at an abandoned location is unique and I get to see little villages I would otherwise never see. It’s just amazing. To get to these locations I have to travel a lot. I’ve been to Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France, Poland and several other countries. Luckily I do like to travel and I get to see amazing things.

One of these amazing locations is ‘Non Plus Ultra’ (it’s a codename; the real name of a location is not shared publically to protect the location). This beautiful abandoned castle has several unbelievable building styles, for example Moorish and Indian, and is definitely one of a kind.

Roman Robroek - Winner of Defrozo Photo Contest

This beautiful castle got its current appearance thanks to the work of one man who renovated and expanded the pre-existing building during the 19th century. The history of the place however is significantly older: it is possible to trace it back to the Roman period, as well as to the subsequent centuries. It is reported that in 780 Charlemagne could have passed by the place on his way back from Rome, where he went to have his son baptized by the Pope. The owner of the castle wasn’t only the owner, he was also a builder at the same time; although he had no university degree, he had the abilities of an engineer, an architect and a geologist. This allowed him to design, plan and finance the castle by using local products and employing mostly native manpower.

In the 70’s from the 20th century the castle was transformed into a hotel, only to close its doors already in the 90’s. Till then no actions have been realized to start using this place again and the castle remained unused until today.

I have been thinking about creating a book but I do not feel confident enough yet that I am at the right level to take this step. Comparing myself to other photographers I believe I have such a long way to go. I will get there some day.

Roman Robroek - Winner of Defrozo Photo Contest

What’s in your photo bag? What’s the top gadget or equipment on your wish list?

I shoot with a Canon EOS 650D and I have the following lenses; Sigma 10-20mm 4.0 , Tamron 90mm 2.8 and a Canon 50mm 1.8. Not the best of the best, but it gets the job more then done. :)

The basic equipment I bring to all of my trips, next to my camera, is:

  • Different lenses: wide-angle, portrait and macro.
  • Medical kit (a lot happens while exploring)
  • Gloves
  • Wired and wireless remote
  • Lens cleaner kit
  • Extra battery
  • Flashlight
  • Binoculars

There are so many things on my wish list, haha. On top of my list is most likely a flash. Since I’ve always been focused on Urban photography I haven’t really equipped for portraits.

Roman Robroek - Winner of Defrozo Photo Contest

Speaking about the photo that won in Defrozo’s photo contest, please share the story behind it. Who’s the wistful young man in the photo and what’s the whimsical door he’s looking through?

The young man in the picture is actually my boyfriend. He usually never goes on a trip to an abandoned location with me since he doesn’t like the excitement of doing something you’re not supposed to, so he only joins me when it’s a legal visit. The location I’ve shot this portrait on was such a legal visit since the caretaker let us in to take photos. A wealthy German family built this villa in the early years of the 20th century.

Roman Robroek - Winner of Defrozo Photo Contest

How often do you shoot portraits? Compared to urban photography, is it easier or harder to photograph people?

To be completely honest, this was actually the first time for me shooting portraits. Since then (about a month ago) I have shot portraits once more. I’m still practicing since it is completely different then urban photography. When shooting urban I use my wide-angel lens, watch the lines, composition and I try to create a story. While when shooting portraits I use my 50mm lens and look for emotion, light, shadow, environment, background and so on. Much more things to look out for compared to urban so it is more challenging right now and I’m trying to master it step by step.

What are your favorite online apps and tools you use to organize your workflow as a photographer?

Right now the only tool I use for organizing my workflow is Adobe Lightroom. Simply because that is the only tool I have experience with and I am happy with it because it does everything I need. Online I have a Flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/juized), a Facebook page (http://facebook.com/casualurbex) and my personal websites (www.robroek.net and www.romanrobroek.nl).

Roman Robroek - Winner of Defrozo Photo Contest

What are your main sources of inspiration? Do other photographers inspire you?

I have a few photographers that I really look up to, for example I love the work of: Kyle Thompson, Elena Shumilova, Sander Kardinaal and Andre Govia. Those people really inspire me and seeing their pictures gives me an urge to try different compositions, point of views and work on my editing. I find the level of skill impressive and that makes me realize I have a long way to go. A very fun long way though!

If you could have a single travel in a time machine with your camera, where would you go?

Never thought of that actually, and when I start to think about it it’s so hard to pick a single place. I’d love to travel to the jungle in Madagascar, there are a few places in Iceland I’d love to see, explore some abandoned buildings in Detroit etc. On top of my list is most likely an abandoned theme park in Japan.

Roman Robroek - Winner of Defrozo Photo Contest

As Defrozo is striving to build the most comprehensive platform for photographers, what would you wish us in this journey?

First of all I wish you a very successful Kickstarter campaign, which is about to start very soon so I’ve heard. I’ll be one of the people to support the campaign for sure. I believe Defrozo is a great initiative and provides the photographer with the complete package. Something I personally have been looking for quite some time. I also wish you a stable community and an ever-growing amount of Defrozo members. May Defrozo become a great success!

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Learn more about the photography of Roman Robroek by visiting Roman Robroek Fotografie Portfolio and Casual Urbex page on Facebook.

The team at Defrozo promises more contests and giveaways to come in the nearest future. So stay tuned by following Defrozo on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Nancy Young

Nancy is a passionate freelance writer and blogger. She writes inspirational articles on web design, photography, and technology. She enjoys traveling, reading and meeting new people. Nancy believes in a magic of written words to inspire and motivate. Currently, she is working as a writer at PhotoBlog.
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