A bee for Robin

for Robin.

To be honest (the pun might be intended), I don’t even know if this is a bee. But it’s in focus.

A friend of mine… an Internet friend of mine, but still a friend, and someone I deeply respected, Robin Kelsey, died a few weeks ago. He was a brilliant photographer and one of the most decent human beings I’ve known to exist. Over the past three or four years he posted a photo every day to his personal blog. Most of them were street scenes — people, architecture — taken in Ottawa (and, for a short time, in Peterborough, Ontario). He was, like I am, an introvert. I think it was very difficult for him to do what he did, especially the people photos… maybe it was his way of keeping tied to the world around him, like photography is for me.

We first found each other in 2008. Somehow I had hooked up with a collection of Ottawa-based bloggers, and he was one of them. We always had plans to meet, but never did. I’ve had a deep respect for photography as an art form since I was a child, and right from when I found his blog, Robin was one of my favourite’s.

But he had an annoying habit of destroying almost every photo he posted, by altering it in Photoshop… or a PS-type of program. Every photo was washed out, almost bleached. Especially the ones of people he didn’t know.

I wrote something five years ago about how photography that’s altered isn’t photography anymore, it becomes something different. It’s art, but not photography. It becomes… photo art.

He commented…

“I think if you just want to see reality as it exactly is, you can go outside and look at it anytime. I want photographers to turn mundane visual reality into art. That’s what I try to do in my pictures.”

Anyway… one of his last posts was a shot of a bee, but he had been forced to use a lens he had grown to hate over the years, and the focus was on the wings and not the bees’ eyes.

Yeah… so, when I took this shot, roughly a month after Robin took his, and a couple of weeks after he died, my first thought when I opened it up on my computer was “I should show this to Robin… oh, right.”.

Vankleek Hill Photos copyright

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4 thoughts on “A bee for Robin

  1. Nice. I think he’d like it.

    Robin used Lightroom. He said once that he favoured a particular filter sequence, for the reasons you’ve restated.

    Whatever you thought of that, he always nailed the composition. I miss him, too. He was good people.

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    • Thanks.

      …”destroyed” was too strong a word. It’s the lack of new terminology for the new technology of photography that I have a hard time with. His photos were always brilliant, but after too much modification, they became something else. I referred to his finished work as ‘photo art’ a few times — I have other friends, and family, who use photos and software in the same way — and I think that upset him a little bit.

      But I never saw him do the same thing, the same modifications, to portraits of the people he knew. But I’ve only seen a few. I really wanted to have a conversation with him…

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      • I don’t disagree that he pushed the post processing pretty hard. I guess I see it as a matter of personal style.

        I happen to feel uncomfortable going beyond a certain line — let’s call it the “erk line”, when something starts to look unlike what I was seeing/feeling at the time. But I think that line can be pretty blurry. And what’s inside it is still a pretty big piece of impressionistic real estate. So I think what Robin was trying to get to is as valid.

        Ironically, I think I probably often post-process a lot more intensively than he did, trying to get something that looks natural to my eye. Trying to beat the technology.

        And maybe, sometimes, I just want something that looks like it’s on Tri-X Pan that’s been pushed about twenty percent, which is not natural at all. But sometimes it just makes me happy to look at things that way. More about composition than colour.

        I think that might be all that Robin was after. Stuff he felt happy looking at.

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