Robert Lowdon was always drawn to photography, but translating that passion into a career was another story.
“On my website it says ‘Images that inspire.’ That’s something that’s been [important] to me because going in to this career has been a major life change,” Lowdon says. “I’ve basically taken a chance, thrown myself off a cliff and just decided I wanted to live life the way I wanted to.”
Before deciding to go pro, Lowdon, 30, worked in a warehouse and spent a few years in sales. During that time he also worked as an amateur photographer, shooting all kinds of local music shows and frequently heading to notorious venues like The Albert.
“I can remember dodging beer bottles, getting stepped on [on] my head,” he says with a laugh.
Since then, Lowdon has photographed the likes of Rihanna and Selena Gomez at MTS Centre.
“Selena Gomez was such a brain trip. I couldn’t hear anything because I put the earplugs in and just go to work. But all those screaming girls…”
Lowdon made the leap from snapping pics in bawdy beer halls to photographing some of the biggest acts in the world after enrolling in Red River College’s Professional Photography program, delivered through the School of Continuing Education.
He graduated from RRC in 2011 and started his own business, Robert Lowdon Photography, in 2012. Since then he’s racked up an impressive client list including Bacardi, the United States Consulate, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Credit Union Central.
Distinguishing oneself in such a competitive market can be difficult, but Lowdon’s commitment and drive has allowed him to make a name for himself.
“I always get this part in the back of my head that tells me ‘You’re not doing enough, you need to do more,’ which is great for working in such a hard field to get into because I have that constant motivation. I think that drive is personal.”
Lowdon believes the proliferation of armchair photographers and cell phone cameras is a good thing for the profession.
“A lot of people will say ‘This is terrible, everyone thinks they’re a photographer,’ but the fact is the industry has been pushed so much in the past five to seven years that the type of work that’s being produced now is just amazing.”
Attending RRC helped Lowdon develop the skills necessary not only to take great photos, but also the entrepreneurial skills necessary to operate a professional business.
“[RRC taught me] how to run a business, how to make a business plan, how to make a marketing plan. All the stuff you hate to do as a creative person.”
In his own business, Lowdon has chosen not to specialize in a single area and instead shoots a variety of images including events, portraits, products and landscapes.
“A lot of people say you’re supposed to specialize in one thing but for me I just like it all, so I do it as much as I can.”
Some of Lowdon’s most powerful works are his portraits, in which light plays a big part.
“Light is everything in photography. I really want people to look at my stuff and go ‘Holy crap.’ Most of my work, I want it to grab your attention and hold it. Lighting adds a lot to the quality.”
But Lowdon’s portraits also seem to capture his subjects in a calm, natural state. What’s his secret?
“I act like an idiot,” he says. “I’ve never wanted to take a posed photograph of anybody because I almost feel like it’s a lie. A lot of what I think has been my best work is me working with the person, getting them to relax, and then just capturing that perfect moment when they’re themselves and not guarded.”
Some of that understanding comes from Lowdon’s own aversion to having his photo taken.
“I absolutely hate it,” he says. “I can remember in school you go for your school photo and one of the first things they do is they slam your knees over and they grab your chin and then force you and it’s just an unpleasant experience. It should be fun.”
To see for yourself how Lowdon makes things fun for his subjects, see the photos on display at his website.
Profile by Stacy Cardigan Smith (Creative Communications, 2006)