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Interview with photographer Tom Drobny

Interview with @tomdrobny, winner of our 2017 annual photography competition and 24yo self-taught photographer. Tomas is currently based in Brno and he's finishing his degree in Cultural studies of China. In his free time, he travels back home to shoot incredible landscapes of the Tatra Mountains. What are his future plans and what is his relationship to photography?

Kate – 17/07/2018


1. When did you start with photography?

Well, I´ve always been interested in art in general. I believe that internet and social media pushed this interest, and eventually made me buy my first camera. It was quite late to be honest, but I got hooked immediately. Probably like a year after I bought it, I went for an internship to China, and lived in a huge city for the first time in my life. This is when photography became literally a daily thing. I linked up with many local photographers and we started to hang out together. I felt so amazed by their passion and love for their city. Suddenly, photography became a natural thing, and it made me explore new places and go beyond what regular people see. This was the biggest turning point in how I ever approached photography, and I like to think of it as of the beginning.
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What is your favorite style? Do you think it's better to stick to one topic or experiment?**

I have been doing lots of landscapes since I came back from China. Originally, I come from High Tatras, so there is always something to shoot. Also, nature changes every season, which is nice and prevents fatigue in creating.

I started with urban and street photography. Now, I am shooting landscapes more. I feel like it is always good to shoot whatever you have a chance to shoot, and not be very strict about it. In our lives, we are constantly moving and changing, and I believe so should do our photography. In the end, you will always be happy when you come across those photos later in your life. Hundred percent. No matter what genre.

What's your relationship to print photography?

Well, my dad used to take a lot of photos on a film camera when I was little, so there´s always been a connection to it. I remember asking him when the roll would be ready from the lab. And once you grow up and you see how technology is taking over, you start to appreciate it even more for sure. But this is more of a nostalgia. Technology taking over is, of course, a good thing. It always is. You can print your photos anywhere and it is so much more accessible. I print every photo that means something to me. To hold it physically definitely adds another layer of value and satisfaction.

Mobile or DSLR? What do you currently have in your camera bag?

Both. Quality you get out of the camera is outstanding, but cameras in phones got to a point, where as long as you don´t have to shoot any commercial stuff, you are just fine with a phone. Me personally, I started with an entry level Canon, and then switched to Sony A6000 very quickly. I might be upgrading this body soon, but I don´t even feel the need to right now. I try not to focus on gear too much, because the progress in this market is way too fast anyways. What this means is, that any mid to high-end camera you can get your hands on today, will be a great camera with great quality. I much rather like to see people investing into travel, workshops, etc. It is always better and more productive to focus on what you can do with what you have. As far as lenses, I take around 90% of photos with Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and 19mm f/2.8, for other I have a wideangle. I also have a Phantom which I crashed pretty hard like two weeks back, so it seems like I might be buying a new drone soon. 😔

How do you edit your pictures? Do you have any favorite apps?

I believe my workflow to be very basic. I created a set of presets that I always use as a starting point, and then just go from there. It is good to take your time and experiment, because you will find your own way eventually. In photography, being original is a great signature to have, that´s why I would say it is crucial not to skip this part. Now apps. For computer, I´ve always been using Lightroom, as it was already a standard when I got into photography. Also Photoshop for some touch-ups, very rarely though. For my phone, I used to use VSCO back in the days when I didnt own a camera, but now I don´t like it that much. Their film packs for PCs are a way better option. I think Snapseed and Polarr are the best apps on the market right now.

What your favorite picture on Instagram?

So, I took this photo at an abandoned dock for cargo ships in Chongqing, China. I have never seen anything like this before. It was absolutely overwhelming and massive, yet very calm and quiet. All we could hear were the waves crushing right under those pillars. What I like about it is, that we found it like 50km away from downtown, really far. It is exactly how I think of urban exploration. It isn´t exploring downtown only, climbing skyscrapers and taking cool photos. Many people understand it like this because of social media. To me, it much more is following your own curiosity, and getting to know the environment that surrounds you. You do it for the experience just as much as for the photo.

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What do you appreciate in photography and what are your favorite Instagram accounts?
Consistency, own signature and persona. Those three are probably the most important to me. Right now, there is too many people that I look up to in photography. This is just a short list, but all of these people are worth checking out: @samalive @nk7 @hx1125 @by.harper @wenqiao.z @benjaminhardman @andrewkearns @samuelelkins and many more.

From the CZ/SK Instagram, I follow many people from the community, but accounts that I like in particular are @j1rk4 @katejoie @martinsarvas @hricca.

What do you think is the secret to success in Instagram photography? What piece of advice would you give to someone who's just starting out?

Firstly, I am not an Instagram guru at all. I don´t have a huge following or anything, I don´t even post that much. I try though. In general, I think people love consistency and good work. I´d say these two are the most important when you want to start from scratch. Also, people should focus on what they can do with photography right now. Fatigue on Instagram is real, many photographers are actually uninspired because of Instagram. I mean, people see these perfect photos and feeds every time they open the app, and they feel like they have to keep up with it. It is important to focus on yourself and forget about all of this. Link with people, hang out together, shoot together, post those photos, don´t overthink. Audience on Instagram is slowly getting tired of seeing perfection only, show them something authentic instead.

What are your future plans? Do you want to make it as a professional photographer? Do you think it's possible?

In May, I will be going to Germany and maybe Denmark, not for a personal projects though. Me and my good friend @senderak have some client work planned out. You can follow @wedontcarewecreate for more. About personal projects, I definitely have a lot in mind, but not any particular plans in the near future. For the next two months, I will be very busy with school and work.

I would love to make a living out of this for sure, and it definitely is possible. There is many examples of people who „made it“ in photography or videography. It takes a lot of work and dedication to get to that point for sure, but I believe it to be very worth it.

What's your biggest dream in photography?

Probably to be able to travel more and work more is what I want right now. I would love to become a really busy person with a crazy schedule. I never really enjoyed doing part-time jobs or work in general, but since I started to shoot gigs and work on projects, I actually enjoy being busy and I want to work and shoot more.

Tom originally comes from High Tatras and it influences his photography.

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