RICK TOBOJKA - FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER


Age: 49
Years a photographer: 5
Place of Birth: MA
Current City: South of Boston
Primary Occupation: Property Manager
Website


Hello, Rick. It is a pleasure to be interviewing you today. Thanks for making the time. Please tell us very briefly who you are and what you do.
Hi Artem, thank you for this opportunity. In a nutshell, when I'm not obligated to work and taking care of other life priorities, I have a passion for photography, and enjoy exploring new venues and conceptualizing ideas for photo storytelling. I originally purchased my first DSLR for video purposes only. The more I fiddled with the camera the more I began to understand and start appreciating serious photography. Soon I was on my way.

Do you consider yourself an artist, a photographer, a writer, a storyteller? If you had to pick one, which of these words do you think describes you the best? 
Photographer.

You have a wide variety of photo essays on your website. Is that the format in which ideas tend to come to you? Or do you find that to be the most suitable format for what you are expressing? 
I utilize an essay style format (currently) because I feel it's the best way to convey my vision about a particular subject. Rather than just curating random photos of subject matter, for me, an essay style allows the inclusion of multiple images or sets to marinate with the viewer and engage the thought process. 

I really enjoyed your Decadenica Urbana series. Can't quite put a finger on what it makes me feel and I really like that. I like the missing clues, the tension. How did the idea for that series come about? And what was it like shooting that project? 
It's an area I have some familiarity with. It happens to be the epicenter of a very popular tourist destination as well. This particular area is dealing with all of the trappings that come with the growth of an emerging small city. I found the juxtaposition of this spatial inversion to be rather interesting, as it varies from season to season and different times of day. Usually hidden within the shrouds of tourism. 

When you work on a project like that, how much of it is previsualised and how much is accidental? I am not necessarily talking about the individual frames, but more so about the underlying emotional content of the work. 
It's funny because most of my work is previsualized. I like to get into "the zone" before I start a project so I can focus on the impetus that got me there. But for the Urbana series it was happenstance... I had no preconceived ideas that particular day. I just happened to be there and as I mentioned, the contrasting realities were paradoxically striking. 

What do you find more challenging, conceptualisation or execution? 
For me it's always execution. Execution is what makes or breaks the concept, it's what gives it life. Thoughts, ideas and subject matter are always there, but do my style, talent and execution allow those concepts to come to fruition? Execution is also both tangible and intangible from the equipment used, how its used, to the manipulation of those images to reach the desired effect. It's a process that entails many decisions along the way.

I noticed you barely have any images of people. Why is that? 
I barely have any posted images of people. Most of my opportunities are limited by time and location. As a result, I am at the mercy of my surroundings. My sphere of influence happens to be along rural coastline so... "when in Rome"... Having said that, my greatest photo-graphical passion would be street. It's what I constantly gravitate towards and believe it or not, it's where my inspiration comes from. Unfortunately I have to make that happen with much more purpose and it's hard for me to accomplish given my circumstances. So the lack of people is a statistical result of my readily accessible environment and not a direct result of my passion. It is something that is sure to change as my priorities shift.

I see the lack of opportunities to photograph people didn't deter you from making some amazing photographs of landscapes. Do you travel a lot and always look out for an amazing photo opportunity? How do you discover those places?
I'm very fortunate to live in a vast coastal region that provides tremendous opportunity for landscape photography. Although it isn't necessarily my most favourite genre ... you really can't help admiring the beauty that's present. For me, some of those venues and opportunities can't be ignored. Other opportunities are afforded through travel, which usually finds me in other beautifully scenic areas.

I know in landscape photography the angle is very important. How do you find one? Does it take you a long time? Do you walk around a lot and then settle on one? How many angles do you try before you find one? 
I try to capture a perspective that is fairly unique and will bring along visual interest. A lot of these places have likely been photographed many times before ... so I'm usually looking for something that will separate from the ordinary. I also shoot very wide so I'm not afraid to embrace a bit of visual distortion as long as it enhances the scene. The last thing I am is a technical shooter ... I will only use a tripod for long exposures, no filters. I like the freedom of movement and spontaneity so my gear is light and minimal.

I find your landscapes to be very emotionally charged? How do you find those strong emotions within a landscape? Or do you project yours onto it? 
It's the chicken and the egg theory. They are interchangeable and one plays off the other. Nature has the ability to stop us in our tracks. The most simple nuance of an object or scene can evoke a memory, yearning or fantasy within. When that happens you will usually project those feelings into and onto your subject matter. 

What do you feel when you are out in nature with your camera? Could you describe that experience?
I have had a lot of planned shoots where I have identified an area or specific location I want to capture. A lot of thinking goes into how, when, where ... Then there is the anticipation of the day...maybe it's perfect, maybe not. Once I'm on my way I'm gonna get something. I enjoy the whole process and when I reach my targeted area ...it's not just a spot. There is always something unanticipated...so much to absorb. I always focus on my intended goal but I'm usually surprised by more. Because it's for me, it's not just a hit and run. I always take time to absorb my surroundings and take in the immediate beauty. I'm usually alone on these excursions and they are typically remote so there is a lot of time for reflection and reverence about where I am and how I fit in to my immediate surroundings. 

What is the ultimate destination for your art? Is it yourself? Random strangers who stumble upon your work? Galleries? 
For now I shoot for me. I upload content to my curated website for others as a sharing reference and portfolio for future collaboration.

What has been your most potent artistic drive that keeps you going? 
Nothing profound here. I enjoy the whole process. From the research, scouting, setup, anticipation, to the processing, formatting and tech involved in reaching the desired effect. It's a creative passion that encompasses all of it together. 

Who or what are your inspirations? 
I enjoy the immersion process that takes place before, during and after any creative shoot where there is a specific goal in mind. It's a great escape and allows for thinking well below the surface. It's a feel good state that I like to be in as well as the anticipation of the end result. I also enjoy and admire the works of others and I'm inspired by that talent, the emotion it produces, and the inspiration derived as a result. Sultan, Hido, Moriyama, to Josh White, Daniel Arnold, Jon Levitt to name a few...

What would you say are your biggest obstacles when it comes to making art? 
Time, logistics and self doubt. The first two are pretty self explanatory. The self doubt is variable and I think probably evident to some degree in the minds of any artist throughout the process. Depending on the project it could be from anything technical, to idea execution, to processing choices. It's certainly not a constant but something everyone struggles with along the way. 

Thanks for sharing with us so much about yourself and your process, Rick. Now, I have some more general questions to start a little bit of a discussion on some topics that have been bothering me lately. You up for it?  
Sure.

Just recently I was looking to post some photographs online and got to reading the Terms of Service of the platform I was using. It stated that uploading any content  would imply giving the service a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to use that content in any way. While this isn't news and most of such services require similar licenses, I became extremely hesitant while reading further into the document. A big part of it was confusion. It was very unclear to me just what that kind of agreement implied. Are the services just protecting themselves from any potential lawsuits, or do they indeed have intentions to use the content? I do not have the answer to that question. Overall I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, and didn't post the images. What is your take on all this? 
I, along with many others share your confusion. As you stated, a lot of the T.O.S. agreements are standard protocol and similar. They are redundant and extremely cumbersome to read so I think a lot of people waive rights they don't understand. I do believe and agree with your thoughts about protection and use ... for sure the onus is on the participant. And it's likely the intent of the platform to protect and optionally use the content as desired. I have no personal first hand experience. It's based on nothing other than observation and opinion.

Do you post your work directly to social media or do you take precautions and only post links to your work that resides elsewhere (like your website)? 
I have no formal social media affiliations. I like to be in control of my destiny and anything else I create as much as I can.  I prefer to curate my work on a website I can control in both content, format and access. From there I have a better ability to control any potential misrepresentations about me or my work. 

Do you think artists need to be worried about such Terms of Service agreements being more and more common?  
We live in a more and more litigious society (at least in the States) and everyone is out to cover their asses. I'm not sure I would worry too much about it though. If there is an effect on rights and publishing I think everyone in that position should do their due diligence and understand what it means for them if it's that important. Particularly anyone who derives their livelihood from their artwork.  

Do you think that artists need social media at all? What are the risks of not using it? 
As referenced in your previous question I think it depends on the destination of your work. If you're a commercial photographer or work for pay...I think it's pretty likely you're tuned into social media regardless of any personal position on it. It's a necessary evil you have to employ to stay recognized and competitive with those in your field vying for the same dollars. However, I don't think it's true across the board. There are a lot of photographers I admire and follow who do just fine with a minimal footprint on social media. That doesn't mean they don't have a strong online presence, they just don't engage in the perpetual volley of all the social media machinations that can become a distraction and sideshow ... and if not properly managed can cheapen the image. Sometimes just enough scarcity of information regarding particular art or artists can be equally valuable.

Thanks so much, Rick. It was a pleasure. So what are your plans for the near future? Any projects in the works?
I'm just going to follow the path I'm on and looking forward to several urban projects I'm planning now... Thanks a lot Artem. Keep up your great work!

See more of Rick's work on his website.