My Media Day: Douglas Robertson, photographer

DOUGLAS Robertson has been a professional photographer for 30 years. During that time he has photographed everyone, from the Dalai Lama to Ian Dury. And for the past decade or so he has hosted live music events at his house. He is currently spending his spare time setting up the charity that will run a new live music venue for Edinburgh. The Soundhouse, he says, “will be run by musicians and delight music lovers with its state-of-the-art acoustics and warm welcome”.

He submitted this on Friday, June 14.

What exactly is it that you do?

The day job is still that of a jobbing photographer. I work for the University of Edinburgh, charities, trade unions and corporate clients who generally want people shots: photos to illustrate and promote what they do. I also work for a wide range of arts organisations and have shot many theatre shows over the years.

In addition, myself and my partner host house concerts. This activity has just snowballed because bands love to play here and audiences love the relaxed and respectful atmosphere. The dearth of good live music venues in Edinburgh is also a key factor, which is why we are now looking to found the best venue on the planet here in the city.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

Yesterday, I dropped my motorbike at Dalkeith, first thing, to get some new tyres fitted and then buzzed round town dropping off pictures to clients.

Returning home at lunchtime, I then Photoshopped, at my computer, some photographs from the previous day’s jobs. Another photographer – Graham Clark, who often works for me – dropped by to discuss a job he was doing on my behalf later that day.

Then, that evening, I had two jobs to cover myself. One, for the BBC, was at the Storytelling Centre and involved photographing writer, Ian Rankin, and comedian, Richard Herring.

From there, I hotfooted it to Summerhall arts centre, where I shot the annual gathering for the University’s Beltane organisation.

From there, I returned to the Storytelling Centre, to get some shots of Dave Hook from top Edinburgh hip hop collective, Stanley Odd.

I arrived back home just after the first song was being played at that evening’s house concert. Irish folk musicians, Nuala Kennedy and John Doyle, were entertaining our guests with songs of love and loss, and a good deal of humour thrown in. We finished the evening drinking Jura whisky with the musicians who headed home at about 1am. There was just time to download the pictures from the evening’s jobs before I ‘hit the hay’.

How different or similar is your average working day to when you started?

When I started as a freelance photographer, I had no work! You really start with nothing – no clients, no contacts – it takes a couple of years living on nothing to build up clientele, reputation and experience.

Then there was a period when I was doing far too much, working 24/7. This is something quite a lot of freelancers suffer from – they don’t want to turn down work because they fear it will dry up. This is not something I worry about now, thankfully.

Also I should point out that when I started, I was shooting on film so I was never sitting in front of a computer. The one downside of digital photography is that I do spend rather too much time staring at a screen.

How do you see your job evolving?

If the venue takes off, I will be spending most of my time running it. So I will cherrypick only the most interesting photo jobs and pass on the others on to Graham Clark and other photographers I rate highly.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

When a client acknowledges that 30 years’ experience counts for something. And seeing the delighted faces of musicians and audience members at one of our house concerts. This is a regular occurrence.