BUILDING A BRIDGE BETWEEN OLD & NEW MEDIA
A Look at Photographer ROBIN ROEMER’s Series NEW HOLLYWOOD
By Sarah Heikkinen
In this day and age, the existence of the Internet and an incredibly active paparazzi force makes it nearly impossible for the “average” person to not know the gritty details of the lives of the rich and famous. With the invention of YouTube and the blossoming of the video blogger, the “average” person has been given the ability to reach the same level of fame and mystique of many beloved celebrities (though personalities like Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig can hardly be described as “average people”). In her project, “New Hollywood,” Robin Roemer explores this newfound fame of the vlogger, paying homage to the photographic techniques and styles of the mid-20th century Hollywood aesthetic. I spoke with Robin about the project, and her future plans for exploring the contrast between the Old Hollywood star and the modern celebrity.
Sarah Heikkinen: How long have you been a photographer? What drew you into this art form?
Robin Roemer: I’ve been a professional photographer for about 11 years now. My mom is a really talented painter and sculptor so I’ve always been around art and was encouraged to express myself in that way. I’ve always loved photography, even when I was a kid. I have a terrible visual memory, which is I think why subconsciously found myself attracted to it over other forms of visual expression. It’s sort of like a tree falling and no one being around; if I don’t take a picture of it, it never happened.
SH: Who are you some of your biggest photographic and other artistic influences?
RR: This has always been my least favorite question because I think there are just too many inspiring people and artists in the world to say that any one or five visual artists influenced me. In addition, my influences are constantly changing. This project specficially was influenced by George Hurrell, but is a completely new way of photographing for me. I think if you asked me who my favorite photographer is today who is doing the kind of photography I enjoy the most, I would say Emily Shur.
SH: In your project, “New Hollywood,” you photographed YouTube personalities like Grace Helbig, Tyler Oakley, and Hannah Hart. What initially attracted you to photographing some of the biggest stars on the Internet?
RR: Hannah Hart was really the first YouTuber I worked with. She and I became good friends a few years back and I have since fallen in love with all the YouTubers I was meeting through her and other friends in this industry. I love their enterprising spirit and their support of one another. I didn’t see much in the way of quality photography of these personalities and thought there should be!
SH: You shot all of them in a style that payed homage to Old Hollywood film; what was your reasoning behind that?
RR: I’ve always loved the aesthetics of old films; the 30s and 40s in particular. That time was considered the Golden Age of Hollywood. Several major movie studios were established and began growing and producing at a crazy rate. It was this exciting and uncertain time in media. I think that’s happening right now with new media. Digital studios are cropping up and being bought up by larger companies. Its like people have no idea where this thing is going, but they want in on it, whatever it is. I’ve only been living in Los Angeles for about a year, so it felt like appropriate timing to do this project.
SH: On the “New Hollywood” Tumblr page, you described your project as being, “all about contrast.” Can you elaborate on that?
RR: Contrast pervades this project on multiple levels. First, being the most obvious, is that the images are full of heavy contrast. True blacks and whites, with heavy shadows; its a really iconic look.
But more importantly, there is this very distinct difference between what fame was for an actor in the 40s and what it is for a YouTube star of today. For the fans, there is this weird familiarity that happens when you are watching someone day after day, in their home, in their own clothes, talking about their life. In the 40s, they didn’t have paparazzi like we do now. Our celebrities were presented in a glamorous way and they were a mystery to their audience. If we caught glimpses, usually it was at a big event or on the big screen. This is the antithesis of watching Grace Helbig in her pajamas talking about her day, looking straight into the camera. Fame today means tweeting back to your followers, having meet-ups, and engaging an audience of millions, sometimes on a daily basis. Our intense connection to people we don’t know, this idea of a familiar celebrity; this is a completely new concept of fame. It’s fascinating to me.
I wanted to present the YouTube star in a way they are not normally seen in order to make that connection between old media and new; to call out its similarities, but also its differences. The varied responses have been really interesting.
SH: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
RR: Well, I’d like to advance and expand this project for one. I’m in the process of figuring out how to do that. Personally, I would love to see it become a book! I’m open to suggestions.
At the moment, I’m focusing my energies towards celebrity and portrait photography, specifically in the comedy world. I’m a big comedy buff and comedians are some of my favorite people to photograph. I’d love to continue that trend.
Robin Roemer is a photographer who specializes in lifestyle and portrait photography. She worked in NYC for almost 10 years before making the move to Los Angeles with her wife and their neurotic schnauzer Arthur in 2013. Robin began early in her career as a photographer and photo editor at MTV Networks where she had the opportunity to photograph musicians and the local scene before leaving to work for herself in 2008.
Written by Sarah Heikkinen
Photography by & Courtesy of Robin Roemer
Design by Francesca Rimi
Photography by & Courtesy of Robin Roemer