The Man with the Golden Camera

The Man with the Golden Camera – Robert Redmond

In the right place at the right time

In 1990, Robert Redmond was the right man with the right camera at the right time. Caught up in traffic in the centre of Athy, his wife Patricia met him coming back from the shops. She told him the reason for the snarl up of traffic was due to shooting at the top of the town. Without giving it a second thought, Robert gave the car keys to his wife, grabbed the cameras from the boot of the car and ran up to the town hall. There he positioned himself for 45 minutes watching what turned out to be one of the most memorable, botched bank raids in modern Ireland. Two hours later, there would be one dead bank robber and a trail of injured people which Robert had captured on film.

His exclusive pictures were carried on the front pages of papers across the world, from Dublin to Sydney. With his name on all of them, it was, as it turns out, one of a number of lucky breaks that established Robert as one of the top photographers in Ireland.

How it all started

His lifelong love of photography began with a plastic camera purchased for the princely sum of 10 shillings when he was only ten. He was fascinated with the concept that he could point a camera at his subject and record in print that moment in time. Each time he sent his film off to be processed, he would wait in mounting excitement to see the results. In the early days, the results could be very mixed but that sense of excitement is still with him today as he waits to see his pictures in wedding albums and his finished portraits. He also still gets a buzz every time his photographs appear in magazines or brochures.

Lucky Breaks

Another lucky break that occurred some time later was to do with a famous neighbour. The actor, John Hurt lived nearby and Robert was commissioned to do private portrait work with his family. So pleased were the family with the results, that John Hurt offered Robert the exclusive rights to photography their new baby. When Hello magazine were subsequently looking for the shots of John Hurt’s son, Robert had exactly what they wanted.

“It was a great honour,” says Robert. “The final shoot covered four pages in the magazine and I am still earning money from the copyright.” This only seems fair as, at the time, he split his fee with the Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

That lucky break led him to do more work for UK magazines such as OK and Now, and more recently he is demand for local glossies such as Social & Personal. In addition, over the years the brochure side of the business has come to resemble a Who’s Who in Irish Business with names such as Ryanair, Bord na Mona, Irish Hotels Federation, the IFA and Teagasc now all clients.

His work is also recognised in his hometown of Athy, where the Town Council made a presentation to Robert for his commitment to the Arts and for his achievements. Robert was a founder member of the Chamber of Commerce in Athy, as well as a founder member of the Athy traders association, which was responsible for bringing the first Santa Village to the town. “We also regularly sponsor photography requirements for the town, such as the photography for local tourism and business brochures when required,” says Robert..

“I am very lucky to be able to work at my hobby,” he continues. “My father finds it all quite amusing. He looks at me and says ‘when am I going to get a real job?’ Or rather he did in the beginning but as both my wife and my son have joined me in the family business, he is almost convinced!”

Unlike his son Shane, who has a photographic degree from Huddersfield, Robert did not have such a smooth path. He left school at 16, like many of his generation, and worked in a local hospital, constantly exploring photography in his spare time. Afterwards he moved to Dublin for a number of years and patrolled the local inner city markets, all the time taking pictures and developing his craft while taking photography classes at night.

Robert attributes another lucky break to his wife, Patricia. In 1976 with her unflagging support, he opened his first studio in Athy. His enthusiasm for his hobby has generated a number of clients and he was also used by first the local papers and latterly by the main broadsheets. The 1990 incident catapulted him to fame and resulted in TV and radio appearances and Robert has not looked back since.

Business Today

Today, he has two studios, one in Athy and one in Portlaoise where both Robert and now Shane specialise in Weddings, Contemporary Portraiture and brochures. Robert’s energy and expansion were initially driven by his own career but the inclusion of his son in the business has encouraged Robert to expand. In 2002 he purchased a new building on Lower main Street Portlaoise after having rented previously.

The new building is wired throughout for computers paving the way for the next big step when the business will be completely digital by March 2004. Robert says this is a very exciting time to be in photography, “The fact that Shane has joined the business has kept Tricia and I operating at top speed. He has opened new doors, and introduced new ideas to the business – ideas and advances that we might not have taken otherwise.”

Nowadays Clients travel from as far as Dublin to Tipperary to avail of Robert’s and Shane’s particular style of contemporary portraits in black and white, sepia and colour

Shane joined his father – moving the Business

“With Shane’s influence we have decorated the new studio in a very modern way – all black carpet and white walls,” says Robert. “This would not have been my choice, however, it works brilliantly and the clients love it. I guess it is a question of moving forward all the time.”

The introduction of Shane to the business has also resulted in revenues doubling. “It is not just a question of two photographers were before there were one,” says Robert. “His new approach both to composition and technology has dramatically impacted the business. Many family businesses falter where the either the child does not really have an interest in the business or the parent will not listen to the ideas of the child. We are fortunate in having Shane so totally immersed in the industry. Likewise, he would admit that we do listen to his ideas and give him space to develop new concepts. It’s a good partnership.”

Photography has altered dramatically since Robert first picked up his plastic camera many years ago. From the equipment to the context, everything is utterly changed. “Underlying the change is speed,” says Robert. “Modern digital equipment allows us to capture a moment in time, a laugh, an incident that would be lost using more traditional equipment. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the wedding albums of today. Gone are the formal poses and in their place are natural groupings and snatched glimpses.”

Mind you, sometimes this desire for speed leaves Robert with a desire to slow right down. In his precious spare time, he is to be found, not on the golf course, but staying in isolated cottages all over Ireland taking long slow shots of the beautiful scenery around him. “And I hope to be still doing this well into my seventies,” he laughs.