Creating pieces of work that for some people might just be really beautiful and sensual at first sight, New Zealand-based film photographer and creative director Rob Tennent @rob.tennent allowed us to take a peek into his creative universe.
Tennent has always been fascinated with cameras, experimenting with them from a very young age, a passion that is leading him to amazing places! His work is really sensual but soft at the same time, with really powerful stories behind each shot, mainly focusing on nature, bodies, diversity, and sensuality.
“Touch is beautiful and often it is soft and nonsexual, so I wanted to document that in a soft and raw form.”Rob Tennent
He has now published a book named I’m Going to Miss You, which was inspired by his love of summer. “I want books that document different stages of my life, photos of the people and places I love. And I want to create works that will live on once I’m gone,” he says.
“Work until they never misspell your name ever again.”
Q: How did you first come in contact with photography? Which is your first memory with a camera?
A: My first vivid memory with a camera was in 2006. My dad gave me a digital camera to play with and I remember running around my grandma’s house taking pictures of everything, mainly shoes, toys, and flowers. This is really embarrassing but I used to make Youtube videos of my toys, I think I got up to like 52 episodes or something wild! I would come up with storylines and then edit them all on my dad’s computer, so I’ve always been fascinated with cameras. I published a photography book in 2018 then took a break. In lockdown 2020, I bought a camera and got back into it professionally.
Q: How has your creative process evolved from when you started to where you are now? Do you see your evolution as a photographer?
Absolutely! Photography is something I have been passionate about and I constantly grow, what I shoot now will only grow and develop in the years to come. I shoot on film, so every frame is valuable and precious so in a sense I only take a shot when I know it’s going to be good enough. I work quite fast because I spend the time setting up the scene, then taking only a few images. I am quite an organized person that lives with OCD, so it comes through in my work process.
Q: Your work is really sensual but soft at the same time, with really powerful storytelling behind each shot. Which kind of stories are you most interested in telling through your art?
A: In 2018 I published a book called ‘Come Back to Bed’ which documented every sexual partner I had following an assault. The book told the story of rediscovery and learning to trust again, as well as learning to allow touch. Since then I have been fascinated with the sense of touch. Touch is beautiful and often it is soft and nonsexual, so I wanted to document that in a soft and raw form, of course, some are more sexual.
Q: I feel like your work focuses on nature, bodies, diversity, and sensuality. Why and when did you decide to focus on these ideas? Would you like to explore other genres?
A: I decided to get into modeling because I didn’t see many people like myself being shot. Now being someone that does both but mainly stays behind the camera, I want to be the person that pushes to shoot diverse people rather than the standard beautiful models we are accustomed to. I can’t do it overnight but I am committed to casting diversely in front of and behind the camera.
Q: You have recently published a photography book named I’m Going to Miss You with some incredible shots which have captured the attention of really important artists like Troy Sivan. What does this book talk about and what made you want to publish a book?
A: Thank you! The book was inspired by my love of summer initially. I went on a solo road trip around New Zealand in January and I had planned to document this as it was my first time exploring my own country, it was going to be more landscape and still life with a mixture of subjects and strangers I would meet along the way. I soon realized I was getting bored of the same beach pictures. That’s when I saw two friends wrestling on the beach. There was something so innocent and boisterous and completely platonic about it, yet still had elements of homoeroticism. That’s when I decided I wanted to explore the relationships between men, friends & lovers.
Q: How does it feel that such incredible artists such as Troye Sivan love your book?
A: I watched an interview where he mentioned he loved homoerotic books and I knew he had to have it! I actually sent him one just cause I knew he’d like it, so I hope he does!
Q: I’m sure you have so many more projects and many ideas in mind. What does the future hold for you? How do you see yourself in a couple of years from now?
A: I’d love to move to Europe and assist incredible photographers there. Learn from some people that inspire me and incorporate those lessons into my own practice. I’d love to still be shooting fashion and would like to be happy and content with wherever I am. Perhaps start working on a few more books, design some beautiful things, and would love to explore video/film!
Q: Which would be your biggest dream or goal that still needs to be accomplished?
A: I have many dreams. I’d love to shoot for Jil Sander, model for some amazing brands, help a handful of artists publish their own books, have exhibitions, design furniture. At the end of this life, I’d like to sit in a beautiful home by the ocean, surrounded by good wine and friends, art, and objects I have designed throughout my life. I want books that document different stages of my life, photos of the people and places I love. And I want to create works that will live on once I’m gone.
Q: To conclude, I would love to know which has been the best piece of advice you’ve been given and which one would you give to all the emerging talent and our readers.
A: To emerging designers, create work that heals you and allows you to be immersed in the process. Do not measure or compare your work to others. What is meant for you will be for you.
My last name has always been misspelled, Tenant, Tennant, Tenent, and I would always complain to my dad who related. He told me “Work until they never misspell our name ever again”. I hope I’m making you proud Papa.