About Rob Walls

Rob Walls

When you’ve been in the business for a couple of years shy of a half century, you have to do a double-take and think “Is that right? Where did all those years go?” I remember, when I was younger being so impressed that fashion photographer Norman Parkinson was still working well into his seventies. Now on the cusp of this, I realise that if you believe in what you do, you need no other reason than that to keep on doing it. And that if you are truly committed to the craft, photographers don’t ever stop working.

If you are at all interested, you can see a time-line of how I spent my years in this wonderful profession, by visiting my Linkedin entry here.

The short version is: that I’m an ageing photojournalist now living on the lower slopes of Mt Wellington in Hobart, the capital of Australia’s island state, Tasmania. I’ve also been a commercial photographer, specialising in travel, editorial, fashion and corporate photography. To email me directly: rwalls@iprimus.com.au

I’m happily married with a young family (a boy, Kim 18, and a daughter Cassandra, 14), a large vegetable garden, small orchard, a few livestock (two lawn-mowing sheep, a dozen hens and a the obligatory “two cats in the yard”. I still do the occasional magazine assignment, and work from time-to-time for mainland corporate clients. In recent years, I have moved into shooting, producing, designing and editing corporate audio-visuals. When not engaged in assignment work, I mostly shoot stock photography: still-life, travel, lifestyle etc. My children are regularly roped in to model for me.

In 2010 I commenced a year-long documentation of the changing nature of work in Australia, sponsored by Jobs Australia. This project, called This Working Life, will take me all over Australia and will culminate in an exhibition in 2011/12 and the publication of a book.

In a long career, I’ve worked on assignment around the world for major magazines, corporations and other clients. This blog was basically set up to capture the reminiscences, experiences and opinions of an old man nearing the expiry of his use by date. It is also a way of telling my children about my life before parenthood; a kind of “blography”, I suppose. If it turns out to be an interesting read: great! The intention is to amuse…both you, me and my family. I also hope it might have the added purpose of occasionally provoking some thoughtful discussion and comment and maybe providing some small insight into the photographer’s life…or at least, this photographer’s life…

Thank you for reading…

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20 responses to “About Rob Walls

  1. Liz Orr

    Thanks for taking the technological steps and risks..I’ll visit this site and your blog when I can and also send it to a photographer friend (age 65) in London as I know he will relate and enjoy it. Your sister in law May sent me the link to this as I invited her to a small exhibition of my photographic work coming up in Fitzroy 8-26 th July at 69 Smith St. Keep on keeping on and thanks! Liz

  2. I also was a founding member of Rapport and they were heady times. Rapport could have gone places in a big way but for some unfortunate members who could not adjust to being part of a team. Rob was a driving force to work with – never intimidated – always positive and very very generous not only with his time but also his heart.

    I was not a photo journalist and did not seek to be one, but like Rob my camera has been my life – exhibitions and teaching. And now I have retired and am married and living in the USA with a whole new perspective to my life. Rob and I disagreed about many things which is why we drifted apart but I remember those times fondly as his energy was always 100% positive.

    His move to Tasmania has proved to be an excellent decision just as mine was in moving to the USA. And through one of my ex students ( a very successful one) to come across his website – do get in touch Rob – there is much to chat about. Hugs, Bruce

    • Extremely touched by your comments, Bruce…and delighted to hear from you. Do I detect a note of contentment in your comments? It’s six am on a cool Broome morning, (it’ll be 30 degrees by noon) on my last day of shooting on a children’s television series. Tonight I’m heading to Perth to stop-over for some serious lunching with old colleagues (Garwood, Cowling et alia). Wish you could join us. Will be home in Hobart on Monday., so expect a long email of catching up. Warmest regards…
      Rob

  3. Carl Robinson

    Just catching up after all this time from those great Newsweek days of the 1980s. Moved up to Brisbane some time back and now spending my retirement writing and travelling, mostly to Vietnam where we’re spending half our time these days. I’ve also written a guide to Mongolia. Life’s good. No complaints. No need for a public reply — and you can just get directly in touch. Cheers.

  4. Nice blog. I wonder if we met sometime around then. I used to work for the Swedish newspaper Expressen and their correspondent Jussi Anthal (you probably met or heard of him) witch meant hanging about the UPI office in London
    getting my stuff developed, printed and transmitted to Stockholm. I still have a sometime contact with Ray Paganelli. All this is between 1968-1971.
    Rolf Adlercreutz
    Stockholm

    • I’m sure we did, Rolf. I worked out of UPI from 1967-71. I seem to recall you offering advice on contacts with Swedish newspapers…what an interestingly small world we inhabit these days, eh?

  5. derek s.langsdon

    Pleased to finally catch up here after only enjoining laptop age a year ago ! and only just being attentioned to Rob’s pages. Bouverie days fondly remembered when I was Foreign Pix,Ed .and London Burau Manager (with UK Mngr Jim Spencer) twixt 59-73 before I switched to UPITN . Rolf’s (Sept 2011) brings back recollections of Jussi Anthal and Espressen and my later many Scandinavian visits for TV when always called into old pix friends in Stockholm,Copenhagen etc. Am still in regular touch with Ray Paganelli and some others via my son Mal with Reuters/Paris).

    derek s.langsdon/dsl.-norfolk/uk.

    • Wow! Now that is an amazing connection, Derek. So many years gone by and so many changes. I guess you’ve trawled my blog and noted the other UPI references (Charlie Cowan gets a mention here:http://wp.me/pxmCB-mY) You can see how much of an influence those days had on my work.

      When computers happened, I took to them like the proverbial duck to the pond and anticipating what changes there might be in communications, 20 or so years ago, I decided to move to Hobart in Tasmania, the island state. There’s another old London UPI hand living here you might remember, Rupert French. We had a few beers, but haven’t stayed in touch.

      I’m still working. With two kids, (son turning 20 next week and a daughter still at high school)the thought of retirement was not something I could entertain. Currently involved in a major long-term project photographing working life in Australia. You can see more of this here: http://thisworkinglife.wordpress.com/

      Thanks for getting in touch. I recall those London days with much delight…

      Warm regards from wintry Tasmania…

      • derek s.langsdon

        Rob,
        Thanks for fill in, and recall on when Jack Hampton running UK assigns while I fielded whatever else outside of the old country
        —-yes recall Rupert–(and Cowen/Stream)-and yes boxfulls of old pix, some of staffers from your London period but others back to my ’44 start at 30,Bouverie (the Old News of the World building)– just need time/inclination/patience to operate the Epson scanner which been sitting here unused past year and sposed take care prints plus my old Rollie and 4×5 Speed Graphic negs !–but days full caretaking wife Lynn mostly abed and Dementia past three years and various continuing health visitors who must arise at dawn to disturb our early ayems !—son Mal started Brussels as UPI photog- and all over major coverages(shortly before I moved over to UPITN as Editor then Mngr News Svcs/Ops)—He then based Washington/and White House Press Corps back in Ronnie-R days–then and continuing longtime Paris Reuters Pix Mngr plus multi areas and Chief Photog for W.Europe,- Grandson Ian photog with EPA based Paris.—Remind me sometime hilites yr Bouverie assigns.My old (The original !) surviving UP/ UPI (US) staff buddies curious as unspotted u previously until Bill Wright outpointed yr excellent pix and rundown this week.
        take care and my bestests
        dsl

  6. derek s.langsdon

    Rob.had not read your “Hands” item from which see that it seems you mainly working for Charlie C’s colour division- right ?
    dsl

    • No Derek, but Charlie used to use me on features because I had had a lot of experience with colour. I still remember one of the old photographers (a guy who used to win a press award every year for a shot of a jockey falling over the neck of his horse), say to me while I was sorting colour filter gels in my camera bag, “So you are taking this colour stuff seriously then?” as though it might if he ignored it just go away.

      I worked right across the spectrum and much to the disgust of the old hands ended up pulling a lot of good, well-paid, travel/annual report stuff for Compix. This began soon after I came back from Biafra, an assignment I took that unfortunately coincided with the Tet offensive in Saigon. http://wp.me/pxmCB-w0 Couple more of my UPI shots here: http://wp.me/pxmCB-1r

      Now you’ve got me reminiscing. One person I remember most vividly was Fred Flowers with his bus conductor’s ticket punch; a device that when it clipped the sprocket edge of a film to indicate a frame for printing, decided my financial fortunes for the week. I still find it hard to believe that the rates then were still calculated in guineas. I have two vivid memories of encounters with Fred. The first is of putting up some film of a fire in the city on the lightbox. Fred’s response in his grating cockney accent still echoes in my ears. “You call that a fuckin’ fire, son? Don’t waste my fuckin’ time. Where’s the fuckin’ flames, where’s the fuckin’ dead bodies?”

      On another occasion I went to photograph a Salvation Army folk group playing at the Playboy Club. Fred’s response as he chucked my negs aside “That’s not a story son!” I went home disgusted at wasted time and effort only to have Claude Hippeau and Jim carpet me the next day wanting to know where my pictures were as the AP coverage of the story had run front page in NY overnight. I told them Fred had dumped it. I retrieved the negs and Flowers cursed every time he clipped a frame, while the cash register rang in my head. Sweet justification. Enough memories for now, got to go throw another log on the fire and get something to eat:-)

  7. derek s.langsdon

    Great stuff Rob which my US mates will enjoy when encapsulate–our champion pony man was Herbie Ludford who always got fantastic Epson shots crouched under the brush under the flying hooves.He mostly wayback used a double- linked pair of glass quarter-plate cameras before being dragged into 4×5 film—- in pre-Bouverie days when it was still “Planet News” over at 3, Johnson’s Court-Fred Flowers was legion, slackening and speeding up the big roller print dryers for a fast matt finish to get our front-pagers rushed to the dailies/evenings by our team of “runner boys” whippped out of the door by Fred’s whippet -like assistant-the Woodbine chainsmoking Jack Stevens !
    Charlie Dawson (of the”Young Queen” in her carriage photo),Ronald Ockendon, Maurice Sayers, Johnny Eggitt and co,, were probably there during your time. Gen.Mngr Leslie Hull controlled the purse strings ! Caption writers were many including older Mick Bridges usually covered in cigarette ash, “Greg”, Peter Hewitt,Eric Rose, and John Dyer later onto the desk and as editor to Brussels where later died and attended his funeral there with my son.back in the mid to late 70’s
    Must get back to 2012 !!! take care…..

    dsl

    • Now that fills a lot of gaps…and triggers a whole bunch more memories, Derek. Especially the photographer names. Also brings back memories of that little crowded photographers’ room with its lockers and old chalky shove-halfpenny board.

      Right, Herbie Ludford. Every year a great jockey fall. Always got on well with Charlie Dawson. Found him to be quiet, modest and self-effacing. Morrie Sayers, now he sticks in my mind as a particularly abrasive character. Remember him delivering lines in my presence when I first started, such as, “Fucking Australians, come over here and take all our jobs…”. On another occasion in my presence, he loudly stated to all in the photographers’ room that UPI should be a closed union shop. I let him rave until he had got it all out and then told him that I had been a member of the AJA for 4 years and had joined the NUJ as soon as I began working in London. Pointing out that I was English, had been born in Portslade and lived in Hove until the age of 9 did little to blunt his prejudice. Jim Spencer on the other hand was very welcoming. When I told him I was from Australia, he said, “We like Aussies, they work until the job is done…and don’t call the office to ask for overtime when their shift is up”. I think I was the benficiary of his memories of that notorious early paparazzo, Morrie Wilmott and his water-skiing shots of Princess Margaret.

      John Eggit I remember as large, loud and clumsy, but a greatly enthusastic and competitive operator. He was not averse to hopping on the back of the motorcycle couriers bike to get back to the office. There was another photographer, who did a book on Israel, whose name I can’t recall, which is odd, because I thought he was the best shooter of them all. He introduced me to Dirk Halstead during Nixon’s visit to London. I worked and travelled with him shooting colour on the investiture of Prince Charles in Carnarvon. As I recall Charlie and Maurice were also on this assignment. In those more formal days, at dinner the evening before, for some odd reason the subject of dress came up. Being positioned in the crowd outside the castle I reckoned on dressing casually, but Maurice and Charlie thought this was disgraceful. This was a Royal occasion and only a suit would do. They persuaded me and I was grudgingly persuaded to put on a particularly nice, navy blue, tailored, double breasted number I had bought with my first UPI paycheck. You know when they passed in the carriage I don’t think either the Queen or Prince Charles even noticed how well dressed I was:-)

      Leslie Hull, the money man, I remember well, but you know I don’t remember how we got paid in those days. I imagine it must have been by cheque. Now Mick Bridges is someone I recall with great affection. Also the very Jewish Eric Rose. I found your cigarette ash description exacly how I recall Mick. Crumpled old suit, always ash down the front and usually an old greasy tie with evidence of several meals on it. I used to sometimes give him a break by writing captions for him. When I was earning regularly, he and his red-headed young offsider (Mike ?)nicknamed me the Walls World Bank, because they reckoned they could always rely on me for a loan between pay days. Used to often lunch with them at the White Swan.

      I’ve been trying to recall the name of the Australian journalist I travelled to Biafra with. I think it was Peter Mc? There was also a German film cameraman from UPITN with a scarred face. The three of us had a rioutous night in a nightclub immediately under the UPI offices in Lisbon, pretending to be mercenaries. It was a place we had been introduced to by the Lisbon bureau chief, the very stylish and civilised Sam Mazmanian. Funny that I can remember Sam’s name, but not Peter’s or the German, who had got his scars while working for the Wermacht on the Russian front in WWII.

      Anyway, it’s now back to 2012 for me too…

      PS more information, the nightclub under UPI Lisbon was called Maxim’s.

      • Robert, thanks for the updates on your work during the Biafran war. Would like to share more with you including more of the photographs and you will be credited. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.

  8. Peter Minnucci

    Robert, thank you for your kind words about my father Attilio Minnucci. he would have been proud – as are we his family

    • You are welcome, Peter, and please accept my condolences on your loss. I think we may have once met, when Attilio’s oil was launched at the Wursthaus.

  9. Happy New Year 2014 AD Rob & family
    I am looking forward to see the Yachts

  10. Rob,
    Don’t know if you receive this, but this is Mal Langsdon, Derek langsdon’s son. I am trying to track down anyone he may have been in contact with since I introduced him to computers and the Internet. Sadly he died Aug 3 of a blood infection. He was 86. I was there 15 minuted before he died after a 12-hour drive from my home in Finistere. I am a UPI brat and am familiar with all the people you were discussing.
    cheers
    MAL

  11. Sean Patrick Hall

    Hello Mr. Walls. I got a late start in photography, I’m 44 now, started getting serious about 2 years ago (although I always loved it). Doing a little bit of everything, landscapes, portraits, cityscapes, etc. However, I started to love street, which is the last thing I thought I would love the most. I especially love mid century street photography. Is there any story you can tell of about the the children in the 1969 Barcelona Spain ( a place I have been dying to go for years but something keeps coming up to to prevent it) photo? The one with the little girl with the jump rope. It is one of my favorites and I catch myself smiling often when I look at it. I know thats pretty vague, but some photos I find myself fascinated with and can spend hours thinking about the people in them. I guess thats kinda the point eh? If this is being asked in the wrong place or if there is already some info I apologize and please delete.

    • Hello Sean. Always happy to talk photography, but have been too busy of late to contribute to this blog and to some extent Facebook has overtaken it.

      I appreciate your love of street photography. There’s not much I can tell you about that Barcelona picture; except that when I am “hunting” with the camera, I never refuse an invitation from someone to take their photo; whether the invitation is overt or tacit. The camera here would have been a Nikon (F) with the 28mm wide angle and like most street practitioners of the time, I would have used the classic pre-focussed, relatively small aperture technique that would allow me to whip the camera to my eye and shoot, without having to focus. With that picture I was so taken with the exuberance of those children and then that magical instance where they all fell into place with a geometry that still pleases me.

      I still shoot street photography, though now digital. I use Fuji X-Series cameras (XE2 and X Pro1). The trouble these days is that people are more camera aware and there are more restrictions on when and where you can shoot. To get around this to some extent, I find I am shooting a lot now with the iPhone 6.

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