Home' In The City : In The City - Autumn 2013 Contents COPPA'S
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"There is an Italian term called chiaruscuro.
It's basically the transition between light and
dark. If you get rid of that you miss out on the
great drama that actually exists there."
Robert Coppa grew up in Europe, South
America and Australia.
In Canberra he began secondary school and
went on to tertiary studies before a job lured
him to the United States.
It would be there, in the city of Seattle, that he
discovered his passion for photography.
A background heavy with computing set him
on this path. Working at the back-end editorial
process enhancing and retouching photos gave
him the confidence to try his hand.
"I noticed the quality of the images that were
coming in to be retouched were actually quite
low,'' Coppa says. "I saw an opportunity to take
my own images and went from there.''
He caught on fast. He developed skills
quickly and enjoyed immediate results but soon
plateaued. Keen to tap into knowledge at the
upper echelons of the professional spectrum he
sent off a host of emails to pros across the US.
A few got back to him and in exchange for
their wisdom he offered to work as their dogs'
body. "I would be coffee boy, lighting boy,
anything boy,'' he says. "They imparted me with
some really amazing information."
Coppa was in his late thirties when he took up
photography, the age of a veteran for many in
the business. Nevertheless the seeds of a fashion
photographer had laid dormant for years.
Even when he was young he loved drawing
people. The movement, the interaction, the
human drama ensnared his imagination.
Having honed his craft in the US he came
back to Canberra to face a relatively barren
creative landscape. The fashion editorial scene
was in its infancy and there were few people
around to do collaborative work.
"I took a break from fashion editorial and
started working on production stills on movie
sets,'' he says. "I was involved in a few short
films and some conceptual teasers and proof-of-
concepts. I did a stint of that and really enjoyed
it. I still do it from time to time."
Recently he's worked for various television
networks to take photographs during interviews
and television programs. But his interest in
fashion photography and portraiture never
waned. About two years ago he returned to it.
"I like photography that has drama in it. In
the last year or so I've been exploring more
black and white. I like shadows. I think a lot of
photographers seem to shy away from shadows
because they're all about trying to light the
subject. I think that the crossover between light
and shadows is really where the drama is," he
The old Renaissance masters did this well.
Their paintings were fused with light and
emotion. Coppa also points to photographers
such as Ansel Adams as inspiration.
"He is able to produce those contrasts and
drama but in landscape, which is far more
difficult than when you're working in a studio
or when you're working with a model because
you really can't ask a mountain to move around
"I have a lot respect for that kind of thing."
While technological advances and image
enhancement techniques have made taking
pretty pictures a snack for even the crudest
shutter-monkey, superb photography still
requires a superb photographer.
"You could have the best laid photograph,
the sharpest looking photograph, but if your
content is not depicting emotion or expression it
just doesn't engage with me," Coppa says. "The
content of the photograph has to come from the
heart, rather than the head."
To see Robert's work visit, www.robertcoppa.com
From a humble beginning retouching other peoples photos Robert Coppa has stepped
out of the shadows to take control from the other side of the lens, MARK SAWA writes.
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