If there were ever a person who perfectly embodied the phrase ‘do what you love’, it would be Seb Riebolge. Driven by a fierce passion, and the yearning to experience all life has to offer, Adelaide born photographer Seb has spent the last two years on a journey of self discovery and expression, capturing it all in the form of his mind blowingly beautiful photographs. Combining raw talent, hard work, and an intense desire to expose the true beauty of the world, Seb has managed to turn what started out as a hobby to escape the monotony of life, into the emerging photography business that is Sebastian Riebolge Photography; something which he is truly and deeply passionate about. Writer Amy Clark caught up with Seb to find out how Sebastain Riebolge Photography all began, and what drives him to evolve and grow as a photographer.
How did Sebastian Riebolge Photography come about? When did it go from being a hobby to something you started actively pursuing as a professional?
Photography for me came about back when I was 15. I picked up a camera and went overseas to Italy and France with a friend; it was a point and shoot, that’s when I first noticed an interest in photography – I didn’t put the camera down for some time after that. I was about 20 when I decided to buy a digital SLR as I needed a hobby. I didn’t get into photography seriously until two years after that. It was on November 5th, 2012 that I took the photo that changed my life. Interestingly enough, it occurred so close to the ending of the Mayan Calendar, ‘The Apocalypse’ December 21st 2012 – from the Greek translation of apocalypse meaning ‘the lifting of the veil’. It was an apocalypse, not meaning the destruction and ending of but the beginning of seeing in a new way. This photo represents my new beginning. It was taken on a Monday mid exams, and I was studying a double degree in Engineering and Finance. I had an exam on the Friday and Saturday. I’ve always been a dedicated studier, but something changed deep inside me that Monday as I couldn’t force myself, even sitting at my desk for six hours a day to squeeze one moment of study in. My mind was elsewhere. It was at that moment that Sebastian Riebolge Photography began and I haven’t looked back.
How would you describe your style?
Bold, intense, colourful and raw. Attention grabbing and in your face. I love making a statement.
Your work is incredibly diverse; talk us through the evolution of your photography.
Photography for me began, I think, as it does for anyone who’s interested in photography, with photographing everything, and just being happy pressing the shutter and experimenting. But then it slowly started to become a bit more concentrated in specific fields, and the fields that I’ve been interested in over my photography career have changed quite dramatically. My passion for photography started with light painting (essentially, a blurred picture taken with the shutter open to allow light to pass through the lens over an extended period of time, keeping the camera perfectly still) and then I got really into shooting cityscapes. Slowly over time, that evolved into shooting and documenting travel, and now that’s what I get the most enjoyment out of.
Tell us a bit about your travel photography; you must have some incredible stories!
Recently I spent seven months travelling around Asia through Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Nepal, and China. My experiences mainly in the five months in India and Nepal changed me very deeply. I saw and did things I could never have imagined, and now I see the world in a completely new way, picking up on cues and signs…you could say I’m very superstitious now based on a few powerful experiences; one day I plan to publish these stories. This trip helped me to realize the amount of subject matter and beauty that exists in the world, and for me, the greatest thing about photography is that it interlinks quite intimately with my personal growth and development, especially while travelling. I took this photo of a beggar after giving her 50 rupees; in fact you can see a slight glimpse of that money in her hand. We shared an intimate moment. It’s all about connecting with people on a level to get them to open their heart and souls to capture that emotion in the eyes.
You’ve also recently ventured into wedding photography, what is it about that side of the industry that you enjoy?
I really enjoy and thrive being given the responsibility to photograph the biggest day of someone’s life. I love the intensity of that, and the power of emotions that come out at a wedding. It’s an incredibly special experience being the only individual around the bridal party all day long. I love my clients, and enjoy our friendships immensely. Being able to create a story that instills emotion that lasts a lifetime is very rewarding.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career so far?
Each field of interest or subject matter has its unique challenges. With wedding photography, it can be a pretty stressful. I’m out shooting for 10 or 11 hours continuously, and I need to make sure that I capture everything. You have to control big groups of people, and get them where they need to be; it’s an incredibly finely tuned skill. Wedding photography incorporates a lot of different techniques - it’s pretty difficult. It helps me to become a more well rounded person adept at dealing with a huge variety of different skills. With travel photography, the challenge is being unnoticed in the background. I believe travel photography shouldn’t be posed; it should be natural and raw, showing the true atmosphere of a place without any manipulation. It’s hard to do, especially with a big camera. With the way a lot of tourists travel, without respect and awareness of where they are and the culture they’re in. They’re giving us photographers a horrible name and making my work increasingly difficult to complete, without funny looks and hesitation of my motives.
What type of cameras do you shoot with? Do you use many accessories?
I shoot with a Nikon D800, and change between a few different lenses. I mainly use a 24 – 70mm lens, which gives a general range. I like working within that range as it gives the most practicality. I used to shoot a lot of really wide stuff, big open landscapes. But now, in terms of the evolution of my style, I’m becoming more focused and enjoying the telephoto range. I prefer shooting with natural light and keep away from artificial lighting whenever I can.
Do you edit your photos?
Most of my pictures haven’t been edited; they come straight out of the camera. They didn’t used to be. I used to love editing in Photoshop, and I’d tell people that I loved the editing equally as much as the shooting. But ever since I picked this up professionally, I’ve found that I’m sitting behind the computer for hours and hours at a time, which gets quite stressful. Especially seeing as we all seem to be behind screens for most of the day. Now with my personal work I prefer to try and get it perfect in camera, which takes a bit more time and practice but makes me a more rounded and skilled photographer, anyone can apply an edit now days to turn a mediocre shot into a great one, but getting a great one straight out takes a lot of practice and skill.
What is the true basis of your inspiration? What do you aim to achieve through your photography?
I try to get my pictures to connect with the soul on a very deep level. That’s where I get my inspiration from - the power of raw emotion. I’m quite an intense and sensitive person, experiencing the world on a level not many people do. I want to open people’s eyes to the beauty and power of the world around us, as I think a lot people can forget that beauty and magic lies behind every corner. Especially when there’s not much change in our lives, and we find ourselves doing the same things over and over. It’s about the power of the human experience – the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. I’m just trying to show that life is so diverse, and there is wonder all around us.
Can you tell us about one photo in particular that stands out to you, and what about the story behind it? What does it means to you?
This spot changed my life. The above photo was shot under the light of a full moon. I’ve had an obsession with the moon ever since my experiences in India relating to the craziness that the full moon always seemed to bring. The place you see here is named Poon Hill, it’s an incredibly sacred spot for the Hindu people. I had a mystical experience on this hill, which in turn gave me the inspiration behind my business logo. The trident represents a Hindu god, The Lord Shiva, The Creator and Destroyer. I felt his presence very strongly in India and Nepal, three times under three full moons. He touched me, and my life has taken a deeply spiritual path after these experiences. I feel blessed that my photography and spirituality can be intimately linked, and the growth in one directly relates to growth in the other I’m excited to see my work evolve and grow in the coming years.
Where do you see yourself and your photography in five years?
I would love to have my photos published in a publication like National Geographic. I’ve been honing my skills, especially in regards to being able to limit the editing of my photos, with this goal in mind. I’d also like to be shooting a lot of wedding work, and travelling around the world. Ultimately I’d love the freedom to wake up each day and decide my direction for that day; slowly I’m starting to build a life in which I’ll have the freedom to do as I please, to travel anywhere at any time, to create stories so raw and emotional that I get paid to keep making more.
What is your personal philosophy?
To be living with the burning desire, to inspire all living beings to be the best that they can be. I want remove all the masks we put up, and show the truth.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to pursue photography as a career?
Make sure you’re completely obsessed and passionate about it. Professional work isn’t easy, and it will take up a lot of your life. You’ve got to be completely obsessed and consumed by it, because if you’re not, you’re just not going to last. It’s been the hardest ride of my life taking this path. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices, I’ve doubted myself numerous times, and felt as if I were going crazy. Imagine having the only thing you love ripped out from under your feet? I’m still expecting many more bouts of uncertainty, but every time I bounce back, my work hits back harder and stronger. Resiliency is key.
What’s next for Seb Riebolge?
At the end of November I’ll be quitting my part time job in hospitality to fully pursue a career in photography. It’s daunting and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but I just don’t want to go back to a part time job. This is it, this is my life now. I’ve worked hard this year and have got a bit of money to get started, so who knows where I’ll end up. I’m travelling to Hawaii at the end of the year to establish myself as a wedding photographer and set up a business in the states. A trip to South America will be on the cards in 2015. I’m planning on just taking the bare essentials. I love the idea of having everything you need fit into one small backpack. It goes to show that you don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy, and to do what you love.