Rob Sese is a travel & lifestyle photographer based out of Chicago. And while he’s captured that great city from many angles, Rob really lives on the road and in the great outdoors, exploring the untamed wilderness and continually discovering breathtaking locations. Rob has a very sharp and expressive photography style, so we were incredibly excited for this opportunity to peek into his mind a little.
What about photography initially drew you to it – how did you get hooked?
I was always intrigued by visuals. Growing up, I was drawn to photos in books more than actually reading them. I used to stare at my grandma’s National Geographic magazines growing up and always dreamt of traveling to the beautiful locations inside. As for photography, I took an intro to photography class in 2011 and that’s what initially got me hooked. That along with a couple close friends who were shooting before I did, who really inspired me.
What are some of the things that influence your photography, whether it’s other photographers, or influences from elsewhere in life?
I’d have to say a lot of movies really influence my photography, as does music. The way DPs would compose the framing/light and the way they post process the colors to give off a certain mood to a particular scene. Also, traveling to different places. I’ve made a lot of photographer friends through the years and they all inspire me in their own special ways.
[Some of Rob’s favorite movies are The Revenant, Se7en, Good Fellas, and The Dark Knight. He enjoys Christopher Nolan and David Fincher movies, for their dark style and they way they light and color-tone scenes. He also likes the work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who worked on The Revenant.]
Looking at your photos, you seem to be drawn to wilderness and the great outdoors, but also to gritty urban nightscapes and city lights. How do you make sense of being attracted to both these environments that most people think of as complete opposites to each other?
It’s because I was born in Chicago, and although I currently live in the suburbs, I’m always in the city almost every weekend. I also went to college in the city and a lot of my friends live out there, which is why I’m always out there too. At the same time, I’ve always been in love with the outdoors growing up. If I had to choose though it would be the great outdoors > city life.
What are the most important things about a photograph to you? In your opinion, what separates the great photos from the good photos?
To me, photos that tell a story are what really separates the great from the good. Along with light, composition, and subject manner. The great photos are ones that make you feel a certain way/emotion, the ones that have meaning, and the ones that make you feel like you’re there.
What are you trying to learn or improve on right now: what are some of the photographic challenges or ideas floating in your head right now that you want to try out (and don’t mind sharing)?
I’ll forever be a student of photography. I’m never satisfied so I just want to keep shooting, working hard and constantly pushing myself.
As far as editing, what changes/adjustments are you usually making to your photos, and how did you learn how to edit your photos effectively and with a unique style?
Since I love the look of film photography, and dark cinematic tones and colors, I always try to incorporate that look into my photos. I guess after you keep shooting and editing for years the style just sort of falls into place. You just have to keep photographing what interests you the most.
What are some of your favorite pieces of photography equipment (cameras, lenses, etc.) and why are those valuable to you?
I’d say my 16-35mm f/2.8 and my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens. I tend to shoot with those the most along with my 50mm. I think glass is more important than camera body.
Finally, you’ve done a lot of traveling, but where in the world would you most want to visit next, and why?
I’d love to visit Japan next. Japanese food is my all-time favorite and it’s always been a dream to visit that beautiful country.