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Rory Gullan: When passion clicks into place

Entrepreneurs 16-03-2021

The founder of photography and production studio Studio Rogue, shares how his spirit of adventure leads to capturing stunning imagery

How would you describe your photography style?

I’m big on ‘vibe’. For me photography is everything that happens up to pressing the shutter. This means creating a good studio atmosphere and filling it with the right people – it’s meant to be fun, relaxed, and stress-free. This is when creativity flows best. Visually, people tend to describe my work as ‘clean’. I like to take away all the ‘noise’ and focus on light, shadow, and what I’m photographing. I’m also big on black and white for the same reason.

You were studying architecture in Montreal. Why did you make the switch to become a photographer?

Like a lot of the best opportunities, the move from architecture into photography wasn’t something I planned. While studying architecture in Montreal, I taught myself on a film SLR purely as a hobby, photographing people, the city, and my surroundings. This hobby grew when I was invited to exhibit in Montreal. I was then picked up by a publisher in New York, and it became a nice little side job while I did my Masters in architecture at Glasgow School of Art. After I graduated, a fashion start-up contacted me to build their studio as studio manager and photographer. It was too good an opportunity to not explore and within the year I was asked to head up their six studios across Europe. I established my own studio in 2014.

How do you satiate your own creativity while fulfilling a client’s need?

I generally find my clients are quite aligned with my own intentions for the creative direction of a shoot. There’s nothing better than when a client turns to me and simply says, “do your thing”. However, that kind of trust only comes from all the work I put in at the planning stages to make sure I really understand their brand and how we should be representing it.

Tell us about how you climbed Mont Blanc while documenting the ascent of a charity team.

This was one of those opportunities which just happened to present itself. The organisers reached out to me and six weeks later I was at the top of a mountain!

Many often underestimate the difficulty and danger of climbing Mont Blanc. I had to carefully consider my equipment to capture both stills and video throughout the climb. After discussions with the guides, it was decided that while the usual practice at the higher altitudes would be around three people tethered together, I would ascend as a pair with one guide, giving me the flexibility to move between the groups and capture material as I needed.

While this definitely gave the best outcome for photography, it really put the demand on physical fitness. Exhausting, challenging photography, but undoubtedly the most rewarding project to date.

You’re a Cancer Research ambassador…what does that entail?

This came about through my Solo Sea to City Row challenge which I established and completed in memory of my mother in aid of Cancer Research UK. I worked closely with Cancer Research in the preparation stages and following the challenge I was asked to become part of a new group of six ambassadors with the aim of providing guidance for future fundraisers in creating challenges and reaching larger fundraising goals.

What is the appeal in fundraising with endurance challenges?

I’m always trying to challenge myself in new ways. There’s the physical demand but it’s the added test of mental strength that draws me to endurance challenges and the discipline in training filters through to other parts of my life.

How would you say your sense of adventure affects your work?

Putting myself out there and taking calculated risks presents exciting opportunities; the best things happen when you’re out of your comfort zone and most likely pretending you’re in control. If you call me at midnight and say, “we need to shoot a campaign tomorrow”, I’ll find a way and we’ll make it happen. And believe it or not, it has happened.

What’s in the pipeline…what’s your next big plan?

I’m constantly pushing for ways to grow the studio, so rather than big plans there are lots of bitesize plans with an overall goal. I’m also interested in exploring consultancy and/or mentorship opportunities. In the past I’ve been brought in by other photographers to consult on shoots and I’ve spoken on Q&A panels, and it’s an area of my work that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve always said to people around me, if you don’t love what you do, change it. Not an easy thing to do, but I’d love to help more people do that. 
Photograph Rory B. Gullan

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