September 5, 2018
Into The Vortex
It comes as no surprise that Robert Kohlhuber was first intrigued by photography while studying graphic design. While exploring his new fascination, the Austrian artist found that photography was slowly overshadowing his design work and he made the leap to shooting full-time.
Kohlhuber’s background in design, however, is clearly evident in his work as he has evolved from shooting lifestyle to more interpretational visuals like his current obsession with mirrored objects, macro movement, and liquid abstracts. Robert’s appreciation for abstract art in motion caught our attention so we had to catch up and get some information on how his world began turning into this liquid vortex of inspiration.
Your style has really taken a notable shift. What changed for you in the last couple years?
Over the last couple of years, I really started experimenting and trying out different photography genres. Taking “normal” photos never really gave me much joy. I did some corporate photos for companies but it didn’t feel quite right. It always had some sort of “mechanical” aspect for me, where my creativity was almost non-existent. I started to feel kind of empty and didn’t know what to shoot or what interested me. Then I stumbled on some abstract videos created with colors and liquids and got inspired by that, as I found these shapes and forms absolutely beautiful.
How did that love affair evolve?
About a year and a half ago I started experimenting with colors, liquids and abstracts myself and was totally into it right from the start. I realized that it was a lot of fun for me and that I could finally let my creativity and imagination fly. While shooting these abstracts I feel like I’m almost warped away in my own world and I totally forget about everything else.
How long does it take to shoot your abstracts?
A regular ‘one theme’ shoot usually takes a whole week until I’m happy with the results — there’s a lot of fine tuning to get them where I want them to be (they can always be better). I could shoot some topics for weeks or even months as they are so much fun and the end result never looks the same. You can do the exact same thing a hundred times over and always get a different image — that is highly motivating for me.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but there seems to be a serious space feel here. Are you inspired by the cosmos?
I like to create a small, colorful universe that draws people into it so they forget about the daily routine for a few moments. I have always been fascinated by the stars. It’s true that some of my images and videos have a spacey feeling like they have created their own universe. That’s not always on purpose, but instead created by coincidence and sometimes luck. The only things I can really control are the colour combinations, the rest is chance.
For “Flow” you worked with milk and oil. How the heck did you decide you were going to make that cocktail?
I had shot with ink, milk and oil quite often before and have always been amazed by the forms and motions you can get with this combo. Flow was a discovery by accident. I first tried to create shots where a big milk bubble explodes and reveals the colors underneath. I got nice results but the most interesting moment is in fact in the beginning when you mix the mediums. It happens very fast (within just a fraction of a second), so I grabbed my slow-motion camera and froze that moment in time to reveal what you would otherwise miss with the human eye. I like to use slow motion a lot, as it can show processes hardly anyone would ever notice in real time.
For “Demons + The River” you experimented with liquid inks. Why the colour combo and ominously awesome title?
In this shoot I used acrylic paint mixed with water and some glue to make it more sticky. They were leftover colours from a workshop I had attended. I wasn’t hoping for much but was totally surprised as soon as I poured them over a white plate. As the colors began to flow downwards, they revealed this green and some of the yellow underneath. The flowing of the black and silver lines reminded me of the grasping hands of demons reaching out at you and the green of the flowing river of life. Most people don’t want to see it, but we all have our dark sides. I personally started to face my own life’s demons and I like the idea of giving them some form and appearance in my work. That’s when the name popped up in my head.
What gear did you use to get this kind of detail?
Most of my macro photos and videos are shoot with a Sony A7RII and 90mm macro lens, both the high resolution of the camera and the very sharp lens are perfect to capture those fine details like color pigments and structures.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I recently discovered the design platform Behance, which is a great source of inspiration for me now. There is a ton of talent and creativity — I could browse it all day and still find amazing things. Also, there are some artists like Thomas Blanchard, Mark Mawson, Ruslan Khasanov or Alberto Seveso that inspire me, as they are true masters of abstract and liquid photography.
Do you have a favourite at the moment?
I really like my Vortex series — the videos I recently made of swirling colors in water. The blending of the colors and slow rotating movement really has a calming effect for me.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a shoot that combines fruit and liquid inks that are dropped into water at the same time. It’s a bit tricky as the timing is quite difficult to manage, but I’m on the right track and should soon get a result that looks more like the image I have imagined in my head.