Say Hello

I don’t expect you want to hear my life story, do you? I thought not! However, as you came to my blog and perhaps considering hiring me, there are a few things you’ll want to know. Principally, that I am someone that you can trust to deliver……

OK, I want to keep it brief.  Over a career spanning almost three decades, I’ve seen quite a bit. I must have covered more than 500 weddings, countless shoots of buildings for architects and interior designers and the like, dozens of PR campaigns and did I mention 20 years in news photography, covering stories in my own area and nationally?

Now I’m quietly proud of some career ‘high points’, like winning the Irish Professional Photographers Association’s ‘Photographer of the Year’ for one, as well as bagging dozens of other awards and distinctions, both in Ireland and abroad.

Over the last few years, I have added another string to my bow, travel photography. Two months or so of every year sees me travelling, supplying pictures to agencies like Getty Images, Alamy and Shutterstock to mention just three. Through them, I have seen my work appear on book covers, travel websites and countless travel supplements of newspapers all over the world.  It’s a growing part of my work and a wonderful experience: shooting skylines in Manhattan, Buddhist temples in Korea or the jaw-dropping architecture of the United Arab Emirates.

There’s more to pro photography than pretty pictures. If I have learned anything over the years it is the importance of ‘delivering the goods’ for my clients. You may want a shot that shows off the product you manufacture to its best. Or, you just need a headshot for your social media. You’re welcome to drop into my studio, it’s purpose-built, with a dressing area, kitchen (for food photography) and I serve a mean cup of coffee! There are a thousand ways my photography can help your business or your own personal journey. Let’s talk!

Robert

Architectural Photography

architectural-photography
The stairs at the Mechanics’ Institute, San Francisco

Architectural Photography

Photographing the spiral staircase

There’s something about the corkscrew-like pattern of the spiral staircase that attracts photographers. Almost every portfolio of architectural photography has at least one.

Last week I photographed one of the best examples I have come across to date in the Mechanics’ Institute in San Francisco https://www.milibrary.org/about. This comparatively modest neoclassical building can be found on Market Street, in the centre of the city’s bustling financial district. Building started in 1909, three years after the great San Francisco earthquake, under the direction of architect Albert Pissis.

We may live in the age of the lift and escalator, but this hasn’t stopped architects using beautiful staircases as a means of adding value to spaces. These creative souls never saw ‘the stairs’ just as humdrum routes up or down but as a vehicle for conveying the character of the areas they grace. And it wasn’t just architects who loved them: French fashion designer Coco Chanel designed her very own and even added mirrored and lacquered walls to surround it.

architectural-photography
The stairs at the Vatican Museum

I want to share with you some I have photographed over the last few years. Among my own personal favourites is the beautiful example in the Vatican Museum, designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932. This staircase, like the original it replaced, is a double helix, having two staircases allowing people to ascend without meeting people descending; as with the original, the main purpose of this design is to allow uninterrupted traffic in each direction.

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The Tulip Staircase at the Queen’s House, Greenwich

Another is the Tulip Stairs in Inigo Jones’s beautifully designed Queen’s House in Greenwich https://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/we-recommend/attractions/tulip-stairs. This ornate, wrought iron structure was the first geometric self-supporting spiral stair in Britain.

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The staircase at the Kempinski Hotel, Berlin
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Old stairs in the former Jewish Quarter, Budapest

You can see more of my photographs of the built environment at https://www.robertmullan.com/Architecture/The-Built-Eviornment

I feel I must give the last word to Samuel Johnston:
“The world is like a grand staircase. Some are going up and some are going down.”

 

Commercial Photography

Commercial Photography

commercial photography
Arklow Bridge

Over the years I have undertaken commercial photography assignments in literally the four corners of the country. So it was great to land one right on my own doorstep.

With the ending of British Summer Time, many Arklow folk will notice the impressive, multi-coloured lights that light the town’s landmark bridge.
This eye-catching display was created by Warrington-based, public lighting specialists, Ansell Lighting http://www.anselluk.com/. So, when their designer, Luke Semper contacted me the brief was simple: get a photograph that shows the exact colour of the lights, the detailed stonework of the bridge against a dramatic sky at dusk.
Now it all sounds so easy, doesn’t it? The only problem is that a twilight sky, just after sunset is about 1,000 times brighter than the shadows of the darkest part of the bridge. This is far beyond the dynamic range of any camera, digital or film. A ‘straight’ photograph taken would result in a blacked out bridge and a sky so bright that it had no detail, totally disappointing.
I had to put on my thinking cap with this one, but there was a solution.
Firstly, I had to check the weather map to see when there would be an area of high pressure covering Ireland. I was in luck. the following weekend’s forecast promised just such conditions. High pressure not only brings settled weather but dramatic sunsets, beloved of landscape painters and photographers.
The brightness range problem was easier to get around. I waited till just after lightening up time, while there was still beautiful colours in the sky, I made a series of exposures for each element of the picture: the dark arches, the lights, and finally, the brilliant sky.
The final result was blended in Photoshop to get a seamless gradation of all the elements of the scene. You can see many more examples of twilight images on https://www.robertmullan.com/Architecture/The-Built-Eviornment/

Travel photography in Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg. Photo by Robert Mullan

Heidelberg, Germany

If you loved Cambridge or were beguiled by Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’, then you shouldn’t miss Heidelberg, Germany. This medieval university city, halfway between Stuttgart and Frankfurt, could pass for the long lost twin of Oxbridge. The similarities abound, summer streets crammed with tourists, students bicycling their way around narrow laneways.

A year or two back I spent a couple of days shooting for one of the photo libraries I supply. Despite ‘bagging’ the usual establishing shots, like the Cathedral and the famous Heidelberger Schloss, (the red brick castle ruins synonymous with the place), the shot I’ve posted is my firm favourite. Heidelberg was almost completely spared allied bombings during WW II and as a result, the city can boast a seductive Old Town with half-timbered and Baroque houses lining cobblestone streets. It has everything for the visitor. If people watching is your thing, head for the Kornmarkt, just off Hauptstrasse (Main Street) or the cafe-lined Marktplatz. Explore the city’s Alstadt (Old Town) or cross the Alte Brucke and walk the banks of River Neckar, all easily accomplished in an afternoon. You can see some of my shots of the city as well as lots of my other travel pictures on Getty Images,  here https://tinyurl.com/ybehp6rn

The Carousel Piano Bar, French Quarter, New Orleans

The Carousel Piano Bar

The Carousel Piano Bar in Hotel Monteleone, part of the  French Quarter of New Orleans, was a favourite of writers pretty much since it opened in 1949. Hemingway, Faulkner, Capote, Tennessee Williams numbered amongst its regulars.

This opulent, rotating, carousel-themed, bar in the centre of the room makes it a ‘must see’ for visitors to the Louisiana capital. It performs four complete, gentle revolution per hour. Now it felt quicker when Liz and I tried it last year, but there are also booths and tables for those who would rather not spin.

Hotel Monteleone is a literary landmark in its own right. It crops up in the works of Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty to name a few. Truman Capote once even claimed he was born there (not true). The hotel still family-owned opened in 1886. It has stubbornly hung on to its unique charm and character for over 100 years. It took several shots (photographic and NOT alcoholic), at different shutter speeds, to get the right degree of blur in my picture.

Architectural Photographers in Dublin

architectural photographers dublin
The Long Room, the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, Rep of Ireland

Architectural Photographers in Dublin

The turn of the century heralded boom times for architectural photographers in Dublin. The noughties saw the city’s skyline sprout a forest of cranes, with former inner-city wastelands ceding space to gleaming steel and concrete. I remember shooting some of these new buildings, marvelling at the talent of their young architects. You can see my architectural photography by visiting https://www.robertmullan.com/Architecture/The-Built-Eviornment

Back then, digital photography hadn’t established itself and digital camera sensors had not ‘come of age’, these new ‘toys’ were viewed with suspicion. Most architectural photographers in Dublin stuck with film.

There was one film camera that became de rigueur: The Hasselblad SWC https://www.hasselblad.com/history/. Made in Sweden, it combined the precision of a Swiss watch and the strength of hardened steel. The legendary Carl Zeiss optical company designed the lens in the 1950s. Nothing came near for its distortion-free images. Lines were always parallel it never failed to deliver brilliant colour reproduction and contrast; oh I could go on and on!  For interiors, it had no equal, no wonder the camera was in every good architectural photographer’s camera bag.

I used my Hasselblad to capture one of my favourite images: Trinity College Dublin’s iconic Old Library building. This magnificent building celebrated its 300th anniversary a couple of years ago. Work started in May 1712 and it took another 20 years to complete the building.  Many famous students of the college like writer Jonathan Swift, philosopher Edmund Burke and artist Mary Delany were amongst the ‘regulars’. More information on this wonderful building see www.tcd.ie/library/tercentenary

Architectural Photography Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, photographed at dusk
The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. Photo by Robert Mullan

Architectural Photography Bilbao

Mention Architectural Photography in Bilbao and one building springs to mind: the Guggenheim Museum. https://www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus/en/It has become the city’s ‘avatar’ since it opened nearly 20 years ago.

I was lucky, it had rained most of the day but by evening the weather shaped up for a nice twilight shot. It was crucial that I used the small window between sunset and darkness to get the effect I wanted. You can see many of my ‘golden-hour’ images here: https://www.robertmullan.com/Architecture/The-Built-Eviornment

If ever a building turned a struggling industrial city into a cultural metropolis it was this one. In fact, you could it say the expression ‘the Guggenheim effect’ was coined because of it. Designed by ‘starchitect’ Frank Gehry, it changed the fortunes of this Basque city. The region was once known as a former powerhouse of heavy industries like shipbuilding and coal and steel production.

Failing to embrace modern technology, one by one, outdated dockyards and warehouses had to close. Workers and their families deserted the city, leaving in their wake a ‘rust belt’ of abandoned factories and shipyards. Passionate art lovers were thin on the ground in Bilbao, so when plans for the ambitious cultural project were revealed, many assumed it was a bad joke. It was no joke! In all, 20 million visitors have contributed to giving the city a new life. The Guggenheim effect, also known as the Bilbao effect, has turned into the symbol of how art and culture can boost the struggling economy.

Cafe Hawelka, Vienna

Cafe Hawelka, photo Robert Mullan

The city of Vienna has forever been associated with creatives: Freud, Mozart and Beethoven to name just three. These and other like-minded souls from the arts, music and science met their peers in what was to become a city institution: the Vienna coffee house. Laterally, during the 1960s artists like Hundertwasser, Werner and von Doderer regularly hung out in these. One can only guess at what was exchanged during their late-night, wine-infused encounters.

Yet the Cafes weren’t just for the gregarious, it provided the more solitary with the ultimate private experience: there they enjoyed the comfort of their own space while surrounded by others. These ’public living rooms’ were open to all, you just had to buy a coffee or a glass of wine or beer and stay as long as you wanted. The concept of a Viennese Cafe has been tried in other cities without success. City and Cafe proved inseparable.

The picture I posted here was taken in Cafe Hawelka, more a city institution than a cafe. It has an unprepossessing exterior, lurking shyly in Dorotheergasse, a side street off the fashionable Steffanplatz, a ‘stone’s throw’ from Am Graben, the most expensive and elegant shopping street in Central Europe. Started by Leopold Hawelka and his wife Josefine in 1939; this proved bad timing, military service beckoned and Leopold was called up. The café had to be closed with the outbreak of WWII. When hostilities ended in 1945, with the building largely intact, he and Josefine lost no time in opening its doors again.

The following years saw Café Hawelka becoming a meeting place for writers, painters and actors. Indeed, writers often considered it their office. Waiters never pressured customers to buy another drink. For the price of a coffee or beer, customers could browse the free papers, read (or write) a novel or just contemplate. All under the watchful eye of proprietor Leopold!

In the wake of visitors like Bill Clinton, Václav Havel, Peter Ustinov and Andy Warhol the small cafe became infested with tourists. Despite this, Leopold stubbornly resisted modernisation. The interior is largely as it was in the 50s, his only concession to modernity: an espresso machine!

When I first visited the cafe almost twenty years ago to do some pictures for Alamy https://tinyurl.com/ybaeve7k I briefly met the famous host. Then in his nineties, sharp-eyed as ever, watching over his tables while seated near the entrance. When I pointed my Nikon is his direction I got not a picture but a dismissive wave of his hand. But ever the charmer, it was followed by a mischievous smile. To mark his hundredth birthday, in 2011, a postage stamp was issued in his honour. Leopold, son of a Bohemian shoemaker from the village of Kautendorf in Austria’s wine region, died in 2011.

Shimmering Shanghai

 

Pudong, the business district of Shanghai

Editing some of the pictures from my trip to China. Before I arrived I expected to find a communist country that was slowly embracing a market economy. A ‘without frills’ society, perhaps doing somewhat better (in terms of personal wealth) than Cuba. Oh, how wrong I was. None of your frugal, ‘East German’ style ‘commie’ austerity – everywhere we saw gleaming skyscrapers, designer boutiques and every brand of luxury car you could think of. All the time Liz and I were there we only came across one beggar, just one! But more importantly, there was no one sleeping on the streets.