Alet: Your work falls somewhere between art and photojournalism. Do you see yourself as an artist or a journalist? Do you feel it is important to categorize yourself or your projects?
Robert: I am first and foremost a street photographer, only later I transitioned into documentary and staged photography. Out of all of them, photojournalism is one genre I haven't explored in depth yet, An artist ? Yes I see myself as an artist and a story teller.
For those who desperately want to categorise, please call me an artist.
A: Do you start with a clear idea about your project? Or does it develop as you go along?
R: It's important to know what you're after in terms of goal or purpose because that will help you start a project. Once you get going it's only right that you allow the light and the mood lead you, that way I believe thé story can be told in its natural way
A: The photograph of the woman and child in what looks like a classroom is striking. Can you tell us the story of that photograph?
R: The first two months of lockdown felt very strange to everyone, Congolese even more so. Anyone who has been in Congo or lives here will tell you that life doesn't stop here, the streets are never empty, markets are open everyday of the week almost 24/7, schools the same, after school hours school yards become soccer fields for practice and games. Once the Covid 19 hit, all these places were shut down, the city of Pointe Noire was dead, all public places were deserted. It felt very strange to see deserted places and almost no people on the street. I started a series of portraits showing those empty spaces that are usually full of life and also the anxiety, uncertainty in people's faces. This particular image shows a mother posing with her son in the empty classroom of the school he used to attend before lockdown.
A: What is the situation in your country at the moment re Covid-19 and lockdown?
R: There are almost no cases in Congo as we speak,things are slowly coming back to normal which is great. Galleries will be able to open full time and other cultural activities will take place very soon
A: Do you think the global lockdown forced photographers to focus on stories closer to home? Did the lockdown give you the opportunity to tell stories in your community?
R: Yes, I was forced to come up with projects I could do from home, luckily I live in a complex with plenty of natural space and so I started two staged projects which I will release in the near future.
A: Do you still print work (to sell or for exhibitions) or is everything digital?
R: Most of my income comes from print sales, yes I still print my work because I believe only a print can do justice to an image. phone and computer screen can't do it in my opinion, a framed photo offers a much better experience
A; What role does Social media (like Instagram) play in your work?
R: Social media works for me, I have met clients, collectors, magazine and newspaper editors through Instagram and facebook. I also use social media to get feedback when I am working on a new project.