Photographer Rowan Corr on domestic robots: “We know they’re listening”
We look through the lens of photographer Rowan Corr, who was immersed in the world of household robots for our December 2021 issue on design and technology.
London-based Rowan Corr’s early work on fashion editorials and lookbooks, shot almost entirely on film, is a far cry from the clever still lifes he creates today using high-end digital equipment. . Corr is a graduate of the London College of Fashion, but it was his time working for Mr Porter and Burberry that put him on the right track for his current contemporary approach. For the December 2021 issue of Wallpaper, Corr turned his analytical gaze to technology, creating a conceptual visual response to our story on the rise of the household robot.
Wallpaper *: Describe your style and process
Rowan Corr: I would describe my work as clean, crisp, and abstract, but also completely real. Recently, I have treated my work more as an investigation of an object: its shape and texture and how it interacts with the space and colors that surround it. It’s literal, it’s graphic and there’s a formula, but I always try to consider each piece individually so that each photo takes on its own identity.
Robotic still lifes, created for the December 2021 issue of Wallpaper. Google Nest Cam, £ 90, Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen), £ 50
W *: Tell us how you brought your way of working to our history of domestic robots
RC: It was a cool concept to interpret as we increasingly live our lives at home surrounded by these “smart” technological devices. For this piece, I wanted to photograph them in an abstract but minimal frame while subtly inserting other objects from the house to allude to the idea of surveillance. I applied my prescribed style, but also wanted to use the light to emphasize something sinister about the objects. The devices are almost silhouettes, but we see their lights on and we know they are listening.
W *: What do you think is the most interesting thing happening in photography right now?
RC: Continuing on the subject of artificial intelligence, I am interested to see how its role within photography is growing. For example, software that uses AI to scale images. Such abilities were unimaginable to me when I first started.
In the same vein, I’m increasingly interested in CGI, the sophistication of animations and renderings built using software like Cinema 4D and Unreal Engine, and how it continues to move forward. My work is inspired by CGI renderings; looking at a hyper-real image and not knowing how it was produced is something that interests me, and has brought me to where I am now in my process.
Google Nest Cam, £ 90, Pierre Charpin lamp for Hay
W *: What’s on your radar?
RC: Kit Grill’s latest album Brittle has been in heavy rotation recently.
W *: What’s the next step for you this year?
RC: I feel like this year is coming to an end, but in the meantime I would like to see my work in a new context and start experimenting with different printing processes. Most of my work focuses on collecting small details so it would be great to work with the scale and see how far I can push it.
Who knows what will come in 2022, but I can’t wait to find out. §