Photographer Q&A: Alexi Hobbs
What type of camera do you shoot with?
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I always bring along the girls—my Mamiya 7 and RZ67—for the close up work and also because I have a shift lens for it to keep all the verticals aligned.
Thoughts on Film or Digital?
It varies, but I shoot a lot of my assignments on film. I figure my clients' commission work from me because they want me to bring that certain look and feel they've seen in my personal work, which is entirely shot on film. I find film reads space in a different way, you can feel the air between the lens and the subject.
Do you remember the first shoot you did for Dwell?
Do I remember? I most certainly do. It was my first real assignment! I can still see the email in my inbox and my disbelief at it being there. I shot my first assignment for Dwell on a gloriously sunny and cold day in the fall of 2010. The shoot was for a residence that had been renovated—the owner had also added an extension on the roof. I couldn't see it from the street, so I was looking for ways to get up higher. At this point, a neighbour, a sort of older scruffy man, across the street was leaving his apartment so I accosted him and asked if I could possibly shoot from his balcony. He mumbled something about it being okay and led me up to it. His apartment was dark and messy—the complete opposite of the residence I was shooting. Once on the balcony, I set up my camera and began framing, and at this point, he just literally left his apartment! I saw him wander down the street, leaving my assistant and I up on his balcony, hoping we'd be able to get back out.
Do you enjoy Dwell assignments?
I love shooting for Dwell. It's the type of shoot that really matches the slightly OCD part of my temperament, the one that enjoys lining things up, and working in a very graphic way. It's also great because I get to go into these amazingly well-designed homes, meet their very proud owners, and learn about how people make different spaces work for them. I'm taking notes for my own place, someday!
How do you usually prepare going into a Dwell shoot?
Before the shoot day, I will usually scout out the location, without actually entering the residence, to get an idea of where the sun will be at different times of the day and to see if there are any interesting vantage points I could use to photograph the exterior. On the shoot day I have this ritual where I get up really early and take my time to allow my mind to relax and focus. I'll eat a full breakfast including eggs, bacon and kale, and a cup of tea, which gives me energy for the whole day.
Do you have a funny or favorite moment from a shoot?
I think everyone gets a kick out of my posture and the positions I get into whilst shooting. I am rather tall and lanky and I often find myself either sitting on the floor, leaning against walls, crouching in corners or standing on the tips of my toes. And I always get a good laugh out of the owners when I ask them shyly whether I can climb up onto their beautiful counters, chairs or tables, usually with my tripod, just to get a different perspective on the space (like I did to get the shot below). So far everyone has said yes.
Do you have a favorite location that you have shot for us?
I'm always in awe of all the locations Dwell sends me to. It allows me to see some of the finest homes in my own city and fills me with ideas for my own future home. This being said, I've definitely got a soft spot for the Peart Weisgerber residence I shot last summer. It is located in Moishe Safdie's residence complex, Habitat 67, which is such a unique place, and now considered a landmark of architecture in Canada. It was designed as a model of prefab housing for Safdie's master's thesis in architecture and built for Montreal's Expo 67, and has the greatest sunset views on the city. When Byron Peart and Stefan Weisgerber bought three of the concrete cubes, gutted and left empty by the previous owner, they took the two-level space and transformed it into an efficient and refined home echoing the creative modernism of Safdie's design. The result is a modernist unit that is both timeless and classic.
What is it like seeing your images in print when the issue comes out?
Aside from shooting, one of my favourite parts of every assignment is seeing the layout that the designers at Dwell come up with. I worked as a graphic designer for several years and I've got a soft spot for layouts and typography, so it's exciting for me to see another designer's take on my photographs.
If you could choose one modern element to add to your home, what would you choose?
Definitely the Cubit shelving in the Peart Weisgerber residence! I am in serious need of shelves like this to house all my photo books!
A little more about you:
Where are you from?
Montreal, born n' raised! I've also lived in London, UK, Gothenburg, Sweden and I spent a year traveling around Australia.
How long have you been shooting?
I've been shooting personal work since 2008, although I got my first SLR when I was 15 and I dabbled in the darkroom back in the late 90's, and I've shooting editorial work since 2010.
What type of assignments are you shooting these days?
I get assignments for travel photography, and still have to pinch myself every time I get commissioned to travel to some beautiful part of the world to make photographs. I also shoot a lot of portraiture and architecture or design related work.