Daniel Robles, Innkeeper Studios
Born in the Philippines and raised in Sydney, Daniel Francisco Robles is a Queer Filipinx fine art and documentary portrait photographer. Currently living and working in Sydney, New South Wales, he has recently opened a studio space Innkeeper Studios in Rosebery. Focused on accessibility, this space opens up new opportunities for photographers in Sydney to push their work in new directions.
What was your decision behind starting a studio space?
I’ve just always wanted a studio space that I could call mine. But also a space I could make available to the community that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. The decision to start innkeeper was on impulse when I saw the space pop up on the market. By that point I’d been looking for the right space for a number of years. I saw the images and immediately thought ‘This is what I have been looking for all these years, I have to grab it, I can’t let it be turned into another office’.
Community engagement and support seem to be at the heart of this project. Your Access Program gives creatives of marginal/diverse backgrounds access to studio space and time. What importance does holding space and giving opportunities to artists have for Innkeeper Studios?
I have a background in social work and community aid/development. My time working in that field meant that I built a community/societal focused world view. Add the fact that I’m a queer person of colour that found himself in the fashion world for 2 years allowed me to see first hand the inexcusable lack of diverse voices and faces in that industry. There wasn’t any question as to what I should do with the privilege and opportunity afforded to me with the space.
We have the ‘Access Program’ which awards a person free access to Innkeeper for 12 hours every month for half a year. We are specifically looking for diverse voices and faces that could benefit from such an opportunity but normally don’t get the chance.
At the moment I’ve also discounted our normal rates by 40% up until the end of August while at the same time offering a student discount that will keep on running beyond that.
I’ve tried really hard to price Innkeepers’ rates in a way that brings them as low as possible while at the same time ensuring its longevity as a studio space financially. We aren’t running for net profit, and everyone who has used the space so far has appreciated
What spaces have you looked to for inspiration?
I used to intern, then assist/manage a studio for a well known Australian fashion photographer. I learnt quickly what I valued personally in great studio spaces. The crux of it... ‘A HUGE ASS NORTH FACING WINDOW!'
What projects do you have coming up in the space that you are excited about?
I hope to use innkeeper as a space that feeds back into the photographic community in a way that brings value beyond just an affordable studio. At the moment I’m in the process of planning two workshops to be rolled out over the next few months.
The first being a studio film photography workshop in partnership with Beginning Film. The second is a hair, make up and beauty workshop on African hair and skin tones. This in partnership with a number of people and is a workshop aimed at everyone within the fashion community that isn’t just practical but also educational and awareness focused. The horror stories I’ve heard first hand and also online about how some models of colour have been mistreated because of the features they were born with is appalling.
Studio spaces can be quite intimidating if you haven’t worked in one before. What advice would you give new photographers shooting in a studio? Are there some things to absolutely avoid, or a piece of equipment to always have on hand?
I think nothing beats assisting for a photographer in studio. The amount you learn by doing that is invaluable. But I see a lot of photographers who think that assisting is below them or they’re too intimidated to approach professionals in the industry. I still assist to this day when ever I get the opportunity cause I never want to stop learning. Every professional may share fundamentals but what makes them unique is what I want to take away with me whenever I assist.
Oh and an assistant’s bag, even when I don’t have an assistant on shoot with me I always have that bag with me cause it’s often the small things like gaffer tape, rubber bands and clamps that save an hour and sometime even an entire shoot.
What film stock would you suggest to someone coming into a studio to shoot?
Oh god, without causing a stir I’m just going to say my favourite stock to shoot and that’s Lomography CN 800 but also just any iso800 film, when you’re shooting medium format or larger, the type of grain that comes with higher iso rated stocks becomes negligible.
I like to have the range and flexibility afforded to me with it. I have a large personal stock of film but more often than not I’ll pick up a Lomo or Porta 800.