Touch the Sky: Christopher Robinson (cbeatz852) on Architecture, Philly, and Photography.

Chris Robinson (also known as cbeatz852) is an up and coming photographer out Philadelphia.

Multi-talented and artistic by nature, Chris has been exploring his creative potential from a very early age. Beginning with formal music training, he began to broaden his tastes and hone his skills throughout his youth through different mediums.

He credits his hands on, practice first upbringing as a huge part of his success and an important contributor to the discipline he has developed over the years.

"I think the music and practicing really young introduced me to learning with a limited amount of resources. Kids today have access to so many different tools and applications and I didn’t have the world available at the palm of my hands like they do today."

His photography does an excellent job of capturing the splendor of Philly's phenomenal (and often overlooked) architecture and skylines.

These are the primary reasons for Chris beginning to take his craft seriously after being captivated by the reverie of the city's megalithic structures.

In light of this, I wanted to ask him a few questions about himself, the city, and his relationship with art.

Prox: Tell us about yourself man, where are you from and could you describe your relationship with art as a child?

Chris: I’m from West Philadelphia, i’ve lived here my entire life. As far as art it kinda started with music. I was interested in the drums so I started playing piano first around three years old and then I was given formal lessons for both drums and piano at the age of five. I liked drums more so I stuck with that and i’ve been playing ever since.

I was always interested in cartoons and superheroes so I started drawing them and sketching them as comic strips, and I really enjoyed Batman and Superman. After I finished high-school, I started messing around with photography and I didn’t really get serious until after Instagram began picking up around 2011. I got serious about pictures and really started studying photographers I was seeing on there and wanted to get better.

Prox: How would you say that your earlier exploration of art through your music and drawings helped you become a better photographer today?

Chris: I think the music and practicing really young introduced me to learning with a limited amount of resources. Kids today have access to so many different tools and applications and I didn’t have the world available at the palm of my hands like they do today.

We had to learn through a teacher and textbooks. It did give me a ton of hands on experience since I played drums in the church growing up and that gave me a solid foundation. Now I’m solid at pretty much anything I do because of the way I had to learn back in the day. I felt like this helped me more so than learning on the fly through a video or whatever.

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Prox: How many of your shots are actually in Philly? Are you shooting locally primarily or are you hanging out up and down the East Coast and how does Philly itself impact you?

Chris: I’d say Philly is probably 70-75% of it. I’m in New York a lot so there is a good bit of that in there as well but I try to keep my feed mostly Philadelphia. New York has a lot of photographers, so they’re well taken care of but for a while Philly wasn’t really noticed as well. I have some stuff from Atlanta and Washington D.C as well. Usually whenever I go to a new city, i'm liable to scout out the locations and see what stuff I can capture while i'm there.

Prox: You mentioned that Philly really didn’t have a popular scene for photography. Is the new wave that is coming up a close knit community? Are you connecting with these folks?

Chris: It is a very tight and positive community. Through IG I got to watch it grow. I’m sure there has always been photographers but through the internet it’s easier to arrange meet-ups here and stuff. I see a lot of kids coming out to shoot the city these days which is nice. I’m way older than a lot of the new people coming up but i’d say i’m in between. I’m down to shoot with people though and i’d say i’m pretty connected.

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Prox: Even though you’re multi-talented, what was it about photography that stood out to you? Why did you decide you wanted capture these moments?

Chris: Primarily through architecture and the skylines. I’ve always liked Philly’s skylines and skyscrapers. Even though my favorite skyscraper is still the Empire State Building (which is funny because I still don’t really have a good shot of it, i’m going to get one this year though) but it was definitely architecture. Me and my cousin Craig would draw skyscrapers. He actually went on to get a degree in architecture, but I would say my love for that moved me forward.

Prox: Are there any artists that you’re currently feeling right now?

Chris: For photography, i’m really inspired by Flip Schulke. He did a lot of the Martin Luther King stuff back in the day. He really has a way of making you feel like you’re there and I kinda wanted my stuff to be like that. Another great guy is @365ken on IG. He helped me learn how to get more hands on. Music wise I really like Flying Lotus, i’ve been listening to a lot of him while i’m out shooting as well as Chris Daddy Dave. I also like a lot of DC Comics and that 90’s style of comics. I really wanted to emulate a lot of stuff in my work.

Prox: What are some of your go to lens and bodies?

Chris: For a lot of the IG stuff i’m mostly using an iPhone but when i’m doing contracts or shooting for companies i’m using a Canon 5D MKIII and my favorite lens is the 16-35mm wide angle. I did a shoot in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and after that shoot me and that lens got tight. That thing can capture buildings beautifully. Lately i’ve been using the MK IV as well and it’s a great update to the MK III. I’ve toyed around with a Sony, but for me it’s really about how a camera feels in your hands and i’m really feeling the Canon stuff. I might mess around with the Sony some more though.

Prox: What are some tips you’d give to artists who want to get their work out there and have opportunities to get paid?

Chris: It’s mostly about what attention these companies can get through your work. I think right now it’s a great time for photographers because companies are using social media for advertising and it drives a lot of projects. I was against advertising at one time because I felt like it was going to dilute everything, but it actually works in the photographer’s favor.

Pick a theme and try to be consistent, that’s what I did. I didn’t want to just do what everyone else was doing where I just post about my daily life. I wanted to post pictures of Philly. Since it’s so close to New York, it tends to get overlooked so I wanted to showcase the city. Try to inspire people by what you do no matter what it is. If you’re shooting wildlife or whatever and you take a good picture, it will inspire someone. The networking thing is ok, but if you’re putting out good work, they’ll see you. If you’re using hashtags or put out a viral image, they will definitely see you. The only company that I reached out to was Brandywine Realty Trust because I noticed there weren’t really any pictures from good vantage points. I just explained to them what I could offer to them and how social media was coming up and they were cool with it. As long as these companies see that there is something you can do for them, they’ll be for it.

Prox: Final thoughts?

Chris: Make sure that whatever you’re doing, you love it. Don’t try to shoot for everyone else, shoot for yourself. When you’re shooting for yourself, you’ll always have something to come back to. If you try to shoot for other people, you might run out of creativity. These companies aren’t going to be calling you 24/7 so as long as you’re not letting that creativity store up inside of you, you’ll be great. Also, i’m trying to shoot with more people, whenever, wherever. 

Be sure to head to Instagram and follow Chris, @cbeatz852.

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