Bob Harper About Instagram & Inspiration
A Conversation With Bob Harper About Instagram and Inspiration by Jen Pollack Bianco
I recently sat down with Bob Harper on the set of the NBC hit show, The Biggest Loser, to discuss photography, inspiration, and his obsession with Instagram.
J: Jen B: Bob
J: Well, Bob, most people know you as a fitness guru and a personal trainer, but I don’t know if people know about your love for photography, which is one of your passions. Can you talk a little bit about how you like to share through all these cool new mobile technologies?
B: I’ve always been drawn to photography. I got my first camera when I was a kid for Christmas. It was a little Kodak Instamatic, which I wish that I still had.
J: You can probably pay $400 for it on eBay.
B: I know. I really enjoy capturing moments but another reason is because… you would think that I don’t have social anxiety… but I do.
J: I think all photographers do.
B: I always loved being able to go to a party or go to event and to be able to hide behind the camera.
J: Me too. It’s an instant ice breaker.
B: I’ve always taken photography classes in my adult life, being very attached to my camera, but when Instagram came out, Instagram changed my life.
It became this obsession. We always have our phones with us, so I don’t have to have my big camera with me all the time, but I use my Instagram all the time. It’s just so much easier, and the quality on my iPhone is just so brilliant. Remember back in the day when photographers would have to use Polaroids to get the shot? That’s kind of what my Instagram is now. If I’m shooting street photography in New York I can take this shot on my Instagram like “oh, wow, this is a great shot!” and than I pull my camera and I’ll take more shots with my Leica M9.
J: You tell interesting stories on Instagram. You’re sort of a brand of yourself, but you are introducing people to the visual stuff that turns you on.
B: Yeah, I’ll be the guy that just like stops his car when I see something and just go “I’ve got to capture this.” I’m really starting to realize I’m a photographer. I like that I can use Instagram with my followers, and they know me as the “fitness guy,” right? I do shoot a lot of my fitness stuff, when I’m in my world, but I want to give them a glimpse of another side of me. That was very scary at first.
J: Why was it scary?
B: My photography is very personal. I tend to have a very dark eye and sometimes it freaks people out. I have one photograph… one that I love so much, that I posted and so many people were writing comments like “that looks like some scary movie,” or “he looks like a serial killer” just because it’s raining and the subject is wearing a hoodie.
J: Your followers don’t have to like everything… but you have to like it.
B: I don’t know if you remember this, but you introduced me to something that I use all the time- Snapseed. Snapseed I use every single day. I love it.
J: Me too. Who are the photographers who inspire you the most?
B: I think that for me It all goes back to Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark. Those two women changed my life, because that’s what I like to shoot. I like to make you a little uncomfortable. I don’t need things to be pretty. I recently went to the Getty and I saw the Herb Ritts exhibit. Herb Ritts was a genius with lighting and the fact is he didn’t overprocess his work, this was back in the film days, and I love that. I like to get into my Snapseed and I mess with contrast, because I like contrast, but I don’t want to go overboard with my work, because I want it to be in the most natural eye.
J: So are you a street photographer?
B: Yes, I’m a street photographer. You introduced me to one street photographer I really like– Roger Clay. I’m dying to meet him. Mary Ellen Mark did a series about this homeless family, The Damm Family. It’s haunting, because this family basically lived out of their car and it’s very uncomfortable but interesting too. Do you want to known another personal thing about me? Another main reason why I shoot black and white?
B: I’m colorblind. Whenever I’m in the color world I get so confused. But black and and contrast— it just works for my eye.
J: It’s been fun seeing in your Instagram feed is your behind-the-scenes photo shoots…
B: Yeah, I just did photo shoot a couple days ago and the set up was really cool, and the photographer is right there and I’m trying to to grab the camera. From my POV, I find it really fascinating to see a photographer work behind the camera– even when I’m the subject being shot. I’m always watching what the photographer’s doing and trying to figure out their process, because I would much rather be on the other side of the camera.
J: I think some day you will be.
B: I think so too… I would like to be.
You can check out more of Bob Harper’s feed on Instagram where he’s known as @trainerbob.