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Meet Robin Kadfalk

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robin Kadfalk.

Robin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As a child, I kept “borrowing” my mother’s point-and-shoot film cameras and used up all her film. She got sick and tired of it because most of the time she would pay all this money to develop the film and get photos of our yard, squirrels, and random pictures of our relatives. Eventually she bought me a few cheap one-time use cameras to rid me of my most urgent itches.

Throughout my life, I never really had money to purchase a real camera. I kept inheriting cameras and equipment but it was always old, broken, and of poor quality which frustrated me because the clarity in my pictures were of great importance when capturing a moment. I’ve always admired photographers that catch a moment in crisp clarity where the rest of the photo might be blurry.

When I was in college an old girlfriend needed major work to her car done. Her parents lived 3+ hours away and didn’t feel like it was safe for her to drive it all the way home. I was working extra in a mechanic shop mopping, sweeping, and doing minor oil changes, etc. so the shop keeper gracefully agreed that he would lend me the tools and show me how to do all of the services her car required.

Instead of payment from her parents they bought me my very first DSLR camera (Nikon D200) and my photography adventure started for real.

A few years later after graduating college, I landed a job in San Diego CA at a small advertising company. They never had budget to hire a professional photographer for product, lifestyle, or portrait shoots so I became their designated in-house “expert”. Throughout the years, they upgraded my gear for me as we did exciting shoots with Blake Griffin, pro-bono documentaries for local homeless organizations, etc.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Not at all. Not even the slightest. As an immigrant, I didn’t receive my green card until two years ago. I have been here since 2005. As much as I wanted to pursue this as a career, my path towards permanent residency had to take priority.

That also meant that even though I was receiving offers and opportunities to do paid shoots I had to decline them because I wasn’t legally allowed to receive payment. I did a lot of work for free to learn and evolve but it was never enough due to my other pursuits of a college degree and obtaining work visas.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I do photojournalistic photography. I love storytelling. I love capturing moments. I have tried all kinds of mediums with photography. Fashion, advertising, weddings, portraits, etc. but it never scratched my itch the right way.

I am currently doing freelance work for magazines, publications, and radio (they still publish work on their news outlets and social media channels).

I have recently been covering the Black Lives Matter protests in order to give a fair, balanced, and accurate picture of what is actually happening, as well as who is participating and what their thoughts/feelings/passions are.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would shoot more, more, more. And appreciate my work even though it’s not quite there.

I would research career paths more. Photography doesn’t necessarily have a conventional career path and I think that’s something I wish I knew earlier. I have always specialized in “figuring out the system” which would have been perfectly applied here. For example, when I transferred into San Diego State University with my Associates’s Degree they declined most of my credits informing me that I had to take at least four years worth of classes. Two years later, I had my degree by petitioning directly to each department head to accept the credits and justify why they should, as well as taking tests that would count as an entire class and three full electives.

If I applied this mindset and determination to be the photographer I strive to be, I believe I would have been in a very different place.

Also, maybe the biggest thing I have battled is self-doubt. Knowing that your work isn’t where you want it to be is great, but letting that hold you back is detrimental. One of my favorite quotes to describe this is from NPR’s Ira Glass:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years, you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

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