Shot in the Dark
by John drabik
Emilio Roberts is a Tour Photographer who has worked with major artists such as Barenaked Ladies, Dead and Company, Nate Ruess, Violent Femmes, Collin Hay, and Icona Pop.
The table was cluttered with papers, magazines, weeks of accumulated junk mail, and other objects that probably don’t belong there. We both cleared a space by pushing the debris to the far end of the table so we could sit and see each other without obstruction. In the distance, you could hear the sound of a needle dropping and the unmistakable crackle of an old vinyl. You could hear the jazzy sounds of Cannonball Adderley begin to blend with the scents of freshly poured wine and coffee that were placed between us on our half cleared table. This is our home, and this is my roommate, Emilio Roberts.
Emilio packed his life, which consisted mostly of musical equipment, cameras, and clothing when he moved to Austin during the oppressive heat wave of August 2015. The move was fueled by his desire to experience something new and sweat away the monotony that was created by a lifetime spent in upstate New York.
It was only 3-years ago that Emilio took his first photos with the intention of having them published. Now, Emilio currently spends the greater portion of his year traveling the country with internationally recognized bands as their tour photographer. Some people would consider him lucky, but this opportunity was attained by countless hours of hard work, dedication, and being able to capitalize on opportunities when presented.
From the very beginning, Emilio was raised in a family that placed a strong emphasis on the importance of music, and it was rare that the house wasn’t filled with the sounds of a record. He found himself becoming attached to certain albums and began to admire how the album art complimented the mood and message of the album. He described it as, “the marriage of two completely unrelated things that converge to tell a story.” This is a theme that has stayed consistent throughout his artistic vision.
In a profession where perspective is everything, Emilio has always aimed to show the viewer a perspective that is seldom seen. Operating under the assumption that everyone knows what it’s like to attend a concert, where thousands of people are fixated on the small group occupying the stage. Only few know what it actually looks like to be onstage. “It’s an experience that almost every audience member can relate to, and even though you are experiencing the same exact moment at a concert, that perspective changes your entire interpretation.”
As an artist, we are all faced with the question: why are we doing this? A considerable amount of time is spent understanding the purpose of your artwork and why you have chosen to create. In Emilio’s case, “creating helps me gain a greater understanding of my world, and there is so much I have yet to understand.” Emilio describes the most important aspect of creating as, “letting go of all the inabilities and the stigmas attached to being an artist and you become a vessel for your art, as if your art is creating itself, and you’re just here to make sure it happens.” After saying this, Emilio tilts his head back and pours down the last of his wine, he sets the glass down on the table and pauses for a moment. He explains,
"It takes up every bit of your being to create. You don’t even realize what is happening when you’re caught up in that moment, I didn’t know until someone pointed out how ridiculous I looked. There is a physical element to creating art, and in that moment I’m not thinking about the physical discomfort I’m putting myself through, I’m just doing any means necessary to take the shot."
The most important lesson Emilio has learned from creating is that, “emotion matters a hell of a lot more than technical ability.” Even going further to say, “it isn’t art if there is no emotional connection to it. If I don’t put my own emotion into it, no one else will get anything out of it.” Through his understanding, he would suggest that if you are an artist, “don’t do it for the wrong reasons, only do it because you love it.”