The Vision Comes First: An Interview with Bob Tempera

Vision Comes First Bob Tempera
All images by Bob Tempera. Used with permission.

“Sometimes even with the cheapest camera you can make great photos, if you have the right spirit. My motto is: the vision comes first.” – Bob Tempera

Bob Tempera is a 29-year-old self-taught photographer from Finland whose style is applies glossy fashion photography and pop art aesthetics in capturing what many others would simply see as the mundane. The 29-year-old Tempera’s compositions use high contrast colors and DIY sets are a reminder that we are only stifled by the limitations we place on ourselves. We recently had the opportunity to speak to her about her work.

Vision Comes First Bob Tempera

Phoblographer: Describe yourself as a photographer.

Bob Tempera: I’m 29 years old self-taught photo artist from Helsinki, Finland. I take most of the photos at home where I build me a miniature one-person studio using cheap and common supplies like bed sheets, cardboard, table lamps and colored cellophane. I’m also the model in my pictures most of the times, but sometimes I use a friend of mine as a model.

Even though I’m a female I use an artist name Bob Tempera because it gives me a certain sense of freedom to operate as an artist and not be bound to my “real” identity, femininity, womanhood or the “ordinary me”.

Vision Comes First Bob Tempera

The vision of my photos is a fictional pop world, which is like a glossy finish fashion magazine or a music video, at the same time ridiculously banal yet fascinating and luscious. The composition and colors are carefully considered and there’s always a hint of decadence in my pictures. Forget about the conventional everyday life and the discouraging realism around you: The world in my photos is kitsch, neon colors, sequins and plastic, femme fatales, cocktails and smoky bars, palm trees and beaches, perfect blue skies and endless, lazy afternoons by the swimming pool. My aesthetic takes inspiration from fashion and cinema of past decades, music videos, vinyl covers, pop art, film noir and camp movies, 1970’s disco culture, conformity of 1950’s America and the suburb housewives, vintage advertisements and recipe books and the glamour of fashion world.


Phoblographer: Tell us about how you got into photography.

Bob: I’ve been taking photographs since childhood, and took my first frames with disposable camera in 1994 when I was six. Fashion photography really hit me when I was twelve and my godmother brought me an Elle magazine from Italy. Being a photographer (especially commercial/fashion photographer) has been one of my dreams since then, but before digital cameras in the beginning of 2000’s I did sometimes shoot film, but not very actively. Most actively I’ve been shooting just about 3-4 years, after I bought my first DSRL. I also tried to apply for some art schools couple of times without result and chose then a different field of study and kept my photography dream in secrecy. In autumn 2016 I finished my master’s at the University of Helsinki, where I studied folkloristic and other humanities. After graduating and putting all those academic books away I completely lost my mind to photography again.

Vision Comes First Bob Tempera

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into your genre?

Bob: In the beginning, I just photographed everything cool and exciting that I saw, but lately my life started to be too boring and exciting things ran out, so I started to develop my vision, stage my photos and focusing on details and lightning. I love creative, humorous, surreal, glamorous and delicious colorful photography which takes me into another reality and which counterbalance the monotonous everyday life.

The winter in Finland is very long, grey and depressing and there’s a minimal amount of light during winter months (Sep-Mar). Also, Finnish culture and the street scene in Helsinki is kind of restrained and lacks colors, sounds, glam and craziness. In Helsinki people love minimalistic Scandinavian style and inconspicuous way of being. If you go out wearing shock pink or sequins in the middle of the day, people will look you like you are a some kind of lunatic.

Vision Comes First Bob Tempera

The ideas in my photos arise from this domestic boredom and from my longing to some kind of glamorous, movie-like utopia. In my pictures, I love to mix Americana kitsch, Technicolor feeling and the more or less artificial Hollywood dream world can be seen in movies, magazines and TV. At the same time my photos parody the superficiality and the vanity of fashion magazines, pop stars and commercialism. My pictures also question all that and they can be viewed with an ironic eye. However, the point is not a political emphasis, but rather just to offer visual treats, joy and to help make people laugh.

Phoblographer: Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision

Bob: I shoot with my Nikon D3300. It’s been fine so far and easy to handle, since I’m just learning. Perhaps in the future I will progress as a photographer and then change it to some more professional model.

I have a stand to keep my camera stable but that’s all equipment I have at the moment. I use a lot of DIY equipment to create my works. I usually play with color filters, using piece of green or red plastic in front of the flashlight or using different colored lightbulbs to give a certain pop art vibe to my works. I use a couple of standard lamps or reading lights to create the lightning, or just daylight. I’m quite bad with Photoshop but I know the basics.

Vision Comes First Bob Tempera

Phoblographer: What motivates you to shoot?

Bob: My motivation is in the creating itself. The joy I get from an amazing and inspiring photo by others or by myself is always motivating to shoot more and try more.I’m a curious person and I’m constantly hunting for some visual inspiration. I can get inspiration or an idea almost from anywhere; it can be some creepy urban landscape, some specific light or detail outside, a peculiar antique store or a funny looking object. I walk and explore a lot, read books and magazines, watch a lot of movies and my head if full of ideas which are just waiting to transform in to photographs. In the future I would like to focus more on people and photograph different models.


Phoblographer: What photographers influence you

Bob: I love William Eggleston’s work and his ability to turn ordinary things extraordinary. I’m a huge fan of Miles Aldridge and I also admire the new generation of female photographers such as Alex Prager, Kourtney Roy and Nadia Lee Cohen who combine high fashion, Americana, pop art and cinema in their works.

Bob Tempera’s photography and determination to execute her unique vision despite access to studios or high-end equipment is a great reminder that it is the photographer that makes the photograph and everything else is just a tool.

I want to show that you don’t need to be rich or buy all that stuff to be an interesting photographer. If you have a passion to shoot, and a vision of what you want to do, no one can stop you. You can create your own set piece, you can even be your own model and you can do a lot even without stepping out of your front door. Sometimes even with the cheapest camera you can make great photos, if you have the right spirit. My motto is: the vision comes first.

We love Bob’s quirky and fun approach to fashion photography, pop art and Americana; she’s definitely a photographer to have on your radar. You can follow her work on Instagram.