Crossroads of change
For 17 years, Robin Riddle held a prominent Group CEO position, but a fateful journey along the famed Camino de Santiago in Europe saw him at a crossroads – one which resulted in his resignation. At 61 years old, Robin started all over again in pursuit of his destiny.
Robin Riddle peers down at the salt pan 4000ft below. Where others see expanses of water separated by roads, Robin sees geometric forms in shades of turquoise, blue and mustard. It’s this perspective that has seen him become an internationally-renowned award-winning photographer, cementing his decision to bid farewell to the 24/7 corporate life in search of a more enriching vocation.
Robin spent 40 years in the hospitality sector (aside from a stint with the Australian Air Force as a youngster), which has seen him work in a range of managerial positions across various sporting clubs around Australia.
Most recently he was Group CEO of Easts Leagues Club in New South Wales, home of the Sydney Roosters rugby league club.
“I’d done the same thing for 17 years and we were pretty successful,” he says, “I had a great board of directors and I loved my job, but it was 24 hours a day, so I figured that it needed some fresh blood, you can stay too long in a position and 17 years was too long.”
A moment of clarity came in 2011, when Robin embarked on a solo expedition of the Camino de Santiago, a 780km walk from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, which takes around five weeks to complete.
“I had always loved my camera,” he says of his original film 35mm Pentax camera.
“It was a great hobby and it was always something that I loved too, but I shelved that when I started my career. I didn’t even think about it again until 2011, when I ended up walking the Camino.
“I met many people, but one of them was a Canadian photographer and he spoke about his photography and it rekindled my interest. I finished the Camino and went back and resigned from my role.”
And so Robin bought a new camera and began taking photos again. He moved back to the Sunshine Coast and enrolled in a Diploma of Photo Imaging at TAFE Queensland East Coast.
“It’s a long journey because I’m competing with people who have been in the business for 30 and 40 years and it’s not something you can pick up and read a book about, or get a great camera and say, ‘Okay that’s it’, although a lot of people think that,” he says.
“It takes a lot of experience, a lot of know-how; I’ve got a long way to catch up and I’m working on that.”
While that may be true, he’s already been recognised in several high calibre awards including Silver Award at the 2016 AIPP Queensland ‘Photographer of the Year’, Silver with Distinction Award at the 2016 Australian Professional Photography Awards, Bronze Award at the 2014 International Loupe Awards, Gold Award at the 2014 IPA and named in the Top 101 in the 2014 International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.
One of his most esteemed pieces is a trilogy taken at the salt pan in Shark Bay, Western Australia – all three images have also been individually awarded, including taking out a Gold Award in New York.
It takes a lot of experience, a lot of know-how; I’ve got a long way to catch up and I’m working on that.”
“I like landscape the most, but going to TAFE opened up all of these other opportunities and architecture began to work into that thinking, I like taking photos of buildings and I’m leaning towards that. Landscape is still there, but it’s more of a cityscape.
“I live it every day, you can look around here, there are books on photography and before you came, I was reading a book, I’m always reading a book or processing photos.
“The job at Easts was 24 hours a day, you might go home, but things are on your mind or you’re on the phone, here is the same, but the beauty of this is you can link it with travel.
“I’ve just spent 10 weeks with my wife Minna (who he also met on that fateful Camino walk, but that’s a story for another time) in Europe and that was fantastic; we went to Italy, Portugal, Spain, France and Finland, which is where Minna comes from.”
With a keen eye and a passionate heart for his newfound career, Robin is living proof of Winston Churchill’s quote, “The vistas of possibility are only limited by the shortness of life”.