Chaos, Abstraction and Dancing to Deep House with Photographer Robin Hogarth

12 Feb 2021

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Distinctive to being both a photographer and dancer, Robin Hogarth was a familiar face on the London club scene.

His story starts with Hip Hop and early House/Balearic Beats and he travelled to Ibiza long before it became the de-facto party destination of the world.

Robin co-produced a film called Electro Rock, the first British film about breakdancing and Hip Hop. At that time a highly motivated Paul Oakenfold was managing a dance crew called ‘The London All Stars and Robin and Paul became friends.

Robin went on to photograph for Paul Oakenfold’s club nights as well as many other clubs in the UK and elsewhere, he is now back on Koh Phangan, enjoying every single day whilst continuing to dance to his new found love of Deep House...

Hey Robin, so this is not your first time on Phangan, what’s your story?
The first time I came here is so far back I can’t remember the year, it was about ten or eleven years ago.

How I discovered the spot where I spent many visits was because my friend in the UK told me to go to ‘Pong’s Bungalows’, Pi Pong is a long time resident and has had bungalows and restaurants there for fifteen to twenty years. I spent a few days on Samui then found my way to Thong Nai Pan Noi beach.

I moved onto the beach and found my way to Jungle Bar, asked about Pong and they said he’s having a party so I found his house and we became friends.

I loved that village, twice a week there was parties, Jungle parties and Hideaway, Hideaway was epic, run by Pi Kay. We had a wonderful life there, so I would come back year after year and spend very little time on this side (the south) of the island.

During this time I met Andy Newman who had started something called The Sandbar and worked with him because I liked what he did.

What was Koh Phangan like all those years ago in your eyes?
I’ll talk about Thong Nai Pan Noi beach as the reason we went so often was because it was the finest beach on the island. There were bungalows all around the beach so it was perfect for life there, I didn’t go far as it was all there.

It continued for a number of years but then became a victim of its own success when the five star resorts came in and offered money they couldn’t refuse and then started to appear.

After Sandbar I invested in renting the ‘Indigo Gecko Bar’ which was to become our base and club, it was a lovely building rented by an english girl and her thai boyfriend that went to the UK to educate their kids. Then the five star resorts started building accommodation for their employees so we weren’t allowed to play loud music
anymore. It’s still as attractive as ever but the good times, other than go to visit people, have gone.

Meanwhile Sandbar has become a real winner, they’re doing extremely well with this concept, the reason being is that all the people staying in the luxury resorts go late at night and have a great time.

In the early days my son came to the village and met his subsequent wife there, now they’re married and have a child.

When did you start your photography?
As a child I was given an A120 roll film camera by my parents and so, as of then I was shooting pics on a camera that had all controls manually set so I learnt by doing it, as one does.

Then later on that developed into my interest of nature photography which I absolutely love and whilst travelling in Ibiza I was shooting many many pictures and then subsequently got involved in the club scene and got involved there with promoters, this went even faster when the digital world came in.

So you photograph two ends of the spectrum, abstract nature and club/party culture, was this a conscious decision and why do you enjoy this?
Quite simply I love nature and am strongly connected, it reveals itself to me and I’ve developed that into the abstract style particularly in the waterscapes and texture images.

I observe that many people are shooting pics of nature and it’s great but I’m looking further into abstract style, it’s the inspiration of light and water that really inspires me and there I find many images.

And then in the party photos, I became deeply involved in the music scene, in particular the club scene and it was after I co-produced a film called ‘Electro Rock’ where I met Paul Oakenfold and subsequently started shooting pics at his club night called ‘The Project’ in Streatham London. At the time I was shooting slides which we projected the following week and so it just continued from there.

I was loving the balearic beats at the time and followed along with that and started going to many, many other clubs. Sometimes four time a week, promoters paid me to shoot for them and at the same time I developed ‘dance or die’ which is my philosophy I live by and recommend it to anyone.

‘Use it or lose it’ is the slogan I use and you will see me dancing like mad at any party where the beats are deep and friendly.

Do you exhibit?
I’ve exhibited and sold many times with my abstract work all over London over the years.

And currently I’m doing canvases and that particularly works beautifully with the abstracts.

Where has been your favourite club and location for photos?
As far as locations are concerned, many of the shots in the abstract series are taken on the river Tillingbourne in Surrey UK.

Club wise I love a club where they have a good lighting system as this gives good depth and recently at Jungle Experience I had the best experience for a long time because of their good lighting and artwork construction.

What will you be focusing on this year?
If I’m on the island I’ll look to get commissions to shoot at various parties and on the nature side I would look to find some interesting locations around the island where I can find subject matter.

In the uk I recently had some cushions made using my abstract images, many of them from Thailand and they seem to work really well in the current art world where chaos and abstraction is becoming more interesting whereas what I would say is what I really need is an agent, I’m not particularly good at selling my work, I’m good at making it. Though as I’ve said I have made many exhibitions and sold work and did have an agent at one time so who knows?!

I also look forward to collaborating with Christopher Thomas on mixed media artworks.

What do you enjoy about Koh Phangan in your free time?
I love the nature, the fact that the island is covered in jungle, therefore the nature’s really interesting.

Otherwise hanging out at places like Two Rocks, an old school resort, there’s not many of them left where we can still have parties and keep the five star vibe away.

And what is your life philosophy?
To remember that I chose to come here in this life and to take responsibility for that choice and wake up to the reality of life in a five sense illusion.

See more of Robin's work on Dance or Die and Robin Hogarth