Through the Lens: Pedalo Photography
For this month’s spotlight on Steel City snappers, we spoke to Rob Nicholson, one half of Sheffield-based creative duo Pedalo Photography.
What initially drew you to photography?
I’ve always been interested in photography. My uncle was a photographer at the Sheffield Star in the early 90s, so I think that probably planted a seed at an early age. I’d always taken photos on my phone and my brother [Andy Nicholson] is a great photographer, so I drew inspiration from what he was doing and only recently committed to taking it to the next level. I bought a second-hand camera from Harrison’s, the great camera shop on London Road, then my brother gave me a lens and it just progressed from there. I’ve upgraded everything in that time as I’ve developed as a photographer – I’ve gone from a small bag to a spare room full of equipment!
Could you tell us a bit about how Pedalo Photography came about?
It was during lockdown that me and James were going out on the bikes and riding around the peaks, as much for the company and our mental health as anything else. I was off work, James had to temporarily close all his bars, so it became an essential part of us staying sane. I’d started going out and learning how to use the camera in different environments, doing some more staged work at home, shooting still life, using flash, and essentially using the time I had to channel into this positive thing that I could throw myself into. James’ film photography is great; he’s got that natural eye for a shot in any setting. So it was just a general chat about it that lead to us thinking it could be something that we can get into, an actual free service (to begin with) that we can offer to some of the independent businesses we love. Given all these chats had happened in and around the bikes, the name ‘Pedalo’ was suggested and stuck straight away.
What motivates you creatively?
I like to think I have a creative mind but never really had a proper outlet for it until I started with photography. It can be a shot I’ve seen that I’ve taken inspiration from, or an idea that develops as a collaborative effort with other people, but I think my main motivation comes from wanting to create something people will enjoy. That was the same with music. Its great seeing people’s profile pictures on their social media change to a shot I’ve taken of them or work we’ve done for the businesses we shoot at – Ashoka, Public, Gatsby, Picture House Social – receive such positive feedback. That definitely keeps me motivated to work harder and keep doing what we’re doing.
So it was just a general chat about it that lead to us thinking it could be something that we can get into, an actual free service that we can offer to some of the independent businesses we love.
How would you say Sheffield lends itself to creative pursuits? For example, many photographers cite the accessible contrasts between urban/brutalist settings and plentiful areas of green space as being particularly inspiring.
We’re a city that makes things and always has, whether that’s steel, music or art. I think we have a unique advantage over other places and that’s partly down to the environment we’re in: you can go from brutalist architecture and modern buildings to the Peak District in the space of 20 minutes. We did a bit of a test shoot for a project the other day and within an hour we had three unique images that you just can’t get anywhere else in that timeframe. It feels like a city that has a unique canvas for creative photography.
What sort of settings do you enjoy shooting in the most?
It’s changed over the last year. It was originally going out and shooting landscapes in the Peaks, but recently I’ve started doing more portraits of people – whether it be outside, in a studio or even a documentary-style shoot where you’re just in the background, capturing a moment. I think I’m drawn to that more because of being inspired by shots like David Bailey’s candid Lennon & McCartney photograph – these iconic, fleeting moments captured on camera.
On that note, what would be your dream shoot? Either a certain person or setting – or, if you like, a certain person in a certain setting.
We’re still not even a year into Pedalo, and we’ve managed to do so much in that short space of time, but maybe working with more musicians and bands in a studio setting? Now everything is getting back to normal, we’ve talked about doing documentary photography of bands in a studio leading back up to a gig – a post-covid journey from the practice room to the stage. I’d like to go to other places and shoot as well. As much as we love Sheffield, it would be nice to travel and see more of the world after this period of isolation. A shoot for a band or artist out in New York or L.A. wouldn’t be bad, I guess!
Do you have any projects currently in the pipeline?
We’ve got something very exciting we’ve been working on with one of our football clubs, and I probably can’t say any more than that at the minute without giving the game away! We’re going to continue our journey with the city’s independent businesses. Seeing others make something great in this city is so inspiring and benefits all of us, so we love helping out and getting involved.