Recently we had the pleasure of a visit from photographer, Rob Hammer. He has released 2 books of his travels around the country photographing barber shops that caught his eye along the way. His work is far beyond just barbershops you should check out his website to see the exceptional work for yourself! www.robhammerphotography.com
He is set to start working on a podcast that is sure to be a great listen given his country wide exposure to the industry and craft. So make sure to keep an eye and ear out!
We also took advantage of his visit to start something we planned to do on our site for a while. We want to slowly reach out to people in the industry and have them answer a few set questions so people can get into the individual behind the lens or chair. Just some quick questions to fire off with quick answers that give you a glimpse into where everyone comes from. We will call it the "brass tax" in our blog, so keep an eye out for all our latest entry's. So let's start this off with Rob Hammer!
Name of Business, and location of shop or business?
Rob Hammer Photography - San Diego,CA.
“Never trust a fart” - Jack Nicholson
What do you like currently trending in the industry?
It’s really encouraging to see how supportive barbers are of each other. It would be easy for every barber to look at the other as competition, but instead they all encourage each other to be better. That’s something that, for the most part, you really don’t see in the photography industry.
What you don’t like currently trending in the industry?
Sunglasses and Yeezy’s indoors.
Childhood dream profession?
More relaxing, beach or mountains?
I have never been someone that can just sit in one place for any extended period of time, so the beach bores the shit out of me. I love being at or around beaches, but I can’t just lay around all day. Mountains are more my jam. During winter especially. I try and spend as much time in the mountains snowboarding as possible. Apres is awesome.
Something you sold, gave or threw away you wish you had back?
There honestly isn’t one thing I can think of. It’s easy getting attached to things, but when you no longer have them, it’s also easy to realize that you didn’t need them. As I get older I need less and less. Probably sounds dumb, but I really enjoy having photographs to look at instead of “things”.
Have you ever been on stage for something not related to your current profession?
Hhhhmmm. In middle school I had a very small and ridiculous part in a school play. My friends still bust my balls about it.
Person(s) you learned the most from in your craft?
Not sure there is any one person I can narrow it down to. There are so many really inspiring photographers out there. To contradict one of my last answers, I’ve accumulated a large collection of photography books over the past couple years that are both inspiring and educational. I really loving sitting down with them and just nerding out on other peoples work. If I had to narrow it down to one, I’m a huge fan of William Eggleston. Legend.
Hobbies outside of work?
Backcountry snowboarding, traveling, food, smoking meats, chopping wood, beer.
Favorite pro athlete? (Current or retired)
Michael Jordan- The Goat. In my opinion the most charismatic and talented athlete of all time. He changed what it is to be not just an athlete, but a brand.
Larry Bird. Aka Larry Legend. Walked into the locked room during All-Star Weekend before the 3 Point Contest and said “which one of your assholes is coming in second? “
Gotta love people like John Daly too. Those guys that are in the public eye but just don’t give a flying fuck.
Dream car (or bike)?
The Lincoln Continental’s from the late seventies are so goddamn sexy. Would love to have one of those at some point.
Any recent embarrassing moment?
Every day I manage to do something completely stupid. Too many to mention.
What city did you grow up in?
Small town outside Albany, NY called Averill Park.
What country/ city would you like to visit that you have yet to go to?
Traveling is one of my greatest passions, and I’ve been lucky to do a good amount of it to some amazing places. Always have a hard time picking the next destination because there are so many great ones, but parts of Russia are very intriguing. Bangladesh. Chile
What country/ city was your favorite that you have been to?
Delhi, India can make you feel like you’re on another planet. Truly. Love that place. Would go back tomorrow if I had the opportunity. Istanbul, Turkey is rad as hell too.
What is something people would be surprised you enjoy?
Love drinking tea.
Favorite band or group that you think most people wouldn't have heard of?
Music goes in big phases for me. Colter Wall is dude I’m listening to a lot right now.
Musical guilty pleasure?
Adele is a bad bitch. I never get upset to randomly hear her voice.
Top 5 rappers or hip-hop groups?
Jay-Z has been my guy since day 1. You remember back in the days of BMG and Columbia House when they used to send you like 5 Cd’s for free if you agreed to sign up for a membership? Jay-Z’s first album “Reasonable Doubt” was in my first package from BMG and I had never heard of him. Changed the game for me. Aside from him probably Biggie, Nas, Tribe Called Quest, and old school Snoop.
Top 5 Bands and or musicians?
In no particular order : Jay-Z, Biggie, Rolling Stones, Waylon fuckin Jennings, and Sturgill Simpson.
Play any instruments?
No. Played a few as a kid, but was horrible at all of them. My mother played a lot of piano and tried to teach me, but I wasn’t receptive to it at all. Wish I had stuck with it. Seems really relaxing.
Any current sponsors or people you would like to thank?
Anyone and everyone who who has ever supported my barbershop project in any way. Whether it was purchasing the book, a print, following me on IG, commenting/liking posts, sending direct messages, hiring me, whatever. It’s all really cool. I started the project because I love it and had no thought of actually making money, so to hear that people are so stoked on it is amazing.
As a photographer what brought you to focus on barbering for your books?
Barbershops are something I’ve always enjoyed. They are an incredible piece of American culture that started disappearing and that bummed me out, because it means that there are people who will never get to experience them. So I guess it’s kind of my way of preserving them and creating a way for people to enjoy them even after they are gone.
How long did it take to complete the project.
Have been working on it for close to 6 years now, and it probably won’t ever be done. I’ll continue shooting shops all over the world as I continue visiting new countries.
How many barbershops did you visit?
Hard to say at this point, but it’s somewhere north of 1,000.
What was your process in choosing the barbershops to shoot?
Just like any other profession, there are a lot of shitty barbershops out there with no soul. The ones I was/am looking for have to be very authentic. Real barbershops just feel authentic because they are a direct reflection of the barbers and his customers. The shop grew naturally over time. You can always tell when you walk into a shop that is just trying to look cool. That sucks. Real barbers aren’t trying. They just are.
Name a couple barbershops that you recommend to drop by to see in person?
Depends on where you’re at in the country, but some of the really old school shops I love are Sweeny Todd’s in LA, Cuts and Bends in Oakland. Man, there are so many rad shops out there to see if you’re willing to travel for them. Unfortunately a lot of them have already disappeared, but Imperial Barbershop in Omaha is a cool one. Craighead Barbershop in Nashville. Mack Brooks Barbershop in Crestview, FL. Joe’s in Chicago is an institution.
On the newer school side, Pugsly’s Sideshow is next level. Eagle and Pig is about as rad a shop as you’ll find anywhere. Syndicate of course. Al’s in Alameda. MJ Solofa in Berkeley. Avenue in Austin.
We want to thank, Rob. Make sure to go give him a follow and visit his page!
Photo: Rob Hammer & Ricky
I appreciate the work Mr. Hammer is doing with the older barbershops. My dad was a barber and bought the shop from a wonderful older man who, along with his wife, grew to be family to us. Dad closed the shop in the late 1970’s when the newer shops were taking over.
I wanted to buy both Mr. Hammer’s books, but the first one is too high priced right now. I’m hoping to buy the second book for my dad for this Christmas. I know he will really enjoy it. We all will. I have Dad’s barber chair in my home which has moved with me 4 times. My daughters and granddaughters love it as much as I do. 💙
I thank Mr. Hammer for giving light to a life that was so much more than cutting hair.