Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Four decades of photographs

Rob d'Estrube still delights in capturing the moment

Rob d'Estrubé's biggest legacy greets visitors to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., where his photograph of a forest on Vancouver Island's west coast stretches more than 360 feet wide and stands 50 feet high.

It is the largest assembled photograph in the world, said the 62-year-old Victoria photographer, who is celebrating 40 years in business this year.

Working with assistant Dirk Heydemann of Nanaimo, a total of 80 rolls of film were shot at various locations on the Island in the late 1980s. The photos were taken while standing on sand at low tide before sunrise and transferred to a fabric called scrim. Two of the massive photographs were installed in the museum, one behind the other, to create a 3-D sensation as a backdrop to viewers looking at an aboriginal scene.

But the countless photographs d'Estrubé has taken during his colourful career are arguably just as important and long-lasting as the work in Ottawa.

Portraits are family treasures and d'Estrubé delights in getting to know people, considering it a privilege. His aim has always been to reflect an individual's personality.

"Anybody looks good when they feel right," he said during a recent interview. "It is like a flower opening. It's just the most fantastic thing to watch happening."

D'Estrubé's four decades behind the lens are recorded in portraits of dignitaries, such as the current Lt. Gov. Steven Point and his predecessors Iona Campagnolo and Garde Gardom. Landscapes, buildings and what he calls bodyscapes, or nudes, are all part of his business. And there are thousands of commercial jobs, weddings and reproductions of original art work among his colourful portfolio. About 60 to 70 per cent of the business is through portraits, whether personal or professional, d'Estrubé said.

D'Estrubé said photography is a "sharing of the story of somebody's value, or a product or a service. It is really neat to become involved and share it with the world. My stories are really simple. I want them to be self-evident."

The reward is to create something that is timeless, he said. "I sound really romantic about all this, but it is what it takes to stay interested in the long-term."

Photography has taken d'Estrubé across the country where he has shot highend hotels and hung out of helicopters to get the perfect shot. He's tucked cameras inside his jacket in the North West Territories to stop them from freezing up.

Born in Edmonton, d'Estrubé moved to B.C. with his family at a young age. After graduating from Mount Douglas Secondary, he spent three years at Brooks Institute of Photography in California.

He launched the business in 1972, crediting one early job with helping establish his business. He took a photograph of an architect's rendering of the planned Laurel Point condominium project. That job led to job after job, including shooting for Delta Hotels and Coast Hotels.

In 1979, a partnership was formed with Western Illustrators, a photograph and art house, which lasted until 1981 when tough economic conditions took their toll, he said. D'Estrubé then went back to running his own business, called Destrubé Photography.

(The business name is in a different style from his family name.) It is located in 3,000 square feet with two studios at 604 Yates St.

D'Estrubé and Cheryl have been married 39 years.

He credits Cheryl's efficiency as business administrator with allowing him to focus on his photography.

The couple have two adults sons and a grandson.

Idar Bergseth of Idar Jewellers downtown has used d'Estrubé since the photographer's early days in business, describing him as creative and great to work with. "I see a sense of professionalism and that's what you need when you are trying to do something for advertising ... It is that ability to know what looks good and how to place things, and what other people will perceive from that."

D'Estrubé has embraced technology as it sweeps over his profession, saying the digital revolution is "the best thing that's come along in a long, long time."

"With film, there's only so much we can do to change or improve the picture taken. With digital, there is almost no end to the power of interpretation that we can bring to it."

After four decades , d'Estrubé is still in love with photography. "If I can still explore something new and reinvent the wheel, I like that." He hopes to semiretire in a couple of years, but added "I'd like to be in demand forever ... but slow down gradually."

On the Web: