Rolph Gobits


Rolph Gobits was born in The Hague and grew up in Amsterdam; he was based in the UK from 1967 until 2021, when he returned to the Netherlands. As a young boy, he became very interested in photography and saved up to buy his first 35mm camera. In 1967, when he moved to England for language studies at a college in Bournemouth, Gobits discovered the local art college and soon applied with a portfolio of his photographs he had sent from Holland. After four years studying photography at the Arts Institute of Bournemouth, Gobits went on to study at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1971. After completing his MA in Photography at the RCA, Gobits received commissions immediately, working for magazines such as NOVA, Cosmopolitan, The Daily Telegraph Magazine, The Guardian and The Observer Magazine among many others. Gobits produced a series of memorable portraits for Management Today magazine, working for renowned art director, Roland Schenk.

Gobits’ extensive editorial and advertising career began with his stylish campaign in 1973 for the department store, BIBA. Many other advertising campaigns followed for companies including Benson & Hedges, Mercedes-Benz, American Express, IBM, The Ritz Carlton, Sotheby’s, and Gucci.

He has become particularly known for his portrait images, and his subjects have ranged from artists such as Jenny Saville, Steve McQueen, Damian Hirst and Edward Bawden; the fashion designer Jean Muir; the CEOs of major UK companies; and writer J.G. Ballard. Gobits has exhibited his work in Europe, Russia, USA and the UK, and his recent exhibitions include From Here to There: Fifty Years of Photography at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth (2009); Travelling Entertainers at the Epsom FotoFestival Naarden, Netherlands (2013); and AOP50 Exhibition, Association of Photographers, London (2018).

Gobits has worked on his major personal project of portraits of travelling entertainers and vaudeville performers for more than five decades. He has travelled all over the UK to produce more than 150 photographs, many to be included in his forthcoming book of images from this project. Gobits says that most of these entertainers were no longer earning their livings as performers, having gradually being made redundant by television. He has photographed these performers in their modest homes or nearby environment, saying that he feels that he has been capturing a disappearing world,‘a forgotten tribe’.

Siobhan Wall, in a perceptive article published on EYEMAZING, writes that "these images could be perceived as the (imaginary) result of what would happen if Angela Carter and Harold Pinter wrote a play together: with fantasy roles being played out in very ordinary spaces with no audience on hand to witness the extraordinary feats of these venerable performers" and how Gobits "never ridicules or mocks these heroines, acrobats, and illusionists. Instead, he prefers to capture the last vestiges of this dying profession. These outstanding images make all the participants seem dignified despite their bedraggled costumes. Gobits honours everyone he photographs and it is rare to see contemporary images portray such extraordinary integrity and enchantment."