Robert Tabor - Friend & Colleague
‘Passing Shots’ Graduating Students of Glasgow College of Building and Printing (1990). Robert Tabor (back row, 4th from the left)
The end of this year has come with the saddest of news. I recently learnt the sudden and unexpected passing of friend and colleague Robert Tabor. Robert was Course Leader and Manager of the Photography dept at West College Scotland.
I first met Robert over 30 years ago, we were young and enthusiastic, about to start the HND Photography course at Glasgow College of Building and Printing in the late 80’s. As students we learnt our craft and in third year became studio partners, sharing the set on the 13th floor overlooking George Square. I remember my annoyance as Robert left his still life advertising shot set up over many days on set while I was waiting my turn. It was a photograph of a power tool, might have been a heat gun or drill, I remember flames were involved anyhow. It was a great shot, a shot which spurred me on to up my game. We had fun and many years later recalled our times at college.
Upon graduation Robert was very organised, he and another student quickly set up a photography business, rented a studio in Finnieston under the name of G12 Photography. Personally, I was a bit directionless, but Robert hired me for a couple of jobs assisting on some corporate photography. I remember one job photographing a curry manufacturing business. We had to document the process of making curry which involved working in the busy commercial kitchens. The place was, well let’s say not as well-regulated in food hygiene as it would be today. We laughed about it afterwards, the place had old food and grease up the walls, it put us right off take away curry for years. On another job Robert and I photographed an engineering works and set up a studio in their warehouse to photograph their products. Robert told me to dress smart, so I wore my best cardigan. I never lived it down to this day, only this summer we were laughing about it again – it was a hideous cardigan.
I soon moved to London, so we lost contact for a while. We both set upon our own directions, Robert became a lecturer at Paisley College (West College Scotland) and I became an advertising photographer. After 12 years I returned to Edinburgh where I took up a job as lecturer at Telford College (Edinburgh College). I joined the SQA Verifiers Team which involved travelling around Scotland’s Colleges and verifying the National HND standard. I soon met Robert again and would visit him at college every year. We picked up where we had left off, reminiscing about our college days, the people we studied with and those first jobs we worked on. The cardigan fashion fiasco was never far from our minds.
I learnt that Robert was extremely organised at work but most of all built up a sense of family with his students. This came across in every visit I made, he would do anything for them, was very supportive and taught a professional forward thinking course. His Facebook Timeline still to this day is populated with stories from graduates thanking him for all he did, graduation photographs of happy students celebrating their achievements, happy faces; he made people happy.
The last conversation we had was a good few months ago. We were talking about the difficult year we both had teaching in Lockdown, the challenges it presented and swapping ideas of how we could make it better. Robert had a loyalty to Paisley and his students, he got them involved with the community, they collaborated with local businesses and exhibited their work every year. The phone call lasted well over the hour, and we spoke about our families and especially our kids. Robert was telling me of how proud he was of his son Callum who was making his own way in the world. I spoke of my daughter and how school has been difficult for her. He was again full of support and told me not to worry, they work it out in the end. We were due for another catch up this month but alas we will miss this one, for that I am most sad.
Robert’s passing will be a painful loss to his family, friends, colleagues, and students. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Lynn and son Callum. Be assured he was well loved beyond the home; he did a great job and helped guide many people. He leaves us a legacy to remember, be kind, be supportive, be organised, be passionate…make people happy.
Goodbye my friend.