Sprouts' first in-house photographer finds inspiration in organic beets and heirloom carrots.

Artist of the Month: Rob Ballard

Written by Teresa K. Traverse Category: Arts Issue: November 2016
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If you’ve been to Sprouts Farmers Market, you’ve seen Rob Ballard’s work. As the company’s first in-house photographer, he’s responsible for everything from badge photos to ads. That means he’s spent hours shooting heirloom carrots and tater tot nachos.

Boring? Not to Ballard, who prefers spending time with organic beets and colorful seltzer bottles over models – a trait that has served him well at the grocery store chain.

The El Paso native followed his sister to the Valley after losing his shipping company job in 2008. He’d been interested in photography since elementary school, and when his girlfriend gave him a Nikon D90 for Christmas, he decided to go pro in 2008. He honed his craft at The Art Institute and by shadowing pros like Phoenix commercial photographer Rick Gayle. After freelancing for a few years, he applied for the Sprouts gig online and was hired in January of 2015.

“I wanted my niche to be drinks, pours,” he says. His portfolio features an array of images, including one of a cookie splashing in heavy cream inside a martini glass. Another shows a Grey Goose vodka bottle suspended in undulating water.

What does he enjoy shooting most? “Clean product photos,” he says. Think: a striking Rolex magazine ad. Ballard realizes others might find his subject matter banal, but he enjoys the challenge of making ordinary objects extraordinary to move products off shelves.

“You do get frustrated, you do hit roadblocks, but I guess that’s what I’m in it for,” he says. Ballard’s laid-back demeanor is only topped by his quiet determination – he eyes a water bottle throughout our chat and envisions it through his lens. “I can only shoot you until you get tired. Then you’re not going to be happy, and I’m not going to be happy with the images, and it’s over,” he says. “But with your bottle... [it] could sit here, and I’ll come back tomorrow.”

– Teresa K. Traverse