Rear view with Duane Robinson

Photographer Duane Robinson broke into the property market on a $40k a year income, and together with his family has grown a portfolio of six properties worth $1.2m. He talks about his strangest investment experience and one of the photos he is most proud to have taken

You began investing in 2011. Where is your portfolio at now?
Our property investment group, consisting of myself, my father and my partner, own six properties in NSW with a combined value of $1.2m. These include three in Wellington, one in Kempsey, one in Ettalong Beach and one in Gosford.

We recently refinanced all of our loans to take advantage of the current lower interest rates available. All are cash flow positive, some more than others. The regional properties continue to show excellent rental returns, while the properties closer to Sydney have experienced better capital growth. We’re pretty happy with that.

Outside of property investing, you live and breathe photography. How did you become passionate about that?
I became passionate about it when I realised the power that photography possesses in telling a story. I love the challenge of looking at a scenario and working out the most creative and interesting way to capture it. I think that the subject I’m most passionate about is portraiture.

Photographing people is one of the most difficult things to do, as not only do you have the technical and creative side of things to deal with but there is also a whole different set of obstacles involved in working with people and making them feel comfortable in front of the camera. The more at ease a person is, the better the image is.

What photo are you most proud of?
One of the photos I’m most proud of is a photo series I recently took of my partner, showing the stages of her pregnancy, at five, seven and nine months, with a final photo of her holding our newborn son. The results were stunning. It was a unique opportunity to combine ‘work life’ with ‘home life’!

Photography is something that requires immense care, patience and wise judgment. Based on that, would you say being a photographer has helped you as an investor?
Yes, I would definitely agree with that. In saying that, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn an incredible amount over the years in both photography and investing.

In photography I’ve used my education and experience to know when I’ve ‘got the shot’ I’m after. And investing is much the same. The more experience and education you have, the more confident you are in picking a solid investment!

You broke into the property market on a low income. What are two tips you would offer other investors who are currently in a similar situation?
1. Start on smaller investments initially in order to learn about how property investing works.

2. Don’t be afraid to look for growth areas outside capital cities.

During your property investing journey, have you had any strange experiences you would like to share?
Yes, one springs to mind. While I was renovating my first property in Wellington back in 2012, the next-door neighbour decided to skin and gut a kangaroo (which he had shot the night before) on his wheelie bin in the driveway. The driveway was shared with my own property, so it was a little too close for comfort!

Where do you look for inspiration, both as an investor and as a photographer?
My main form of inspiration for investing would be through articles I’ve read, written by other successful investors. In photography, my main form of inspiration comes predominantly from exhibitions and articles about new photographic techniques.

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