Blog USA / Van Robinson


There is a type of storytelling that is unique to photography. As Susan Sontag said in her book On Photography, “Photographs do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniature realities, that anyone can make or acquire.” A similar sentiment is felt when looking at California nativeĀ Van Robinson’sĀ photography. His style swings between snapshot and still life where the difference between the moments he has carefully composed and the moments he snapped candidly is artfully blurred. Robinson’s work is exciting to me because he’s young and already so talented with an intriguing body of work that makes you wonder what happens when he puts the camera down. In this way, his photos because mysterious although his shots are clear and evoke a distinct mood. Take a look for yourself and step into the quiet world of Van Robinson.


Where did you grow up and where are you now and how has the distance (or non-distance) affect the way you see things?
I grew up in the small college town San Luis Obispo, located dead center between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is about 10 minutes from the beach and was called the happiest place in America by Oprah Winfrey. I still live here, sadly. Although it isn’t my favorite place, it is very beautiful. I appreciate it, but since I have lived here my whole life it can be difficult to find inspiration. I find that I have to look into the things that seem so familiar to me.



What first drew you to photography and what do you like about it?
I actually wanted to become a surf photographer when I was 15 so I got a digital camera for Christmas. Since then a lot has changed, my outlook on photography is much different. I don’t look at it as something I want to make money off of anymore. Now I just want to be producing good art, that people can appreciate. And I feel really good about myself when I am active with photography.


When you take photos are you selective with what you’re pleased with/choose to photograph? Do you take time to compose a shot?
I am very selective, I try not to shoot a lot and hope something comes out. I have done that in the past and it usually doesn’t work for me. I always question composition before shooting a photo, because there have been to many times where I get a roll back and there is something hiding in the frame. I tend to run my eye around the viewfinder before snapping. I do take a lot of snapshots, many are for memories, or just for fun. But my serious work is more thought out and composed, my current project is a mix of partially staged images, and candid shots that I cant control what so ever.



Why do you choose the subjects you do and what is your relationship to them?
I dont really know. When shooting people I pick who ever looks the most comfortable with the camera. The one thing I hate is unintentional awkward photos. Don’t get me wrong I like awkward photographs if they are done properly, but when I can tell somebody is trying to look a certain way, thats what bothers me. But all my photos are of friends or family, I rarely shoot strangers.



What are you up to/working on and what are your plans for the rest of the year?
I am working on a few projects. First things first I want to finish my photo project, then publish that. Other than photography I am trying to get my self publishing going. I have fallen in love with making high quality photo zines/booklets, I want to help young photographers get their work out. Expect at least 3 personal zines from me before 2011 is over.

Van Robinson lives and works out of San Luis Obispo.