We had the good fortune of connecting with Robert Sturman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robert, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
For me, photographs are ideas. And they have the very real potential to perpetuate and evolve humanity. In my case, I choose ideas that will help evolve us in a positive direction. When people see a photograph that they can also feel in a profound way, they remember it, and it begins to shape how we see. The idea begins to grow into a larger reality. I first learned this when I began doing pictorial essays inside of various prisons, mainly San Quentin. I photographed yoga and meditation and at the time I began exhibiting the work through exhibitions, online platforms, magazines and newspapers, it was not a well known concept. But over time, people saw and felt the reality of it over and over again until it became accepted and hopefully, one day, expected.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work focuses on the goodness of this world. It is not a fantasy of finding some better world somewhere else. I am interested in what is going on right here, right now. I am interested in great ideas that evolve humanity in a more positive direction, from the military practicing yoga and meditation to children in schoolyards across the globe. Providing tools for us all is essential in a world that we will inevitably experience trauma. My subjects include everyone from firefighters to police officers, Maasai Warriors, housepainters, school teachers, to human beings serving life sentences in prison — telling a story of hope.
It took many years of development to be able to put myself aside and truly become an artist in service to life. When I started my journey as an artist, it was somewhat of a desperate attempt to find an identity and feel ok in this world. I filled hundreds of pages of sketchbooks. There was almost a madness trying to make sense of the irrational world and find some peace in myself. I also had been ideologically conditioned to believe that artists struggled, suffered, and on and on and on. That story is just a story. A very old story.
Early in my career, I took a trip to India and Nepal to do my first comprehensive international body of work. The moment I arrived, I came across a large sign with a quote by Osho that would forever change and inspire my life.
“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”
That was it. Nothing would ever be the same after reading those words. I realized that my art was simply an expression of a good life lived. My life was more important than my art. And my art was my life. I got it that day and that was all the permission I needed to create from a place of joy.
A couple of years later I was sitting in a museum in Europe. I looked around and I saw hundreds of people walking around, looking at the work in this incredibly beautiful multi-million dollar structure, secured by guards and cherished by the masses. It occurred to me that so many of the artists that were on display had lived lives of desperation. Many lost to suicide. I simply thought, if only they took care of themselves like their work was being taken care of. It was tragic. I got it that day. The story has to be rewritten and that is one of the wonderful things about being alive today — wellness is embraced. Meditation, yoga, etc… The story of human beings in pursuit of being better at being human. As Michelangelo so eloquently stated, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Personally, I think a drive up the coast to Northern Malibu is everything anyone could ever ask for. My pup and I head up there a few times a week — it is so easy to get there and it is quiet, exquisitely beautiful, and to be able to see, feel and breathe the mighty Pacific is what we were put on Earth to do. Great places to eat too. I highly recommend Cafe Habana for a wonderful Cuban themed meal. And for something on the go, there’s a spot down the road called the Vitamin Barn, which makes great juices, smoothies, avocado sandwiches and much more. Check out Matador Beach as well. It has a very Northern California/Big Sur vibe to it. A stop at Vintage Grocers on Trancas and Pacific Coast Highway is a real treat as well. Enjoy!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My dad does. He bought me a camera when I was fourteen. When I asked him what I was supposed to take pictures of, he said, “Anything that you love.” Best advice I’ve ever received as an artist to this day.
Image 1: Firefighter ~ New York
Image 2: Yoga at Pacho Viejo Penitentiary ~ Veracruz, Mexico.
I found Ivan (Chato) to be one of the brightest human beings I’d come across in the yoga world. He told me this: “Many people do not know how to see with the eyes of the Soul, they only know how to see with the eyes of the world.”
Image 3: Yoga Behind Bars ~ DVI Prison — Tracy, California
Image 6: The Getty Center ~ Los Angeles, California
While the world runs out, they run in.
Image 9: Dancer in the Sun
Image 10: Child’s Pose ~ The Pacific Islands
Image 11: Reflection for the Soul ~ Venice Beach, California