28 de junho de 2016



YV – As we know, a long time ago your father gave you your first camera. If he has not given this special gift to you, what Robert Sturman would be doing in his professional life right now?  On the other hand, can we believe destiny, anyway, would put a camera in your path and say: be inspired, develop your talent, do your best with heart open and help others too?

ROBERT – I do think destiny would have put something in my hands.  My father is an attorney and if for some reason I had followed in his professional footsteps, I would have been an attorney in service to the good of humanity. I am certain I would do my best to uplift the spirit of humanity.

YV – In 2010, with the closing of Polaroid, you made the shift to digital photography. How was this transition for you? Acceptance and detachment?

ROBERT –  What a great question. It was very hard for me. I was frightened. I had made a name for myself with the Polaroid process I used and I had no idea where I would turn. I think that was one of the dark moments of uncertainty that pushed me towards the mat. I had to find a new identity. And it was during that period that I found my own yoga practice and I happened to look around and I noticed that the asanas could provide me with a visual language that was so poetic, that I could begin to use to tell our story.

YV – Once, when you were in Varanasi, India, a man asked you to take his picture and you said “no”. That was a normal thing, because when foreigners goes to a tourist site locals used to go behind them; but when you came back to this place, the same man called you by your name and offered you a chai without ask anything back. Do you think this changed the way you see people and the world, giving you a new and truly perspective beyond the lenses that most of time capture beautiful landscapes and nice people? Moreover, can we say this episode motivated you to take pictures of prisoners, handicapped and other ones that most of people cannot see any beauty? So, for you, where is beauty? 

ROBERT – It was a moment that changed me because I realized within the massive annoyance of being pestered in India, that each person had a unique story. They were all human beings with a heart — a heart that breaks just like mine. I realized that I was also a beggar and a thief. I was taking pictures without really feeling the depth of my subjects. I was stealing. And I was begging because I wanted to succeed.  And on that journey, I learned that success to me had a lot to do with sincerity. It was a beautiful moment because I knew I could never be the same person I had always been. It made me sad to say good-bye to that old self,  and I felt like I was growing up into the warrior man I had always wanted to become.

As far as it motivating me to take a certain kind of picture. I suppose so. I suppose that rite of passage motivated my entire life.

YV – When Yoga practice and its study entered in your life? Can we say that Yoga made a big difference in your work as a photographer, in your Self and your life as a whole?

ROBERT – Yoga practice was the beginning of me rewriting the story that so many artists have lived by in the past. My heroes in the history of art, for the most part, lived lives of self-destruction and desperation. During that rite of passage I discussed earlier, it began simply by happening to come upon a quote by Osho. The following words changed my life.  It read, “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 the beginning of yoga for me. I knew that I could create a different story and live it.

YV – Sometimes an artist wake up for a day without any inspiration and this is a common situation; so, when you feel yourself not inspired, what do you do to get inspiration momentum back to create a portrait? Practice Yoga and meditate before a work are some tools? Do you have an inspired muse? Does Chai, your dog, inspire you?

ROBERT –  This is something that is not part of my vocabulary. When I was at the art academy and was doing assignments and around a lot of other artists, I had to dig for inspiration. But, as soon as I left the dream of the world and began to live within my own enchanting dream, I have never not known what to do. I think that is where the yoga comes in. You see, being an artist is just that — Being an Artist. It is my being and as long as I am alive, I am that.

YV –Are Yoga, Inspiration and Art in the same confluence? Do you sometimes feel free when making a portrait as nothing else exists beyond that moment, truly moksha?

ROBERT –  Yes. When I am in my work, that is all there is. Of course, I have to be aware of my surroundings, but the act of creation is consuming, as if I am in the heart of creation itself.

YV – What time of a day do you consider the best light to make an outside portrait? Are there some of Van Gogh’s and Monet’s presence in your portraits? An artist born an artist or he has to study and work a lot to develop a special talent to become a successful one? What else makes the difference to be talent?

ROBERT Unless it is cloudy, I prefer to work either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.  The light is softer at those times. My favorite is the golden light of sundown. This is  the most mysterious and enchanting light for me. It is purely magical.

There is always some of Van Gogh’s presence in my work. His love for color and connection with all that he painted had a great influence on me as I found my way as an artist. I would consider him my first teacher.

I believe an artist is a certain type of person who will  find a way to self-express poetically under any circumstances. Sometimes that can look like a person who sweeps the floor.

YV – You were in Africa for the Africa Yoga Project and inside San Quentin penitentiary for another one. In both situations, could you see any analogy, considering people in Africa have their limitations as prisoners have theirs? Have given them a chance to be focused for a camera to a portrait did help them to feel great and a nice person even for a moment?

ROBERT –  I have found in my work as an artist, that no matter who it is, when they are paid attention to, celebrated and seen,  they light up. It does not matter if it is a prisoner or a professional model. People receive something valuable when they are celebrated. It is the one common thread I have discovered in the wide variety of people that I work with. Everyone wants to be ok. It is so simple and it is so healing. The camera has great power in celebrating another.

YV – Gratitude is a word that nowadays is much said by many Yoga practitioners. Who are the people you have gratitude and for what else are you grateful?   (here is a gratitude list I made that was published in Yoga Journal last year. You are welcome to edit it. But I include it because my list has not changed)

ROBERT –  1. My mother, father, and two older sisters. Simply put, they are the most reliable, trustworthy people I have ever met, and I cherish them all. It has become so clear to me how those years growing up with my family has shaped so much of who I am, and it is truly a gift to be able to experience life with them as a grateful adult.

2. My pup, Chai. If I had to draw a picture of my heart, I think it would look just like her. It is a miracle how close human beings can be with dogs. I learn everything from her, mainly—to do what I love and keep life simple so that what I love is all there is.

3. My yoga teacher, Micheline Berry. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of gratitude I have for her. She provided me with the essential tools I needed to persevere as a creator in the world. Many of us artists don’t know how to sit still in the fire of existence. It is a big problem for most of us. But, going into it, through asana, is a beautiful way to confront it, endure it, and find peace with it. I look forward to the day yoga is mandatory at all art academies across the globe.

4. My best friend, Steven. He’s the brother I never had, and I’ve known him since I was born. It wasn’t until recently that I realized he was just like a brother and having a brother is something I am infinitely grateful for.

5. My body. I did not always treat it with the respect it deserves. But having fallen in love with the practice of yoga, I can honestly say that at 45 years old I am in the fiercest shape of my life and I feel like I’m 22. I need this body to do what I gotta do.

6) All the people I work with all over the world. For many years, I had to constantly prove myself as an artist to win the trust of the people I worked with. It is such a blessing to have that off the table and to be an artist within a global community of human beings who trust my sincerity and my vision.


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"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

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