She’s been studying her craft for years, having worked in all facets of the field. Today, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Robin Henson, a photographer with an impressive resume, a passion for her work and a love for the people of Atlanta.
Are you originally from Atlanta? If not, how did you land here?
My husband and I moved to Atlanta from Florida in 1991. We wanted to live and work in a city with a thriving photo/video/music/art community. We had a number of friends in Atlanta, so it was a perfect fit for us.
Tell us about your family—human, furry or otherwise.
I am the middle of five children, and I talk with my sisters daily. I have been married to my husband, Curtis, for 30 years. He is a videographer, and we both work from home and shoot on location. We don’t have children, but always have a dog (or two) in the house. Right now, that’s the amazing Willy, who we found through Lifeline Animal Rescue. Curtis shared a photo of Willy with me posted online by the shelter. I thought the poor thing looked like an opossum in the picture, so we passed on him a couple times. After giving him one more look, we decided to visit him in person. We fell in love with that critter and brought him home. The lesson: Great photos get dogs adopted … bad ones, not so much!
How long have you been a photographer, and how did you get into the field?
My first real taste of shooting and processing photos came in high school. Miss Garritano taught me everything. Agitating film, slamming canisters and watching images appear before my eyes in the darkroom was both addictive and magical. I attended Southeast Center for Photographic Studies on scholarship, thanks to her. After college, I worked in a small studio/lab. One of our jobs was printing mug shots for the police department, which was quite entertaining.
Once Curtis and I moved to Atlanta, I was lucky to be hired by Moakler Photographic. They were one of two main photo labs located in the heart of Midtown. The early ’90s were an exciting time to be working in Atlanta; I met all the photographers and assistants as they buzzed in and out of the lab. Listening to conversations about their projects while carefully studying their images at light tables, I saw big-budget commercial shoots to high fashion, Playboy and more.
After leaving the lab, I began assisting my favorite photographers, and my real education began. I helped an architectural photographer shoot the high-roller “suits” in Las Vegas and assisted an editorial photographer shoot the “10 Most Successful Business People in America” for Forbes. I loved working with Ruth Leitman and her studio in Cabbagetown. She shot musicians for Rolling Stone magazine. My favorite shoots were George Clinton and Maureen “Moe” Tucker of the Velvet Underground.
Photographers passed work my way and I started making connections on my own. Most photographic work is freelance, so you have to really like people and socialize.
Tell us about your favorite photo shoot to date. Who was it, and why was it awesome?
My favorite shoots might be more about who I photographed rather than the shoot itself. I was thrilled to witness Maya Angelou read stories to a group of Y children, and mesmerized as Ambassador Andrew Young spoke of his history with the YMCA and how the Y helped mold him as a child. I was also honored to meet and photograph Dr. Helene Gayle while she was president and CEO of CARE USA. I shot her portrait for the cover of A & U Magazine while she was interviewed about her HIV/AIDS work.
My shoots for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Marcus Autism Center keep me grounded. I am amazed by the courage and strength of the children and their parents at such a vulnerable time in their lives.
The most fun I have experienced at a shoot was for Usher’s New Look Foundation. His program provides role models and mentors for disadvantaged kids. We rounded up 35 to 40 teens to participate, and everyone had a blast.
What’s the secret to getting the perfect photograph?
It’s helpful to make conversation with your subject before lifting the camera. I’m on the silly side, so I almost always use humor to put people at ease before shooting. We’re just people connecting.
Tell us about someone—a mentor, a peer, etc.—who has impacted your work and how.
Miss G (Sandy Garritano-Provencher) was my funky, highly motivated teacher in high school. She allowed me to hang out in the darkroom during school. She submitted students’ work to a variety of sources outside school. Because of her dedication, I was awarded a scholarship to attend Southeast Center for Photographic Studies. Her encouragement and confidence helped guide me toward a rewarding career; we still talk via email and Facebook.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My father told me to always give 110 percent, and people will have your back. I do and they have.
If someone was just starting out in a photography career, what wisdom would you impart on them?
Take classes and assist photographers, if you can. I assisted a number of photographers for three to four years before going out on my own. Work in a lab or other business related to photography. People skills are very important. Building trust and strong relationships by meeting deadlines, budgets and expectations of a project will help secure your place within a company. I have been shooting for a few of my clients for 10 to 20 years. And learn the business side of photography; shooting is only half of the job.
When you’re not photographing people, how do you spend your free time?
I roller skate, seek out local art and music, and watch lots of documentaries. I like to cook with fresh, local produce. I enjoy planting native plants, which attract bees, butterflies and birds. I love roaming the streets of East Lake photographing people in my neighborhood, and I especially have big love for the kids of my neighborhood.
What’s your favorite part about living in Atlanta?
The revitalization of the Oakhurst/East Lake/Kirkwood area is unbelievable. In the early ’70s and ’80s, the East Lake neighborhood was considered to be one of the most dangerous in the city. Innovative redevelopment created a thriving mixed-income community.
Where was your last best meal in town?
If money was no object, where would you most like to travel?
My grandmother was from Ireland, so I’ll start there.
If you could meet anyone—dead or alive—who would it be and why?
What books are currently on your bedside table?
I just finished The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller, and Shutterbabe, by Deborah Kogan. I also have two books recently written by friends. The first is Crooked Letter i, a collection of life stories about coming out in the South; my client-turned-friend B. Andrew (Drew) Plant contributed one of 16 essays to it. The second is Tiger Heart, by Katrell Christie and Shannon McCaffrey. I played roller derby with Katrell from ’95 to ’97. She’s a tough cookie with a heart of gold and has worked tirelessly to educate women in India.
What are three things you couldn’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Laughter, music and Willy the dog!
Robin, thank you for bringing your creative skills and offbeat vibe to Atlanta. See more of Robin’s work at her website, robinhenson.com.
Thanks to Catrina Maxwell of CatMax Photography for today’s fantastic photos.