Herb Robinson has been documenting the human experience as a photographer for over 50 years. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he immigrated to New York City as a young child. His early work includes black and white street scenes, abstract works and portraits which were influenced by the renowned photographer Roy DeCarava. Robinson was one of the original members of The Kamoinge Workshop, the legendary Black photography collective founded in 1963 at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Robinson’s work has been shaped by cinema, painting and jazz. The painters Peter Paul Rubens, El Greco, Chardin and Vermeer were notable influences, shaping Robinson’s sense of composition and use of light. During his formative years he was enthralled by the live jazz being played by his neighbors, many of whom were famous musicians. That jazz aesthetic and spontaneity are apparent in both his earlier street photography and his more recent photographic series of the past decade. Robinson has stated, “My instrument is the camera, it is the vessel that responds to and carries my emotions.” His humanist street photography incorporates experimental approaches in framing, use of blurring and edge tension that heighten abstract and surreal dimensions of urban life. In addition to his fine art photography, Robinson trained as a still life photographer and operated his own commercial studio in New York.
Robinson’s work was part of the major Tate Modern exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which first opened in London in 2017. Following the Tate Modern, Soul of a Nation traveled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas; the Brooklyn Museum; the Broad Museum in Los Angeles; the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Robinson’s work is also part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts exhibition in Richmond, Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop, which has traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Cincinnati Art Museum and The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Robinson’s photographs are part of the Katherine E. Nash Gallery of the University of Minnesota exhibition, A Picture Gallery of the Soul.
Robinson is the co-editor of Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge (Schiffer Publishing, 2015.) The book was recognized by the New York Times as one of the best photography books of the year. He curated the Timeless exhibition at Kenkeleba Gallery in 2016.
Herb Robinson’s METRO / New York / London/ Paris, curated and edited by Eve Sandler, was released in 2022 by Schiffer Publishing.
Robinson’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; J. Paul Getty Museum; National Gallery; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Baltimore Museum of Art. He is represented by the Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York City.