A Yoga Photography Workshop with Robert Sturman
I first heard about Robert Sturman from this article published in the New York Times. I was immediately drawn to the movement and form of his images. I remember thinking, “This guy has an eye for composition.” I mean, really, how bad can an image be of a gorgeous person in a beautiful setting performing a well executed yoga posture? The thing about Robert’s work is that he takes that almost no lose formula and adds his incredible sense of composition and the results are some very striking images. I began mulling over in my mind all of the beautiful yoga teachers and practitioners I have come to know, love and respect and wondered if there would be a way for me to capture some of that beauty in my own photography.
Then one of my favorite Yoga teachers posted a link to a workshop Robert was giving at a local Yoga studio. How amazing is that?
The workshop was held at Elements Yoga and Wellness Center in Darien, CT. There were 8 of us gathered there to learn and practice what we learned both as photographers and models. Robert began by telling us a bit of the evolution of his art, starting from manipulated Polaroid images to his transition to digital images upon the demise of the original Polaroid film. Then he had us practice taking shots of some poses inside the studio before we all headed off to Waveny Park in New Canaan for the real fun and meat of the workshop.
The technique that Robert uses is simplicity itself. He said that people would be surprised at how easy what he teaches turns out to be. In a way, he’s right. It is pretty easy — and mostly because of what I had said earlier — take a beautiful model in a well executed Yoga pose in a lovely setting and you have the makings of an image that will be sure to impress. And it could be just as simple as that. But what Robert modestly leaves out is that in order to take the kind of images he takes and seemingly so easily is that first, you have to be able to see.
That’s why Robert is so masterful at what he does. He is very practiced at seeing — the right angles, the shapes, the juxtaposition of shapes — all the elements that go together to take an image from just pleasing to beautiful.
I have to come clean here and admit that I went into the workshop a bit skeptical about what I was going to come out with in the end. I had been looking at Robert’s work as I was waiting for the day of the workshop to arrive and my inner critic, normally reserved for my own work, was coming out and whining big time. Blah, blah, blah. But as I listened to Robert speak about what he does, I realized that Robert is an artist, not a photographer, and while the camera is the tool that he uses to create his art, he isn’t a technician and I wasn’t going to be learning about F-stops and shutter speeds and depth of field. This was a workshop about seeing and feeling. As Robert spoke about his work he pointed out details in his images that made them more than just pretty snapshots. He talked a bit about the “Decisive Moment” and at that moment, I was hooked.
My husband (who is also a photographer) and I have had many conversations about art and composition and whether it is innate or if it can be learned. I think we decided that while it can be learned, it’s easier if it’s already there, but it either case it has to be practiced. I can’t tell you whether Robert’s ability to see the way he does came with the package or was a skill he picked up and learned along the way, but I can tell you that he is extremely practiced at it.
I am so very pleased that I had this opportunity to learn from Robert and to meet and spend time with the other participants who came to photograph and be photographed and to share the love of Yoga and photography, 2 practices that are near and dear to my heart.
You can be sure that if Robert offers another workshop anywhere close to my area, I am going to be there and do it again. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take their art a little deeper and learn to see.