Jack Robinson | From LA to Memphis
Through March 24th, 2016
Join us for the opening reception of Jack Robinson: From Memphis to LA. The Los Angeles premiere photography exhibition will feature photographs of Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, The Who, Iggy Pop, James Taylor, Tina Turner, and many more. This curated selection from the Jack Robinson Archive will display stunning portraits which showcase Mr. Robinson’s exceptional talent for lighting and composition.
It was in New Orleans that Robinson began his career in photography. Much of his early work was shot in the French Quarter where he documented street scenes and vibrant nightlife. He frequented Dixie’s Bar of Music, a Bourbon Street club which was an epicenter of the New Orleans gay community in the 1950s and 1960s, and hangout of artists and writers such as Lyle Saxon, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal. During this period he refined his talent as a photographer, capturing portraits of notable figures of the southern Bohemia art and culture scene in New Orleans, and documenting the gay community’s involvement in Mardi Gras.
In 1954 Robinson traveled to Mexico with Betty Parsons, the famous New York art dealer, and photographed scenes of Mexican life. At Parsons’ encouragement, he moved to New York in 1955 to pursue a career in fashion photography. He was quickly recognized as an emerging talent and was sought out by top designers in the fashion industry. In 1959 he shot his first major cover for a fashion special for Life Magazine. In the late 1950s he began free-lancing for The New York Times Magazine under style editor Carrie Donovan. His relationship with Donovan proved to be important for Robinson. When she left the magazine in 1965 to work for Vogue, she brought Robinson with her.
At Vogue that Robinson photographed many of his most famous subjects including Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Jack Nicholson, and Cher. Robinson remained at Vogue for the duration of his time in New York, amassing a large body of work between 1965 and 1973.
In the late 1960s he began frequenting Andy Warhol’s Factory in Manhattan and his lifestyle gradually shifted towards the excesses that were typical of the Factory scene of the era. In the early 1970s he developed a serious drinking problem and his professional career and financial stability began to unravel as a result. By the end of 1972 Robinson’s once steady flow of work had slowed to a trickle. Facing financial problems he left New York and moved south to Memphis, Tennessee. His career as a professional photographer was over, and it was a part of his life that Robinson would seldom speak of in years to come. He became an intensely private person. For reasons not at all clear, he seemed determined to remain anonymous. He once confided in a friend that “he wanted a coffee table book after he was dead, but he just didn’t want any limelight while he was alive.”
Jack Robinson (1928-1997) was a very talented, but very private man. While he did not seek any attention for his work during his lifetime, he did hope that it might be celebrated posthumously. He requested that a coffee table book be published after his passing, and upon the discovery of his the heir to his estate, Dan Oppenheimer, realized the depth of Jack’s talent. In 1998, The Jack Robinson Archive was formed to preserve and promote Jack’s legacy as a photographer and as an artist. In 2011, Jack’s dream of a book displaying his portraits was realized.