Herb Robinson has been documenting the human experience as a photographer for over 50 years. Born in Jamaica, West Indies, his family immigrated to New York City when he was five. 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 Kamoinge Workshop, the legendary black photography collective founded in 1963 at the height of the American civil rights movement.
The painters Chardin and Vermeer were also 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 is apparent in both his earlier street photography and his more recent photographic series of the past decade. Robinson has stated that “My instrument is the camera, it is the vessel that responds to and carries my emotions.”
Robinson’s work is 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 has traveled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Betonville, Arkansas, Brooklyn Museum, Broad Museum in Los Angeles, and de Young Museum in San Francisco; it will also be exhibited at 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 will then travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and Cincinnati Art Museum. Robinson previously exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York; American Museum of Natural History in New York; Gordon Parks Gallery in New York; N’Namdi Gallery in Detroit, New York and Chicago; Columbia University in New York; New York University in New York; Harvard University School of Design in Cambridge; Columbia College in Chicago; Calumet Gallery in New York; and the International Center of Photography in New York.
Along with Anthony Barboza, 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 also co-curated the related Timeless exhibition at Kenkeleba Gallery in 2016.