Robert Sturman: Pose For The Photo
Photographer Robert Sturman has earned international recognition telling stories through photos of everyone from police officers and painters to prisoners and breast cancer survivors — all practising yoga. Because for Sturman, yoga is life.
When Robert Sturman was 14 years old, his father bought him a camera, a Pentax K1000. He asked his dad what he was supposed to take pictures of. His father’s response: “Everything that you love.” Sturman certainly didn’t know then how this little instrument would inspire him to go on to lead a rich and fulfilling life as a photographer and to give back so much, making the world a better place.
By the time Sturman was finishing up high school, he was spending many hours in the photography department before going on to study art history and drawing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, then attending the Memphis College of Art. In fact, Sturman says he always wanted to be an artist. “I was exposed to a lot of art and literature throughout my childhood,” he says. “But my parents were quite apprehensive at first, because a lot of parents would like their children to be doctors and lawyers.” It wasn’t until The New York Times printed a feature on Sturman’s work that they were really OK with it. “For me, it wasn’t until the second time that they did a feature on me that I knew it was for real. I just pinched myself,” he says. It was a trip to India and Nepal in the Himalayas about 20 years ago, however, that inspired Sturman to create his first comprehensive body of work.
“I Realized That My Life Was My Art And I Needed To Make A Masterpiece Of My Own Life”
“It was such a far-out place,” he says. “It was the closest that you can be to being on another planet.” At a meditation centre, he was greatly moved by Osho, the Indian mystic and philosopher. “I read one of his quotes that said, ‘To be creative is to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it,’” he says.
That was huge for Sturman. Actually, it changed his life. “I realized that my life was my art and I needed to make a masterpiece of my own life.” And that is where his journey began, when he noticed the beautiful practice of yoga, how it is a figurative poetry, telling a story of people in pursuit of being better at being human all over the world, including “people in prison, to the military, to politicians, to orphans, flight attendants, house painters.” And everyone’s pretty much doing it for the same reason, he says, because they want to have a better life.
Right now, Sturman is at peace. “I love a quiet world,” he says. And he’s excited to share a meditation practice that he started last year — the Wim Hof method. “I do a daily practice of sitting in the ice, in 28-degree water. It’s one of the ways that I’ve really started to rewire my nervous system, relax and feel a tremendous amount of peace.”
What’s up for the future? “Well, nobody knows really,” he says. “But, hopefully, I can create exhibitions in museums around the world to show a comprehensive celebration of humanity in pursuit of being better at being human and tell stories of hope that open people’s hearts.”
Asked what la dolce vita means to him, Sturman replies simply: “Having enough of the things that we need to survive and liking ourselves … a lot, so that we can appreciate all the good things around, like walking on the beach, eating a nice meal, being with someone you respect and love — it starts from having a very dolce inside.”
Interview by Cassandra Giammarco