Time is a critical factor in photography, and Western photography is propelled by what the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called the "decisive moment." But this rapid-fire, split-second approach has little relevance in Asia, where art has at its center a profound sense of stillness and where time is perceived as cyclical rather than linear.
I made my first pictures of photo studios in Vietnam, then more during my Fulbright Fellowship to India and Sri Lanka in 2000, and still more when I went back to those countries—and Pakistan—on my own. The series builds on notions of traditional documentary photography, but adds in painterly and cinematic elements. And the panorama camera I use is perfect for this work.
Excerpt from her essay in FOTOFEST2006 catalogue.
ABBY ROBINSON In Camera
In Camera, is a series of photographic studios in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, and Vietnam. Old photo studios create environments where the past and present, east and west, traditional and contemporary collide, while the scenes and props give clues to notions of taste and aspiration. Many of the backdrops deal with representation of the natural world and are, in their fashion, idealized versions of the landscape.
Abby Robinson came to New York City for school and never left. After receiving an undergraduate degree in architectural history, she went to art school to study interior design. Instead she wound up a photographer.
After completing her M.F.A., she worked for a private investigator, wrote a novel, The Dick and Jane, based on her detective experiences; and began teaching photography at the School of Visual Arts. She simultaneously got itchy feet and started to travel; exposure to different cultures and esthetics made her eyeballs spin. Her current work started with an Asian Cultural Council grant to Vietnam and continued through a Fulbright to India and Sri Lanka, additional trips to Asia on her own, most recently on a fellowship from the American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies. She received a Siskind Grant in 2005; her work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.