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Interview with Robin Schwartz, Photographer

Interview with Robin Schwartz, Photographer











Robin Schwartz, Ruby, 2011 © Robin Schwartz/Aperture

(Ruby Schwartz for Robin Schwartz)


Recently, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Robin Schwartz, a photographer and animal lover who resides in New Jersey with her husband, daughter, and animals.  Much of Schwartz’s work examines and explores interspecies relationships.  Schwartz’s work has been exhibited internationally; her work is in museum collections at The Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe Museum of Modern ArtThe Smithsonian American Art Museum; and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art .  Schwartz has also published several books including her most recent book, Amelia and the Animals, published by Aperture.  I truly enjoy Schwartz’s work, and I am sure that you will too!


KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: I loved photographing with an instamatic camera.  At ten-years-old, I used this camera to photograph my cat.  I was a latch key kid and was home by myself a lot.  I only was able to major in art after my father died when I was 19-years-old.  It would not have been acceptable in my economic situation to be an art major in college.  A graduate teacher at the Pratt Institute, Arthur Freed, made it possible for me to not only get into the program, but helped me obtain a graduate assistantship and a Ford Foundation Grant.  I don’t know what would have become of me if not for this teacher.  I was on my own and quite lost.


KATHERINE CARVER: Did you study art formally?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: Yes.  As an undergraduate, I studied at William Paterson College, which is now a university, William Paterson University, where I am an Associate Professor in Photography.  I earned an MFA in Photography at the Pratt Institute, New York.


KATHERINE CARVER: How do you describe your style?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: I actually don’t use the word “style.”  I am a portrait photographer; if you categorized me it would be fine art and editorial photographer, specializing in portraiture, animals, and environmental portraiture.



 Robin Schwartz, Ricky and Amelia, 2002, from Amelia and the Animals (Aperture 2014)  © Robin Schwartz


KATHERINE CARVER: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating photographs was absolutely something that you had to do?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: I photograph because I want to remember.  I have been around a lot of death, early on in life.


KATHERINE CARVER: What was the impetus that inspired you to begin photographing dogs and animals?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: I love and am very comfortable with them [animals].  They comfort me, and as I mentioned before, I was home alone a lot as a kid.  When I was ten-years-old , the  deal was that I could have a cat that lived in the house to keep me company, (as opposed to my cats who lived outside and were not allowed in the house, those cats got run over, killed in construction), and then my mother could go to work full time, including the summers.  Before that cat, which went with me to college and graduate school, he died when I was 27, we adopted a beautiful Shetland Sheepdog from the pound/shelter in Newark, New Jersey, after we saw this beautiful Shetland Sheepdog being given up as we came into the pound/shelter.  The pound asked the people who were giving him up whether he was up to date on shots, they said he was – and he wasn’t.  Three weeks later, we had to put him down because of the distemper he caught while at the shelter.  Those seizures where quite horrible, and the vet said he was never vaccinated.  It was a crime that haunts me today. 


KATHERINE CARVER: How have your own dogs/animals influenced your artwork?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: Absolutely, my animals at home are in much of my work; to remember them; and keep them young.



  Robin Schwartz, Shiba Up, 2006, from Amelia and the Animals (Aperture 2014)  © Robin Schwartz


KATHERINE CARVER: Where did the idea come from for your work and book entitled, Amelia & the Animals?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: The title came from my editor at Aperture, Lesley Martin.  I guess it is an apt description.


KATHERINE CARVER: What has it been like collaborating with your daughter, Amelia, on photo projects with animals?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: The project and our collaboration has grown as Amelia matures.  Our balance has changed as in any growing relationship.  Amelia is my partner.


KATHERINE CARVER: Can you describe your successful Kickstarter process for your new book entitled, Amelia & the Animals, published by Aperture?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: Aperture did everything relating to the Kickstarter process – Aperture is a wonderfully supportive publisher, the fact that they are historic and not-for-profit makes them extraordinary.  I am so honored to be published by Aperture and have had Lesley Martin and the team, Kellie McLaughlin, Barbara Escobar, and Jason Bailey supporting and rooting for me.  The Kickstarter and the Amelia and the Animals book are what they are because of Aperture.  Aperture is like family.  (You can view the Kickstarter video here).



  Robin Schwartz, Love Ming, 2009, from Amelia and the Animals (Aperture 2014)  © Robin Schwartz


KATHERINE CARVER: Where do you show/exhibit your work?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: Right now Aperture is representing me, specifically Kellie McLaughlin, she is wonderfully supportive.  I had left a New York City gallery this past August and asked if Aperture could handle my work.


KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: Good question, I think I will ask that in the class I teach.  Creative means, that after you have a handle on skill, on craftsmanship, and can work and think beyond the basics — that to be creative you figure out what is unique to you or simply, what makes you happy, what is authentic for you.  I think if you find your passion, art gives you the reason to immerse yourself in what you love.


Robin Schwartz, Paris Greyhoud Hair, Belle de Nuit, and Pioute Van Guartd Mattenet, 2010, from Amelia and the Animals (Aperture 2014)  © Robin Schwartz


KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect of being a photographer?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: The most challenging aspect of being a photographer is having confidence on several levels, personal, skill, social skills, managing your time, and a deal breaker can be the finances of it all.  I am finally a full time, tenured professor.  Only when I achieved full time status did I qualifying for health insurance at work.  This greatly helped me financially, supporting my personal work.


KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going and what keeps you motivated?  

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: Another good question.  I teach for a living, and I aim to be a good, generous, kind teacher, but I want to be remembered as a photographer.  A curator who was a mentor to me early on, who has since passed away, said to me once, “You came a long way for what you do.”  At the time she meant the Primate Portraits, having the Like Us: Primate Portraits book published by Norton and my work in the museums like the Met and the MOMA both located in New York City.  So at 19-years-old I was on my own, and not far from homeless, and it was a scary time.  During and after graduate school, I hung out with and photographed stray dog packs; I now see that I identified with being a stray myself.  So my motivation in life is: my daughter as she is my family; my animals as I need them emotionally; and photography as that is a huge part of my purpose, very stimulating and exciting, and my identity.  Being a photographer means I accomplished something.



Robin Schwartz, Baby Horned Owls, 2011, from Amelia and the Animals (Aperture 2014)  © Robin Schwartz


KATHERINE CARVER: What kind of patterns, rituals, and routines do you have while making your art?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: I procrastinate enormously; I clean the house instead of editing my own work.  I like to edit on Adobe Bridge.  When I worked in the darkroom I had a television with a red filter…but I work all digitally now and the television is distracting.  I multi-task a great deal and I juggle responsibilities and work hard to met my many deadlines.


KATHERINE CARVER: What are you working on now?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: Well, I just quickly wrote the answers for another interview before this one, but your questions are much deeper, interesting to answer – I am learning about interviewing these days by how differently each person approaches it.  I am working on how to work.  I am finishing a sabbatical proposal with supporting materials, updating my resume and website – editing comes last.  I am updating the keynote presentation I gave at SVA (School of Visual Arts, New York City on October 7, which you can view here.)  Now, I have to re-edit it for the talk in San Francisco at the Photo Alliance held on November 7.  Then, I go to Paris Photo with Aperture for an Amelia and the Animals book signing.  On December 1, I give my keynote for a presentation and exhibition at Aperture.  Finally, I am having prints made.  The list goes on and on.  I will resume shooting in December, when I travel back to Mexico to follow up on a new project.  I am also a full time professor in photography at William Paterson University where I am an Associate Professor in Photography and on those days, that is all I do — teach and commute. 




Robin Schwartz, Breakfast Talk with Rosie, 2011, from Amelia and the Animals (Aperture 2014)  © Robin Schwartz


KATHERINE CARVER: What artists inspire your work?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: It changes, historically, Juliette Margaret Cameron, Eugene Atget, August SandersEugene Smith, and Sally Mann – well Sally Mann is contemporary and historic…There are so many photographers and many contemporary photographers in photojournalism, fine art, documentary that inspires me – it is impossible to mention them all.


KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: Have a good work ethic; be able to take criticism; don’t be embarrassed as I was of what you love; practice social and writing skills; and, above all else, be persistent about working.



 Robin Schwartz, Lorenzo, 2011, from Amelia and the Animals (Aperture 2014)  © Robin Schwartz


KATHERINE CARVER: How can people view and purchase your art works and books?

ROBIN SCHWARTZ: (I am currently updating!) and Aperture.  Only the Amelia and the Animals is in print, the other three books are out of print: Like Us: Primate Portraits; Dog Watching; and Amelia’s World.


All images contained in this interview are courtesy of Robin Schwartz and Aperture.

You can read additional interviews here.

Acumen: Creating and Persevering

Sometimes, when one is working, it is difficult to really see the forest through the trees.  Therefore,  I thought that I would share some inspiring words from artists I have interviewed here on the blog about creating and persevering, which I hope you find helpful and encouraging.


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“Follow your passion, even if you do not know what lies on the other side.  Passion is infectious to people; and passion is at the root of creating art.  Keep believing in your work and use your passion to help you push through and keep going.  The right thing(s) happen when it is supposed to happen.  Most importantly, put your work on the line and keep pushing your boundaries.”  — Deborah Samuel


“Create what you love and create it consistently, even if you aren’t feeling particularly inspired.  Share what you make with the world so people can find it and enjoy it.  Enjoy the process, and don’t get discouraged.  I don’t believe that there are things any particular person can’t do.  It’s just a matter of putting enough time into it to gain the skill, and asking questions when you don’t know how to do something.  And if you are already talented in your area but have fear of putting yourself out there, or fear of failure, or any fear (and we all do), know that ‘inaction breeds doubt and fear (Dale Carnegie),’ so move forward, make things happen, and ‘always do what you’re afraid to do (Emerson).’  If you do that, soon enough nothing will stop you.  I didn’t always believe it, but yes you can absolutely make a career doing what you love… so go for it.”   — Laura Johnson


“Don’t do what I did and just feel your way through the woods.  Either find a way to make a living that is somehow compatible with your art, and gives you the time and energy to do your work, or get an MFA or PhD and find a job teaching in a university.  High school second best.  Then you have summers and vacations, and if you teach in a university you will even have time in your working schedule to paint or sculpt or write.  Making a living in the commercial arts is fine, but it is not conducive to expressing yourself artistically in a deeper more fulfilling way.”  — Anna Dibble


“It’s easy, especially when just starting out, to get hung up on what kind of work you think you ‘should’ be making, or what others tell you you’re best at – disregard this.  Your best work will happen when you focus on that which you know and love, and your most valuable audience will follow that work.  Not sure you really know how to visualize what you know and love?  Just keep ‘making’, and let each step, each project, lead to the next.  Momentum is HUGE and you never know where the sparks are hiding until you hit them.” — Natalya Zahn


“Don’t give up.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you love.  If you truly love it, there’s always a way to make it happen.”  — Helen Greenstein


“Do not second guess yourself.  You need to question what you are doing, but you also need to follow your instincts.  Often times, what you are working on will lead to something else as well.  It is also very important to appreciate the process.  Additionally, it is important to be confident and to develop your own work.  When you are not as concerned about what others think, you will create stronger work.  It is also important to be playful and be committed to the process of making art.  Finally, for me, it has been very helpful to have a spiritual practice to help understand yourself more deeply and knowing that we are all connected.”  — Valerie Shaff


“Be true to yourself and in it for the love of doing it.  When the phone isn’t ringing, your inbox is empty and you feel like no one loves you or your work, you will have that to keep you going.”  — Andrew Pinkham


“Find your niche and then commit to that.  Since I found the Animal Studies community, I feel more ‘at home’ as a photographer than I ever have before.  I get a lot of support from other scholars and artists interested in the same things I am, and I always have a direction to point myself in when I am working.”   — Julia Scholar


“Don’t ape other people’s styles.  Draw like no one is watching and see what comes out.  Reflect, refine, and repeat.  Be yourself and draw what you know, not what you think you should know.”  — Bee Johnson


“My passion for making images keeps me going.  It makes me feel alive.  I think being creative means a commitment to continually challenging yourself.”  — Shannon Johnstone


“Keep taking photographs and assess what you are trying to say.”  — Rory Carnegie


“Stay true to your own heart — be who you are!  It sounds cheesy but it’s not.  Every single person has an absolutely unique quality that only they can bring to the world.  The world needs authentic beings to have the courage to be who they are.”  — Brigette Bloom


“Be stubborn and keep going.  And don’t overthink it in the beginning and work hard.”  — Eleonor Bosström


“Don’t let anything get in your way.  People love creativity and there are more channels to make your work known than ever before.  No excuses.  The difference between an ‘aspiring artist’ and a true artist is action.  Talent comes through practice.”  — Elias Weiss Friedman


“Nothing happens overnight so it’s important to keep plugging away and doing what you love.  Entering competitions is essential, it’s really important to keep putting yourself out there.  Don’t let yourself get knocked backed if you aren’t successful with a submission – your work may have not been right for them.  Art and photography is very subjective.  If you don’t try you’ll never know.”  — Lorna Evans


“It’s hard work but, if you have to do it, very rewarding.  Go for it.  But be prepared to be your own engine.  You don’t have anyone else pushing you and you have to often deal with self-doubt.”  — Martin Usborne


“Have a good work ethic; be able to take criticism; don’t be embarrassed as I was of what you love; practice social and writing skills; and, above all else, be persistent about working.”  — Robin Schwartz


“I think when you are starting out it is really important to focus on issues or ideas that are important to you.  It is very easy to become mixed up in producing work that others would like to see or that you think will be successful but your best work will always come from a genuine vested interest.”  — Sam Edmonds


“Keep practicing.  And showing up.  Your work will evolve and grow even if you can’t see it happening.  I promise!!”  — Heidi Lender


“Find what you enjoy doing and get extremely good at it.  Keep creating even if you think the idea isn’t going anywhere and stay happy.”  — Josh Bryant


“Know yourself.  Don’t worry about being cool and on trend. ‘Coolness is a strait-jacket for creativity.’  Also, it is important to always put in the hours.”  — Lauren Sheldon

Interview with Marta Roca, Editor, Four&Sons

Interview with Marta Roca, Editor, Four&Sons










Recently, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Marta Roca, founder and Editor of Four&Sons, and online and print publication.  Marta possesses a graphic design background and a passion for dogs.  Four&Sons is based in Australia and this print and online publication documents the relationship of man and his best friend.  Four&Sons covers art, design, fashion, music, and lifestyle.  Four&Sons brings together an eclectic mix of inspiring ‘dog-centric’ content to dog-lovers passionate about culture and creativity.


KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as a graphic designer and when did you realize it would become your chosen path and form of expression? 

MARTA ROCA: I was lucky to meet a very inspiring teacher during high school.  Although she was a painter, she was our ‘Graphic Design’ lecturer and she was great at bringing the best out of us, while honing our different skills.  I have no ‘artistic’ talent (I can’t even draw!); however, I love the creative side of design, the fusion between form and function, and the beauty of good thinking.  Once I started University, I realized editorial design was my real passion.  Some people start designing album covers because of their love of music.  I love reading, and I love books and magazines for their culture value and also as objects.  That was the start.  I cut my teeth working in great studios in London and Melbourne before setting up my own studio.  It’s a tough gig to get projects in editorial, so ended up founding Four Publishing to work on self-generated ‘love’ projects.




KATHERINE CARVER: How did your fascination with dogs come about?

MARTA ROCA: A happy accident!  Christina Teresinski from accessories brand Best in Park and I have been meaning to collaborate on a project combining all our passions: dogs, art, culture, and magazines.  We started to wonder how we could bring it all together from a ‘dog-centric point of view.’  We then started to dig deeper on the ‘creative’ relationship between humans and dogs.  The lightbulb moment came when we started to examine dogs as the ‘muse,’ as the inspiration. 


KATHERINE CARVER: What impetus inspired you to begin Four&Sons?     

MARTA ROCA: I got totally hooked on the somehow kooky, weird, and wonderful bond between humans and dogs — how it inspires people to create and how it breaks down barriers.  The deeper I went, the harder I fell in love with it.  We set out to discover more about the role of ‘dogs as muses,’ about the art and design behind it, and about the social/cultural aspects of it.  And what we found was too good not to share it! 




KATHERINE CARVER: How has your own dog(s) influenced you?    

MARTA ROCA: Believe or not, I don’t have a dog of my own.  I live vicariously through Four&Sons, through the interviews, and the art.  I am a sort of ‘dog/culture’ voyeur.  Sometimes I feel very deprived, but most of the time I feel this can bring a different edge to our content.  A chocolate labrador is in the works though…


KATHERINE CARVER: What is your favorite breed (and type) of dog?    

MARTA ROCA: I have a soft spot for dalmatians.  I think it is the designer in me, for the black/white graphic factor.  For aesthetic reasons, a Weimaraner.  For fun, French bulldogs.  Labradors for how sweet and dopey they are…




KATHERINE CARVER: How and when did you decide to move to a print version publication for Four&Sons, while maintaining an online readership?     

MARTA ROCA: In 2013, we published a newspaper.  It was a limited-edition ‘souvenir’ to celebrate our first year anniversary as online publication, and to say thank you to everyone who had supported us.  We had always intended to move to print, and the response was so positive, we felt we were on the right path.  People noticed us and understood better what we are trying to do — we featured beautiful work by artists inspired by their relationship with dogs, and our ‘dog as muse’ motto started to sink in.  It would have been a shame not to publish on paper regularly.  The content is really visual (almost tactile) — you just want to reach out and touch those mutts!  We feel our content deserved to be on a medium that becomes an object, a gift, and a collector’s item. 




KATHERINE CARVER: How did you bring your vision of a Four&Sons printed publication to fruition?   

MARTA ROCA: The first thing we realized is we needed a more ‘specialized’ team, so to speak.  We appointed our editor, Sam Gurrie. Sam is mad about dogs, loves art and culture, and it shows.  Together we fleshed out the content –which sections we wanted to cover, how to get the right mix of features, who we wanted to approach (writers, photographers, and artists), and we set up to chase it all.  It is very important to us that the content would appeal to someone who is not necessarily a ‘dog person;’ and it would still be interesting and culturally relevant.  We have been really lucky that people understands the magazine is still a labour of love and people have been really generous with their time, and also trusting us with their work. 

The biggest learning curve has been on the publishing/marketing/ business side — understanding how magazine distribution works (we have three different distribution houses covering different markets — Europe/UK, USA/Canada, and Australia/NZ.  We are still trying to crack Japan).  Additionally, we are learning to make decisions both from the heart and the head (well, still working on this one); how to position of the magazine (we are not a pet magazine!); which partners we want to associate with; and how to engage the support of dog-lovers around the world.  We are fortunate we have a readership which is really passionate about the subject matter.

The stockist list for the United States for Four&Sons is: Alder&CoB_SpaceBookmarc by Marc Jacobs; Casa Magazines; Hennessey + IngallsMcNally JacksonMoMA PS1Mulberry IconicPortland Trading Co; Print TextShinolaSkylight BooksSpace Ninety 8Spoonbill & Sugartown; and The Primary Essentials.




KATHERINE CARVER: How often will you create print editions for Four&Sons? 

MARTA ROCA: Twice a year.

 Issue Two, available for purchase now, features: Nacho AlegrePia ArrobioAtelierAceRoger BallenCarrie BrownsteinJohn DarwellSam EdmondsLucian FreudMatt FurieSophie GamandAmy HempelDaniel JohnstonAnna KlebergThakoon PanichgulRobin SchwartzRomance Was BornWare of the DogBruce WeberWilliam Wegman; and Eric Yahnker.  

(The images contained in this interview features spreads from Issue Two, Four&Sons.)


KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect of being designer?    

MARTA ROCA: Editing yourself down!  Keeping things simple and fresh.  It’s tempting to over-elaborate but restrain has always worked best for me.




KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you? 

MARTA ROCA: It’s a bit like daydreaming meanwhile you are at work!


KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going and what keeps you motivated?  

MARTA ROCA: To the risk of sounding like the biggest cliché, I just love what I do.  I get to work on something I believe in, which is fun and challenging.  We get to meet very interesting people, have great conversations, and chat about what they love.




KATHERINE CARVER: What are the most rewarding and satisfying parts about creating your work?

MARTA ROCA: Learning is a pretty fulfilling part of what I do, which feeds my curiosity; being involved in many aspects of the magazine; and feeling personally invested.  From an ‘ego-boasting’ point of view, it’s great when people tells us that they enjoy what we do.  That keeps us going too.


KATHERINE CARVER: What artists inspire you?     

MARTA ROCA: Artists who don’t take themselves too seriously!  Being quite a dry person, I love seeing humour, even recklessness, in art.




KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a print publication?   

MARTA ROCA: Do it!  Enjoy the process, not just the end goal.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make some mistakes.  Take into account all facets from the start — from the content to the design and print and distribution and the business.  Be patient and respectful and you will be amazed how generous people can be trying to help you.


KATHERINE CARVER: What is next for Four&Sons?    

MARTA ROCA: Hopefully we can become a quarterly publication in the near future.  We are in for the long run, so longevity is key for us.  We are also starting to focus on other ‘off-shoot’ projects: events; exhibitions; collaborations; product; other publications; and a pop-up store perhaps…?   We would love to become the ‘one-stop-shop’ for any dog-lover passionate about culture and creativity.


KATHERINE CARVER: How can people learn more about you and Four&Sons?

MARTA ROCA: Via the magazine and the website — there you will obtain a glimpse of what makes us tick.


All images contained in this interview are courtesy of Marta Roca, Four & Sons.

You can read additional interviews here.