Woman Crush Wednesday: Robin Schwartz
Robin Schwartz combines her profession as a photographer and her role as a mother by taking photographs of her daughter Amelia with exotic and domestic animals. These photographs depict Schwartz's fascination with the spiritual relationship between humans and animals as well as telling the visual story of her daughters growth as a person. Schwartz is a recipient of the 2016 Guggenheim fellowship and the photographs of her daughter, Amelia, are published in an Aperture book, Amelia and the Animals.
Interview by Margaret Warburton
How did you get the idea for your book Amelia and the Animals?
The short version is that I was driven to spend time my child and still be an artist while having a variable status teaching.
I have always been a working mother, now, finally a Associate Professor in Photography at William Paterson University in New Jersey - hard worked for security. What made me commit to the project of my daughter in earnest, as all parents photograph their kids, was that there were several deaths in my family and then my mother died –that was the impetus for this project.
This project was started as a tribute to my mother and especially for my daughter to have evidence and remember our time together. It began as my thinking about my own mortality and having a little girl, and then it grew into an adventure we have together.
What was the most challenging thing about creating the photographs for Amelia and the Animals?
Having the time and money to travel and make the photographs.
Can you describe how you go about creating trust between yourself and the animals you are photographing?
Each animal, each situation is unique – Amelia is low key and we listen to the caretakers for guidance with each individual animal.
What similarities do you see between animals and humans?
I have always felt that we are fundamentally the same, animals and people – and that humans just need to be superior, are fearful and empathetic. We are the same in caring, needing love and comfort.
You said you see animals as your "spiritual connection," can you describe what about your interaction is spiritual?
Animals save me, they are my therapy, my medication, they calm me and give me great comfort and happiness – that is my connection.
What insights have you gained from photographing your daughter’s interactions with such a wide variety of animals?
Good question: I learned how different my daughter is from me, how capable and talented she is in relating to animals, being in touch with her instincts and contributing to the concepts of design and location of each photographs. How Amelia relates to animals without trying, with grace and dexterity is impressive and quite normal for Amelia.
My daughter has been brought up with this project and relating to animals naturally. I am much more conscience, thinking about it all. But if I had to do it all again, I would have photographed more.
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything what would it be?
To guide students to photograph what each individual cares about.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
I am on the twelfth book in the Poldark series by Winston Graham.
Reading calms me, I get attached to characters.
What is the most played song in your music library?
I don’t have a go to song right now.
How do you take your coffee?
I drink lattes.