One of the most amazing things about a good photographer is their ability to capture relationships and emotion. Talented photographers seem to have an understanding of community that’s more evolved than most. General experience of course plays a big part in this but beyond just being exposed to what’s around you, it’s a conscious effort of constantly looking at things differently that makes an impact. It’s a daily practice of seeing originality in the mundane, life in the stagnant, and a calling in the lost and of course visa versa. Subjects, objects, places, and people, a good photo goes beyond the lens, shifting inwards, developing a unique perspective in the photographer and for the observer. Ultimately, this is what we see reflected in a capture.

Robert Sternheim is this. His talent is clear and precise and his perception goes well beyond print. Here we chat life out East, photography, and recognizing community…

 

Brooklyn Bridge Park by Robert Sternheim

Brooklyn Bridge Park by Robert Sternheim

Have you always lived in New York?
I was born and raised in the city, yes we actually exist! I get asked that a lot believe it or not. Most New Yorkers are from another part of the country or even another part of the state, so when they meet someone who was born and raised in the city, they are usually a little shocked.  

I moved to Brooklyn after college and have been here ever since. I think once you cross the East River, there’s no going back. Theres a different mentality in Brooklyn, and I find a greater sense of community then anything I experienced growing up in Manhattan.  Socially and artistically, I think Brooklyn has stolen much of the cities thunder, and is without a doubt the epicenter of creative culture in New York.

Bridge by Robert Sternheim

Bridge by Robert Sternheim

What’s your day to day?
I’m a second generation business owner.  I operate a boutique pharmacy on the Upper East Side called Zitomer, and we just celebrated our 65th year anniversary.  Although my days are spent at the store, most nights I’m out shooting the city or catching a show.  I’ve had a couple unsuccessful bands over the years, so seeing music live is the closet you can get to living that experience, and its also a great place to meet new and interesting people.

CT Sunrise by Robert Sternheim

CT Sunrise by Robert Sternheim

What’s been your experience out East?
My parents have had a timeshare at Gurneys since before I was born, so we spent a week each summer in Montauk for most of my life. In 2012 I was fortunate enough to find a good deal on a property that was about to start construction, and jumped on the opportunity.  Anyone whose ever built a house or even remodeled a kitchen, can tell you nothing ever goes according to plan, but once its all said and done, the outcome is usually always worth the headaches, and Montauk is no exception.  Whether it was rumrunning in the 20’s or the environment it is today, Montauk and the East End of Long Island, has always been a very special place. To me it means summer, waves, and relaxing.

Montauk by Robert Sternheim

Montauk by Robert Sternheim

Very interesting environments to grow up and live in, how do you think that shapes someone and their creative pursuits?
I think surroundings are essential to all forms of creativity, especially photography.  You can sit in a studio and take a picture of an object in front of a neutral background and still come out with a great image, but if you can capture a moment where there is something more happening, I think that is when the magic really happens. Its especially true for landscape photographers.  Its literally all about your surroundings. Not only do surroundings inspire the artist themselves, but I think they also inspire and create the actual image.

Mono Lake Long Exposure by Robert Sternheim

Mono Lake Long Exposure by Robert Sternheim

You also spent time in the Southwest for school. Any clear benefit from one city provides creatively vs. the other?
I don’t think its fair to say one city is better at fostering creativity than another, but I do think certain environments are more conducive to inspiring certain characteristics, and can attract certain people and inspire them in ways that others don’t.  

Grunge wouldn’t have been grunge if it wasn’t for Seattle.  That environment attracted a certain type of person, and inspired certain types of feelings and attitudes. It became so popular because the emotions it portrayed were common to everyone, but its birth happened because of the environment it was started in.

GW Bridge by Robert Sternheim

GW Bridge by Robert Sternheim

Does it help to have a community for photography?
I don’t think a supportive community is necessary for a craft like photography in its purist sense, but it most certainly helps validate an artists work and will inspire them in a different way. When Ansel Adams went out to shoot Yosemite, I don’t think he shot a waterfall with the idea that he needs people to love the photo as necessary for his craft, but when you have people taking iPhone photos of the lunch they are about to eat or the dinner the just made, community in this case seems necessary and the driving force behind the action.

How’d you start with photography? Any other creative outlets, hobbies?
I’ve always leaned towards more creative pursuits, wether it was music or art, and for me music was music and art was photography.  I took classes all throughout middleshool and high school, and eventually minored in photojournalism when I got to college.  I’ve always considered myself a bit of a renaissance man, and my hobbies and passions run the full spectrum. I love extreme sports, architecture, cars, and fast machines. I love to cook, make whiskey, and I have a bit of a green thumb.  Ive also rescued a number of animals over the years, and currently have a cat, a rabbit, and a gecko

Subway 1 by Robert Sternheim

Subway 1 taken on 35MM by Robert Sternheim

How has the Instagram changed the photography landscape?
To be honest, the emergence of new technology is what initially discouraged me continuing photography. I had the feeling like everyone with a cellphone and/or a digital camera was a “photographer” now.

Subway 2 by Robert Sternheim

Subway 2 taken on 35MM by Robert Sternheim


Growing up with 35mm and having to process and print your own images in a darkroom, photography wasn’t like it is today. The irony however, is that what originally discouraged me, eventually became a driving force behind picking it up again.  Much like with music, love is what got me started and heartbreak is what keeps me going.

 

Your relationship with photography?
After college, I put down my camera and went on a 6yr hiatus.  I fell in love with someone who was also passionate about photography, and she encouraged and inspired me to start shooting again. Throughout the good times and the bad, and especially since the relationship has ended, photography has been a great escape, a way to express myself, and a way to meet new people and have new experiences.  The fact that now I can share my art with people through a platform like instagram and connect with people all throughout the country and all over the world, it has been a game changer and a total bonus.

Buttermilk Hills Long Exposure by Robert Sternheim

Buttermilk Hills Long Exposure by Robert Sternheim

Where do your photos live? The past, the present, the future?
Every photograph is an emotion, and some have many.  Photography is both literal and figurative at the same time.  You are literally freezing a moment in time, but after that image is captured, something else emerges.  I think depending on the subject, you can capture either the present, the future, or the past.  One of my favorite things to shoot are long exposures, and in certain shots when dealing with the night sky, keeping your shutter open for an extended period of time lets you capture light that was both from the past and is in the present at the same time.  It also allows you capture things that aren’t visible to the naked eye.  

Bridge by Robert Sternheim

Bridge by Robert Sternheim

What’s next?
As far as the future of photography, its hard to say.  Technologically the industry seems to be moving away from mirrors and into the realm of mirrorless.  Brands like Sony are really at the forefront of movement, but in my humble opinion you still can’t beat the mirror.

Socially, I think the future is even more unpredictable for photography. I don’t think instagram and pinterest are close to peaking yet, but like every trend, theres always something new on the horizon.

To see more of Robert’s collection: Robert J. Sternheim

Brooklyn Bridge by Robert Sternheim

Brooklyn Bridge by Robert Sternheim

2 Responses

  1. Stewart Gooderman

    Truly spectacular photographs. Is an exhibition not far away?

    Reply

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