The Inspiring Desks of Art World Stars 

The Photo Blog
Aug. 18 2014 12:03 PM

The Inspiring Desks of Art World Stars 

27_jessicavanbrakle
Jessica Van Brakle, artist.

E. Brady Robinson

E. Brady Robinson was waiting to photograph staff members of the nonprofit arts organization CulturalDC for an assignment when she casually took a photo of one staffer’s workspace. She describes that moment as a “happy accident,” one that inspired an extensive journey to capture the spirit of the art world all along the East Coast. Her forthcoming book, Art Desks, published by Daylight, collects 57 images of the workspaces of artists, curators, art dealers, critics, museum directors, and others from New York to Miami. “I wanted to create an archive of people who are making important contributions to art and culture,” she said. “I’m interested in the idea of the desk as portrait and the social experiment of navigating the art world.”           

Robinson usually finds her subjects through referrals. When she arrives at a desk, she tries to get her photos quickly—taking no longer than 20 minutes—so her subjects can get back to their work. “'I’m working under the constraints of time, space, and light. Photographically, it's challenging,” she said. “I just go for it. I'm a very intuitive photographer. I don’t try to overthink it.”

45_anthonydihle
Anthony Dihle, artist.

E. Brady Robinson

47_albertogaitan
Alberto Gaitan, artist.

E. Brady Robinson

35_victoria_gaitan
Victoria Gaitan, photographer.

E. Brady Robinson

20_ericthorsanberg
Eric Thor Sandberg, painter.

E. Brady Robinson

Robinson “cast a wide net” when looking for subjects in order to capture a larger picture of the art world. Her subjects, she said, are often her “heroes,” and she chooses them because she values their work. Whether a desk is orderly or chaotic, decorated or largely sterile, she said, it usually contains traces of its owner. Her photographs, she said, can then serve as portraits, even though they’re absent of human figures. “When I’m on site, I'm focusing on lighting, exposure and composition. It’s not until I’m in the editing process that I can see what’s revealed on a deeper level. Some might leave out a passport or their meds or something personal they forgot about. It's like being Nancy Drew on the scene,” she said.

Advertisement

She finds the desks of artists the most interesting. “They’re least likely to clean up before I get there. If I’m photographing a desk in a museum it tends to look a little bureaucratic, compared to an artist desk, which maybe is a little messier, a little more unfiltered. I feel the artists aren't hiding anything,” she said.           

Robinson’s work will be on display as part of FotoDC in November. Her project, meanwhile, is ongoing, and she plans to expand her territory into desks in the Midwest and West Coast. 

18_philippahughes
Philippa Hughes, founder, the Pink Line Project.

E. Brady Robinson

chajana_denharder
Chajana Denharder, artist.

E. Brady Robinson

kristin_guiter
Kristin Guiter, former vice president of communications and marketing, Corcoran Gallery of Arts.

E. Brady Robinson

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.