Fine Art Photography Daily

Herb Robinson: Metro/New York/London/Paris: Underground Portraits of Three Great Cities and Their People


©Herb Robinson, Book cover for METRO

There is no shortage of photography books about subways…Walker Evans, Helen Levitt, Bruce Davidson, Jamel Shabazz, and Paul Kessel come to mind, along with countless other lesser known photographers. Even though the subject matter may be similar, photographers have very different ways of presenting their impressions and feelings in making images amid this underground sea of humanity.

Herb Robinson, photographer, and Eve Sandler, curator/editor have produced a new book entitled METRO/New York/London/Paris: Underground Portraits of Three Great Cities and Their People, published by Schiffer. This book is packed with off-kilter, saturated, kinetic, up-close, pulsating images that bring energy in a surrealistic style. The addition of quotations by people such as Lady Gaga, James Baldwin, CocoChanel, and others strengthens the narrative being shown.

METRO is available through Barnes and Noble, Schiffer Publishing, Amazon and many other booksellers, both in the US and internationally.

Celebrated New York photographer Herb Robinson’s work has been shaped by cinema, painting and jazz. His humanist street photography incorporates experimental approaches in framing, use of blurring and edge tension that heighten abstract and surreal dimensions of urban life. Robinson’s expression was forged during the urgent quest for social equality in the 1960’s. In addition to his fine art photography, Herb trained as a still life photographer and operated his own commercial studio in New York for many years. Robinson’s work was part of the major Tate Modern exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which opened in London, traveled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas; Brooklyn Museum; Broad Museum in Los Angeles; de Young Museum in San Francisco and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. As an original member of the legendary photography collective Kamoinge Workshop, Robinson’s photographs were exhibited in Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop, curated by Sarah L. Eckhardt at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, Cincinnati Art Museum and J. Paul Getty Museum.

Robinson is the co-editor of Timeless: Photographs by Kamoinge (Schiffer Publishing, 2015.) The book was recognized by the New York Times as one of the best photography books of the year. He also co-curated the related Timeless exhibition at Kenkeleba Gallery in 2016.
Herb Robinson’s METRO / New York / London/ Paris, edited, designed and curated by Eve Sandler, was published in 2022 by Schiffer Publishing.

Robinson’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, National Gallery, Baltimore Museum of Art and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. He is represented by the Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York City.

Eve Sandler is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, writer, and activist whose work commemorates Black culture, memory, and transformation. She has exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, Studio Museum in Harlem, Frans Hals Museum (Holland), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and other museums.

Spread #1 METRO pages 74-75, NYC

©Herb Robinson, Spread from METRO pages 74-75, NYC

Metro/New York/London/Paris: Underground Portraits of Three Great Cities and Their People

My METRO ride began in the most familiar of routines for me. With camera in hand, I boarded underground trains in my hometown of NYC or in my travels, and I felt the magnetism of my fellow travelers. The story spoke to me and took me on a journey where it flowed. I captured portraits on the train, as varied as the riders — individuals, families, friends, strangers — to destinations unknown to me, each with their private story. My relationship to the riders felt deeply personal; I was keenly aware of the juxtaposition of immigrants and natives of New York, London and Paris, all richly multi-cultural cities. As an immigrant myself and a lover of jazz, painting and film, I focused on the rhythm, improvisation and striking beauty of these sometimes – planned and sometimes – accidental collections of people and their belongings. The metro provides a meeting place of people who would otherwise never cross paths. Their portraits told me a global-local story and I was hooked.

Spread #2 METRO pages 118-119, London

©Herb Robinson, Spread from METRO pages 118-119, London

As the concept of a book was born, I shared the photographs with my METRO collaborator, dear friend and brilliant artist Eve Sandler, who worked with me to shape and further define the story. Eve and I have a long history of artistic collaboration, which enabled us to piece together the stories told with shared vision. As she developed the beautiful design, she added the additional dimension of the use of quotes — words of literature, politics, the arts — each meticulously chosen and paired with the images to amplify the voices of the riders in their cities, also providing historical and cultural context.

Spread #3 METRO pages 170-171, Paris

©Herb Robinson, Spread from METRO pages 170-171, Paris

METRO / New York / London / Paris is my story and it is all of our stories. In a world filled with so much hatred and turmoil, METRO provides a glimpse of a possibility for harmony and richness of our diverse people, as an antidote to the negativity and fear that too often dominate our cultural narrative. We ask the reader to come and ride with us.

#1 METRO, page 30-31, NYC

©Herb Robinson

#2 METRO, page 48-49, NYC

©Herb Robinson

#3 METRO, page 60, NYC

©Herb Robinson

#4 METRO, page 84-85, NYC

©Herb Robinson

#5 METRO, page 86-87, NYC

©Herb Robinson

#6 METRO, page 108-109, NYC

©Herb Robinson

#7 METRO, page 112, London

©Herb Robinson

#8 METRO, page 116-117, London

©Herb Robinson

#9 METRO, page 122-123, London

©Herb Robinson

#10 METRO, page 136-137, London

©Herb Robinson

#11 METRO, page 142-143, London

©Herb Robinson

#12 METRO, page 176-177, Paris

©Herb Robinson

#13 METRO page 186-187, Paris

©Herb Robinson

#14 METRO, page 190-191, Paris

©Herb Robinson

#15 METRO page 200, Paris

©Herb Robinson

#16 METRO, page 202-203, Paris

©Herb Robinson

Paul Matzner has been a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin while taking many trips to New Zealand, Fiji, Ecuador, Europe, and 47 of the United States. Seeing an exhibit called Minimata by W. Eugene Smith in 1972 sparked his interest in photography that began with film and darkroom processing/printing. A job as a photographer for the City of Milwaukee, and then selling sheetfed printing in the early 1980’s led to a 23 year administrative career overseeing the production of magazines and catalogs for national clients at Quad/Graphics.

Since going digital in 2008 and retiring from his full-time day job at Quad/Graphics, Matzner has followed his passion by making noteworthy images on the streets of New York City, Chicago, and Milwaukee. He has been in numerous juried group exhibitions at PhotoPlace Gallery, Darkroom Gallery, Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, and Minneapolis Photo Center. He has received recognition online at National Geographic’s Shot of the Day, Filter Photo Festival’s blog Image 37, JPG Magazine’s Story of the Week, and an interview with World Photography Network. His stock images have been licensed by such publications as Time-Life Books, Huffington Post, Travel & Leisure, American Way, The Guardian, NY Daily News, and AOL online. His most recent book, Facing You/Facing Me, is a portrait series photographed on the street of individuals he has stopped to take close-ups of their faces.

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