The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 15, 2014

Through the lens | Accomplished photographer captures 'Face of India'

JOHNSTOWN — A select collection of one of Pennsylvania’s most accomplished photographers, Donald M. Robinson, is on display at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Johnstown.

The exhibition, which features approximately 50 photographs gleaned from SAMA’s permanent collection, is on display through Aug. 22.

For more than 50 years, Robinson has traveled the world in search of spectacular views, but this exhibit focuses on the beauty of India.

Titled “Face of India: Photography by Donald M. Robinson,” the selected photographs demonstrate the artist’s technical mastery and keen artistic sense.

Robinson has traveled around the world, including visits to Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Antarctica.

Scott Dimond, SAMA’s curator for visual arts, said that, in the world of photography, Robinson is respected by his peers and the art community.

“He certainly is up there as one of the best,” Dimond said.

“He is well-regarded and a man who knows his way around a camera.”

There are nearly 50 images, which have come from the museum’s permanent collection.

SAMA is the world’s foremost repository for Robinson.

“We have most, if not all, of his negatives, and we are considered to be the No. 1 repository of Robinson’s photographs,” Dimond said.

Dimond said the attribute that makes Robinson such a remarkable photographer is his ability to capture reality.

“He really searches for the true beauty of things,” Dimond said.

In this exhibition, Robinson opens a window to the ever-changing, yet very traditional country of India, a nation one-third the size of the United States but with a population of more than 1.2 billion.

“In the case of the photos from India, Robinson’s process has produced lavish and colorful images,” Dimond said.

“India always has been an exotic place in the world, and Donald Robinson has documented that by giving viewers a sense of the people and places of this far-off land.”

The exhibition captures the disparities within India, from the congestion of elephants and buggies on a bustling main street to the quiet, majestic palaces of the maharajahs. Through these images, the viewer gains a better understanding of the country’s complex world of religions, class systems and social relationships.

“This exhibition is well-worth a look,” Dimond said.

“He knows how to express the media and wants his work to make sense to the viewer.”

Robinson was educated at the University of South Carolina and Harvard Graduate School of Business. He developed two successful businesses and has been deeply involved in humanitarian aid.

His photography has been exhibited around the world, and, in 1991, he was awarded the EFIAP award (Artist of Excellence) by the Federation Internationale de l’Art Photographique.

He was awarded the Photograph Society of America’s Galaxy Award and has won 25 gold medals for best of show in various international photography salons. But even with such an impressive list of accolades, Robinson is far from finished exploring as an artist. His passion and commitment to photography is ever growing, and he is always seeking a new perspective in his art.

Robinson studied photography under Cole Weston, Jay Maisel, William Neill, Arnold Newman and Phillip Hyde. As such, he developed an affinity to “straight” photography. His feeling is that “a special trust exists between photographers and the viewing public.

“I consider myself a realistic photographer,” Robinson told The Tribune-Democrat in a past interview.

“I try to achieve naturalness and validity in everything I photograph. Even though my images are realistic, I continue to find great mystery and unanswered questions in many of my photographs.”

His landscape, portrait and wildlife photos are lauded and appreciated by audiences around the world.

The museum is located in the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, on the campus of Pitt-Johnstown in Richland Township.

The museum is free to the public and open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Information: 269-7234 or visit


What: “Face of India: Photography by Donald M. Robinson.”

Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Johnstown, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.

When: Through Aug. 22.

Admission: Free.

Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.

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