"Jack was a joy to work with. He was very low key and gave his subjects freedom to evolve according to the spirit of the moment, which gives his work a refreshing spontaneity." - Gloria Vanderbilt
When Jack Robinson died in 1997, few people knew that the very private artist, who lived in a tiny apartment in mid-town Memphis, had once been acclaimed as one of the great fashion and portrait photographers of the sixties and early seventies, as highly regarded as his contemporaries Irving Penn and Richard Avedon.
The roll-call of subjects Jack photographed in his career reads like a definitive who’s who of the period. From Vidal Sassoon to Michael Caine, from Tina Turner to The Who, from Tom Wolfe to Lauren Bacall. Robinson photographed not only actors and entertainers but the writers, artists, fashion designers and politicians who shaped the cultural landscape of the sixties and early seventies. Rarely have his subjects – some of the most photographed individuals in the world – appeared so unguarded and at ease in front of the lens.
A favourite of legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, Robinson’s photographs appeared over 500 times in the magazine’s “People are Talking About” section and “Vogue’s own Boutique”. In late 1972, he left New York for Memphis and abandoned his photographic career for good. This impeccably produced book showcases 150 unforgettable images selected from the vast archive that makes up his extraordinary body of work. It re-establishes Jack Robinson’s reputation as a master photographer of one of the twentieth-century’s defining periods.
"When I look at these pictures, I remember that time in the 1970s and how many doors were opening for me. The two photos of me in this book were part of a session in October 1971, just one month after the premiere of my first film, The Last Picture Show. The photo that appears later in the book reminds me of not only how thrilling that time was, but how joyful it was to open that door and see Jack. My expression in the photo on the opposite page is one of true amazement. Actually, I was amazed that I was able to climb up on that high wall with no assistance … and that I managed not to fall off. These boots were made for climbing! Jack and I were both from Memphis, the capital of the Mississippi Delta, home to Elvis, Faulkner, B.B. King, and so many other artists. It was the hub of creativity. Jack and I not only shared the Memphis connection, but a very strong music connection. His beautiful hands photographed all the stunning portraits in this book and many more, and I knew from the start that I was in the best of hands. The Mississippi River and the Delta get in your blood at an early age. They infuse those who are open to them with a sense of grounding that can carry one through a trying life. They can give you the blues and take you to the highest highs. They introduce you to all people on a common ground. They did that for me and I would suspect they did that for Jack, too. Here’s why I believe that: Being photographed is a highly intimate exchange of emotions and feelings. It’s a marriage of sorts—if only for those brief moments. What happens in those moments are feelings captured forever. The photographer looks through his or her eyes and looks into yours with focus and a yearning to make art. And even though there’s a machine between you—it doesn’t exist because you are one when you are photographed. And, it’s a dance, a seduction and an indelibly moving series of moments—ecstatic, lovely, sexy, fun, and memorable. As a person, Jack had all of those qualities and brought them out in me, too. As a young girl, I knew that I had to leave Memphis in order to survive. I never intended to follow in the traditional mold. I wanted more out of life and my instincts led me to New York. Jack mirrored those instincts and took the same path. I look at these photos of some acquaintances, some friends, and some I don’t know and I feel closer to them than I ever imagined … all thanks to dear Jack. Jack Robinson, a man with whom I will be connected always—always in my heart."