Jack Robinson made his name as a much-sought-after fashion and celebrity photographer during the 1960s and early 1970s, and his work is well documented in hundreds of pages of Vogue, the New York Times, and Life, as well as other publications. However, his personal life remains virtually unknown. In this study of Robinson and his photography, Howard Philips Smith takes an in-depth look at Robinson’s early life in New Orleans, where he discovered his passion for painting, photography, and the Dixie Bohemian life of the French Quarter.
A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950s New Orleans (UP of Mississippi, 2020) features more than one hundred photographs taken by the artist, accompanied by detailed commentary about Robinson’s life in New Orleans and excerpts from interviews with the people who knew him when he lived there. Robinson’s photographs of New Orleans reveal the genesis of two unique and fascinating facets of the city’s history and culture: the creation of the first gay Carnival krewes who would make their own unique contribution to the rich cultural history of the city and the formation of the Orleans Gallery, one of the earliest centers of the contemporary art movement blossoming in 1950s America. This detailed study of Jack Robinson’s early life and photography illustrates the contributions of a gifted, gay artist whose quiet spirit and constant interior struggle found refuge in New Orleans, the city where he was able to find himself, for a time, free from society’s grip and open to exploring life on his own terms.
Other interviews by Isabel Machado with Howard Philips Smith:
Isabel Machado is Research Associate with the SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture hosted by the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at the University of Johannesburg.