February 22, 2012

Robert Sturman: King of The Yoga Photograph, King of Capturing The Soul. The Manifestation Q&A Series.

Welcome to The Manifestation Q&A Series. 

I am Jennifer Pastiloff and this series is designed to introduce the world to someone I find incredible. Someone who is manifesting their dreams on a daily basis.

I am so in love with today’s post.

When I asked what he will be up to in 2012, he says “I’ll be pointing towards the beauty and I’ll be continuing to tell our story. That’s what the Artist does” and this, this, is why I love Robert Sturman.

Robert has been a dear friend for years. We have connected on a deep level because both of us love poetry, art and yoga, of course. Robert was a big fan of my poetry from the moment he heard my poems and constantly stayed on me to write more. Now that is a friend I want to have around. Someone who believes in me, supports me and wants to make me the best me I can be. That is Sturman.

(I call him Sturman, folks. Or King.)

His art blows me away. I am sure you have seen his images gracing your Facebook or the walls of your local yoga studio or friend’s home. It’s not that he simply captures an image. He captures the soul and the light and makes it immortal as all great artists before him have done. He is a poet in the truest sense of the word.

We had coffee last week and when I asked him what he was up to he said “Prison.”

He has become passionate about creating art in prisons as someone teaches the prisoners yoga. From a gorgeous Elephant Journal article: 

Devoid of judgment or commentary, the images simply bring forth beauty and truth. I’m reminded of Rumi: “out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field; I’ll meet you there.“

So when he said he would do my q&a I was thrilled because I knew his answers would be nothing short of magic. And I was right. He talks about being stuck as not an option, which I love. He laughs at himself. He is graceful, funny and humble. Check out my lovely and talented brother from another mother below. The King of Yoga Photographs. I would like to call him The KIng of Art but I am afraid he would blush.


Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you the most proud to have manifested in your life?

Robert Sturman: One day, about 2 years ago, I woke up and I made a choice that I was going to become the human being I had always dreamed of being. I no longer wanted to have a fantasy about it. I wanted to find out what it meant to honor who I truly am and say yes to all of the things that supported that. I wanted to experience life at my full potential.

It was nothing short of an internal revolution. Everything that made me tense up and resist, like building a website, keeping impeccable financial books, organizing a business plan, taking great care of my body, etc… I was going to move in that direction. It was a personal Renaissance in which I was determined to integrate my wild, creative Artist self with the mathematician/businessman. A full integration of left and right brain. I found it so limiting to continue to buy into the excuse that I am an Artist and I am not supposed to be good at this and that. Bullshit! And with hard work I manifested a man who found just as much satisfaction in learning code to build a website as in going out into the world with my camera. This has given me a great sense of peace, because I harmonized the different parts of myself..

Portrait of The Artist.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are your favorite top three Robert Sturman yoga images ?

Robert Sturman: Such a difficult question when I have thousands of images which were all my favorites the moment they were born. Imogen Cunningham had the best answer for that question when she said, “The ones I am going to make tomorrow.” And that’s the truth because the most exciting question an Artist can ask is ‘What’s Next?’ Creativity is a thing of the now flowing forward. Every piece was my favorite one the moment it was made. It has to be that way in order to keep going and being excited about going even deeper into the mystery of creation..

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from making your living as an artist?

Robert Sturman: No one’s going to do it for me. And in a challenging recession, I might just have to take a picture of a cat (exaggeration) so I can buy dog food. I came out of the Art academy as a snob about what I would do. But, I wasn’t a developed Artist yet. Now, it does not matter what I do. I am an Artist. Everything I do comes from that place of freedom and sincerity.

Jennifer Pastiloff: From shooting yoga teachers?

Robert Sturman: Yoga teachers are some of the hardest working people I know. Running from class to class, offering everything they have in an effort to help people have a better day. That’s a beautiful gift to life. I also learned that many like to cuss a lot when we are working on the beach and they realize balancing is a bit more challenging in the sand. I enjoy turning the tables and reminding them to take deep breaths and not judge themselves – you know, the same stuff they tell me in class.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming the The King Of Yoga Photographs?

Robert Sturman: Hahaha. That’s a funny question considering I am influenced by so many others in the field. But I guess it’s better than you calling me the Queen. My work doesn’t come from anything I was taught about yoga. I never studied texts and alignment – I like what I see and make Art. I could never call myself a yoga photographer – I think a better description of what is going on is I am an Artist deeply moved by the poetry of yoga. Yogis are a beautiful example of human beings striving to do their best. They have been and continue to be a great influence on me as an Artist.

Jennifer Pastiloff:  What are you most inspired by? Where does the daily source of inspiration for your art come from?

Robert Sturman: Inspiration comes from being in love with life. It’s a romance with life. It’s not rational. Just like love is irrational. It comes from wanting to live, wanting to be immersed in this incredible life. My work is about the world we live in, not an escape or fantasy about a better place. The only inspiration for me is to find a joy in being alive and then the Art is an effortless expression of the life I am living.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What do you do when you feel stuck?

Robert Sturman: It’s not an option. I don’t get stuck. My relationship with myself is vast. There’s where the concept of practicing yoga comes in for me. When I unroll my mat, I know that the next hour and a half is devoted to me – my internal world – to removing the unnecessary. It’s interesting because one of my favorite quotes by Picasso is “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” That’s exactly what I’m doing with my yoga.

Jennifer Pastiloff: I have a list of rules. See below. What would some of Robert’s rules be?

Robert Sturman: Adopt a dog from the shelter if you can.

Spend an hour a day in silence enjoying being with yourself. It will change your entire life.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you up to now?  Where can we find more of Robert Sturman?

Robert Sturman: I’ve been honored to be an Artist who is permitted to enter various United States Penitentiaries to document the growing yoga programs on the inside.

And, I love going into the prisons and working with these men who have found yoga. You’ll see more of that.

My work is just going to keep showing up. That’s really all I can say. I’m going to simply continue on as I have been.

Jennifer Pastiloff: The Polaroid series. Tell us a bit about that.

Robert Sturman: Up until recently, Polaroids were all I did for the majority of my career. It was a unique process of photography in which I carved into the images and created extremely fluid, painterly works of art bursting with color. It was a pre-digital process that I took very far. I traveled around the world celebrating the diversity of our planet completing bodies of work in India, Cuba, Europe, and many other places. I did major commissions for the Olympics, the Grammy’s, World Cup soccer, etc.

But then one day Polaroid announced they were going out of business. At that point, they divided up the remainder of the film for various Artists. I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to use the last of the film. I devoted that film to two projects. One was to raise money for the musicians who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. I worked with the Grammy folks and photographed about 50 of New Orleans beloved musicians – including the Neville Brothers and Fats Domino.

The other project I used the film for was the exploration of expressiveness of yoga. I did a massive series entitled “Poetry of the Gods.” It definitely celebrates the poetry of yoga on the beaches of Southern California. It’s my most comprehensive collection – over 500 finished pieces. It resulted in a large coffee table book, with the foreword by Shiva Rea. I’m quite proud of the finished piece and I look forward to its publication in the very near future.

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you could say “thank you” right now, who would it be to?

Robert Sturman: My thank you is to all of the mentors and beacons of light, the Artists who have come before us, who help and gently guide us through the days—attesting to the awareness that beauty, love and truth can always overpower life’s tragic losses and painful challenges.

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you could pass on one message only to readers in terms of manifesting their own dreams, what would it be?

Robert Sturman: For me, manifestation is a very real thing. I’m not interested in simply thinking it and it will be so. Of course one needs to have the positive thoughts and intentions as a seed to begin – but then it takes hard work. Hammers, nails, muscles and silence. There’s no fluff about that. ALL successful people worked very hard to make things happen. It wasn’t magic.

Jennifer Pastiloff: When was the last time you laughed at yourself?

Robert Sturman: A few minutes ago when you referred to me as ‘the King.’ That made me laugh at myself. (Note from Jen: I can assure you he is. He is!)

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you weren’t creating incredible art, what would you be doing?

Robert Sturman: There has never been a thought of doing something other than what I do.

But, it reminds me of something I heard the mystic philosopher and poet, Osho, once say. He spoke of a woman who he loved watching sweep the floor in the Buddha hall. He said she was making the most beautiful invisible paintings by the joy she was bringing to the sweeping of the floor. So, whatever I chose to do other than making Art, I hope that I’d bring the same quality to it. Because that’s the Art – not the finished piece, but the life behind the creation of it.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Who are your greatest teachers?

Robert Sturman: There have been many. I have gathered teachings here and there. And, I am going to stay very present and close to home with that question and tell you about a yoga teacher who I have had the honor of practicing with for the past 2 years named Micheline Berry. I went to her class religiously and she provided the space for me to go deep in my practice sweating it all out, letting go of anything in the way of my life. Anyways, through asana, the sweet rhythm of her class, and the poignant things she would often say, it was like I was at the academy of reconstructing the internal world. She has influenced me into being more of me. That’s a great teacher.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What can we expect Sturman to be manifesting in 2012?

Robert Sturman: I’ll be pointing towards the beauty and I’ll be continuing to tell our story. That’s what the Artist does.

Link to a gorgeous Post Robert wrote in Elephant Journal 


Jen’s rules:

1. Be Kind.

2. Have a sense of humor especially when it comes to yourself

3. Write poems, even if only in your head

4. Sing out loud, even if badly

5. Dance

6. If you don’t have anything nice to say… you know the deal

7. Find things to be in awe of

8. Be grateful for what you have right now .

9. Watch Modern Family

10. Duh, do yoga

11. Don’t worry. Everyone on Facebook seems like they have happier and funner lives. They don’t.

12. Tell someone you love that you love them. Right now.

13.. Take more pictures.

14. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. No such thing.

15. Say “Thank You” in advance for what is on it’s way.


Robert captures me in Malibu Jan 2012.


Editor: Brianna Bemel

Read 18 Comments and Reply

Read 18 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Jennifer Pastiloff  |  Contribution: 2,040