Ansel Adams discovered a sublime majesty in the raw landscapes of the American West. Dorothea Lange captured the poignant sorrow of Depression era faces. And Heath Robbins' photographs transform an avocado, sizzling chicken wings and a sinful slice of chocolate cake into mouthwatering works of art.
Ansel Adams discovered a sublime majesty in the raw landscapes of the American West. Dorothea Lange captured the poignant sorrow of Depression era faces.
And Heath Robbins' photographs transform an avocado, sizzling chicken wings and a sinful slice of chocolate cake into mouthwatering works of art.
Since getting his first camera as a teenager, a passion for photography has sent Robbins around the world as far as China and Cambodia, and into Boston's finest restaurants and posh hotels across the country.
With a staff of four, he now occupies a spacious Saxonville studio where he's established himself as a top food and lifestyle photographer for several of the region's best-known businesses.
While photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt aimed for "the defining moment," Robbins photographs food with a more down-to-earth objective: "What would make you want to bite it?"
He must be doing something right, because just a partial list of his clients includes Hannaford supermarkets, BJ's Wholesale Club, Stop & Shop and 51 Lincoln Street, an award-winning Newton Highlands restaurant.
A New York native, Robbins worked in New York City for four years as an advertising account executive until a collapsed lung convinced him to fulfill a long-deferred dream of traveling around the world.
Over the next 12 months, he visited 38 countries, shot 21,000 pictures and realized -- "like turning on a light" -- that he wanted to see life up close and personal and not from behind a desk.
Relaxing in a 5,500-square-foot studio in the Saxonville Mill complex, Robbins recalled the anticipation he felt as a high school sophomore watching in the darkroom as a picture he took emerged from a swirling wash of chemicals.
"Even at 15, I was hooked on the art of creating and not being able to wait to see what I'd taken," he said.
Twenty-five years later, clients are paying for that passion and expertise.
With hardwood floors and 16-foot-high ceilings, a kitchen with granite counter tops, a plush leather couch, a makeup and hair area and walls covered with his photos, Robbins' studio looks like it's simultaneously occupied by a gourmet cook, a business executive, a fashion stylist and someone just nuts about taking pictures.
A multi-tasking artist, Robbins wears all those hats.
Little in his background suggests he would become the lifestyle and food photographer recently profiled on "Chronicle."
Born in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., he graduated from St. Lawrence University where he majored in political science and psychology.
Except for a few courses at the International Center for Photography when he was in advertising, Robbins is largely self-taught.
In 1994 he bought his mother's company which scouted locations for advertisers and, merging it with his own company, developed it into the largest company of its kind in Westchester County and New York City before selling it in 2001.
Married since 1998, Robbins and his wife, Lisa, have three children, Spencer, 10, Isabella, 8 and Trinity, 7. They live in Sherborn.
In the 1990s Robbins began commuting from Connecticut to the Boston area where he began taking photos for Boston magazine's dining section and establishing a reputation for creativity and reliability among the city's top restaurateurs and businesses.
Spread across a table are copies of several cookbooks he's photographed including Debra Samuels' "The Korean Table" and chef Peter Davis' "Fresh & Honest: Food from the Farms of New England and the Kitchen of Henrietta's Table."
For Robbins, photographing a basket of shrimp has lots in common with a top fashion photographer shooting Giselle Bundchen modeling a new brand of tanning products.
He often consults with his client to understand how they want their product represented. He considers possible locations, layouts, lighting and what angles to shoot from.
And when it all comes together, Robbins makes a roast turkey or a hot dog decorated with a squiggle of mustard as inviting and exotic as the Brazilian supermodel is to Tom Brady.
"It depends on the subject and what the client wants," said Robbins. "The goal is to make the most beautiful picture."
To learn more about Heath Robbins, visit www.heathrobbins.com.