Celebrated yoga photographer Robert Sturman shares his thoughts on the power of an image, meditative living, and finding peaceful moments in the day.
Yoga photographer Robert Sturman on his craft, acceptance, and peace.
No matter where I am in the world
or what time I fall asleep, I awaken each day just before the sun rises and sit quietly for 30 minutes. I’m not quite in the world yet, but I feel deeply present and grounded. It’s an effortless time for meditation and creative exploration. I love to practice asana sometime mid-morning. Yoga clears out what’s unnecessary and allows me to begin again. On the days I’m not attending a class, I’ll spend quiet time in nature with my dog, Chai—being silent at the park, in the mountains, or at the beach always helps me feel alive and full of gratitude.
I try to live a meditative life,
but this can be challenging when I’m navigating airports and traveling more than 50 days a year. I’m learning the art of saying “no” and how to appreciate the distinctions between commitment and chaos. Often, this can be as simple as arriving two hours early to the airport and creating time to be still and breathe.
As an artist, I’ve learned to get centered
and be decisive before taking a photograph. I try to just relax and surrender to the yoga of seeing. That means trusting my ability to be present with what is in front of me and pressing the shutter at the moment when everything conspires into perfection. I’ve learned to give myself permission to sometimes make just one exposure, know that I got it, and walk away.
Asana is the greatest figurative poetry
I’ve ever seen. It’s the expressive language of human beings striving to reach their full potential that inspires me to tell remarkable stories of hope, devotion, sincerity, and longing. Just look at the poses: They show us pushing our hearts toward the sky or reaching with our arms toward something greater—and sharing a common desire to be better at life. We have reached a point in yoga’s popularity where I can photograph just about every type of person practicing asana—from prisoners, soldiers, doctors, artists, firefighters, and cops to Maasai warriors, orphans, and breast cancer survivors.
With my work,
I have the opportunity to reflect back the elegant truth that we are beautiful, flawed, magnificent beings. One of the greatest things I’ve learned is that every person—whether on the cover of a magazine or serving a life sentence in prison— lights up when he or she feels seen. It is a humbling responsibility and privilege to embrace art in its primal capacity for expression and connection. It has never been about expensive equipment or mechanical expertise; rather, it’s about honoring others and our collaborative experience.
I believe the camera is a magic box
that can change the world when used with the right intentions. We have an opportunity to use this form of expression to spread ideas that help us evolve in a more positive direction. I want my work to inspire every type of person to get on the mat and find a way to deal with his or her stress and to discover that peace and acceptance are also part of the human condition.