Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Stranger Passing (Robert Asman)

A few weeks back, while I was still living in Philadelphia I had the chance to meet photographer Robert Asman. I was unaware of him and his work. I met him by chance through his neighbor, a friend of mine named Mike Johnson. Mike and I were at the neighborhood bar, like many other nights I spent in my year in Philadelphia. Bob, as I was introduced to him, was a photographer. I had no expectations for him or his work, but I was glad to strike up a conversation.

It turned out that Bob had deep roots with the Philadelphia photography scene of the 70s. He had moved to Philly to pursue photography after finishing graduate school at Rochester Institute of Technology. Soon after, he was chosen to be in one of the first shows at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art by fellow photographer Ray Metzker. Metzker was the first name I had asked him about, being that he was the best known (to me) of that city and era, but Bob turned out to know almost everyone involved in the Philadelphia scene from the last 25 years. Hearing that he had graduated from RIT perked up my ears as well, as one of my former professors, Thomas J. Petit, had also gone through the program around the same time. Upon my asking, it turned out that those two were friends as well. Bob has taught at many of the institutions in town, but has never sought out tenure, preferring to work on his own projects and sporadically teach.

It was refreshing to meet someone new from the neighborhood that shared a common interest, especially someone with far more experience than I have with photography. Bob’s advice was close to my heart; to keep shooting, and to have patience and persistence. It was certainly interesting to get advice from someone who came up with some of my biggest influences. He worried about the over saturation of the market compared to what he referred to as the golden days of the 70s and 80s.

After we parted ways I was eager to see his work, so I looked him up online. Asman definitely walked the walk of his talk. He has been endlessly documenting the city of Philadelphia since his arrival, and his work holds up strong to that of his contemporaries.

I felt compelled to share this story and Robert’s images for a few reasons. It is very important for us as young photographers to learn from those that have come before us. For me, I needed this reminder to always show respect and an open mind to those that I meet no matter where or how. Also this made me feel a little better about spending so much time at Philadelphia bars and not having as much to show for it as say, Sarah Stolfa.

I would like to thank Bob and wish him luck as he is soon moving to Ashville, NC. Thanks also to Mike for the introduction.

-Eric D Watts

From Top to Bottom :

Robert Asman, Passyunk & 2nd, Philadelphia 2002

Robert Asman, Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia 2002

Robert Asman, 10th & Lombard Street, Philadelphia 2001

All images copyright Robert Asman.