• Famed fashion photographer photos on display at GPAC


    His name was Jack Robinson and at one time back in the mid 1950s through the early 1970s his photographs were seen in the top publications around the world.

    His photos were published in The New York Times, Vogue Magazine, and on the cover of LIFE magazine.

    Then one day he just left his perch as the top celebrity and fashion photographer in the world and moved to Memphis to start all over again.

    "It's totally movie material," said Jack Kenner. "The man was working with stars we didn't even know at the time. Nobody knew they who they were. Like brilliant actors and musicians and he was getting assignments to photograph them and he was a nobody.

    "They were nobodies and together they were meeting and working together," Kenner said. "Today those photographs are invaluable."

    While he took thousands of photos during his time as a professional photographer, Robinson was a very private man. After spending years in New York photographing anyone who was anyone and even before they were anyone, Robinson just left his world of high fashion and celebrity  photography behind moved to Memphis.

    He became a stained glass window designer and almost never spoke of his former career.

    "Some friends of mine who will go nameless, lived across the street and Jack was drinking at the time," recalled Dan Oppenheimer. "His house was a mess except for one room, a shrine with these photos. Now he was drinking and they'd tell me that he would say, 'Lauren Bacall called me last night.' They just did not believe it was true until much, much later."

    Robinson and Oppenheimer went on to create a hugely successful stained glass and etched glass business in Memphis. Robinson passed away in 1997 and Oppenheimer was left in charge of his estate. He went to Robinson's apartment in a high rise on Central Avenue and what he found was a photographic record of American Pop Culture in the 1960s and 1970s.
    "There were 1,500 of these but there were other things, boxes of finished prints, ready to be hung for a show," Oppenheimer said.

    There is a book featuring Robinson's work.

    "It's got Warren Beatty on the front right after he made 'Bonnie and Clyde,'" Oppenheimer said. "It's just ... there is Tina Turner, The Who, Joni ...."

    Sixty-two of Robinson's images are now on display at the Germantown Performing Arts Center and will be there until Dec. 2.

    But much of his collection is on permanent display at Jack Robinson Studio on South Front Street in Downtown Memphis, in the same building that houses Rainbow Studio, the place he spent the second half of a very talented life.

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