We had the good fortune of connecting with Robin Elise Maaya and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robin Elise, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Making art has saved my life. From calming me down in moments of anxiety as a kid, to now being the outlet in which I tell my story, it has healed me in every way possible. This is why I choose to invest 200% of myself into my work. Without my creativity, I would not be who I am today and I owe my life to my artistry in every capacity. I chose to pursue a creative career rather than the “normal” 9 to 5 job for so many reasons. In addition to being genuinely happy to go to work when photographing people, I am able to add to my portfolio when making photographs for other people. It is a win-win situation with every client. They get photographs that go beyond the standard for family photographs, and I push myself further in order to fuel my inner artist all while being able to support myself through photography. This then all comes full circle because I am able to then apply that income to make my personal bodies of work which is where a huge part of my love for photography will always reside.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My artwork is ever-evolving, but one thing remains consistent – the experience of humanhood. I am constantly inspired by the life that is emanating around me. I habitually have two kinds of work cascading out of me simultaneously. I have my photographs that are inspired by my own story and I have photographs that are inspired by the stories of people around me. Both bodies of work being a tool to heal my present self and my inner child. To me, they feel like fraternal twins within me; they are of the same creator, but unique to themselves in every way. At present, I find my inspiration lying in the hands of children. Whether it be children I nanny or meet only once, children carry with them a fearlessness and immense amount of wisdom within their unscathed adolescent minds. I crave that intrepidity so deeply and find myself documenting children as a way to bring myself closer to those desires. I am incredibly proud of the photographs I have made with children, but a piece of me will always be so very proud of the projects I have made that are inspired by my own story. Being willing to be vulnerable to such a degree deserves to be applauded and recognized even more than the work that is based on happy moments. Getting to the point of letting both kinds of my work coexist and thrive in unison was definitely not easy. I have been told that I am “too documentary for the fine art world and too fine art for the documentary world”, but I truly do disagree with this. I think the two go hand in hand. You need to bring conceptualism into the reality of “documentary” work and you must also bring in the realities of the world into the “fine art” work. If you can take away one thing from my work, I would hope that you see connection. A connection to myself, to children, to my inner child, and to each and every subject I have been lucky to have in front of my camera. if you are interested in seeing Robin’s work in person, please check out the gallery card that can be found in the images section.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite thing to do in Savannah is to drive over the bridge into South Carolina with the windows down blasting whatever song is on repeat for me that day. I would probably have that moment first before heading over to Foxy Loxy, a coffee shop that was the first place I ever ate in Savannah. Fox and Fig, Collins Quarter, Savoy Society, and Treylor Park are all some of my favorite restaurants here that I would recommend to anyone!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I could dedicate this to so very many people in my life that have shown me the utmost support to me and my artistic career, but I will name just a few here. Jaclyn Cori Norman, Christine Hall, Stephanie Forbes, Deb Oden, just scrape the surface of who I owe thanks to. Jaclyn has pushed me beyond my wildest dreams when it comes to my work. Even when I thought that my work wasn’t worth the time of day, she encouraged me to keep going and taught me something that has always stuck with me: “Photograph the moments between the moments”. Christine Hall has supported me in so many ways photographically and personally, but what she deserves the most credit for here is for 1. Providing me with access to her family for one of my most important bodies of work, “Home Away From Home” and 2. For convincing me that my work was valuable and for teaching me the ins and outs of having a photography business. Stephanie Forbes, a fellow artist with a focus on vulnerable, ground breaking storytelling has shown me her heart, her ideas, and her craft in order to support me and what I am doing within my work. She has taught me about vulnerability in ways no one has and has shown me how to turn grief into growth. Deb Oden has been a pivotal part in pushing my creative process into mediums I never thought I would be successful in and for questioning my ideas in order to make me think about them on a deeper level.