Brave New World

Brave New World

Photographer Edward Robison goes beyond reality


The traditional mediums used by an artist don’t really change. Oil paint is oil paint, acrylics are acrylics, clay is clay, and stone is stone, whether you’re working in the 16th century or the 21st.

That’s not so true for Edward Robison, whose work is on show this summer at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum. Robison is a photographer, but what that means has changed dramatically since he studied at the University of Kansas and the Kansas City Art Institute 20 years ago. Asked where he sees his work over the long run, he pauses. “It’s so hard to say.”

“If you would have asked me this question 25 years ago, I would have said I’d still be capturing images on 4×5 film and printing in the darkroom. About 15 years ago, I would have said definitely not digital!

“Ten years ago, augmented reality wasn’t even on my radar; the first iPhone was just coming out, and no one took the potential of its camera seriously. Five years ago, my first augmented reality experience was coming out, and I had no idea that 3D modeling and game development would become a major component of my image making process.

“If I had to guess,” he continues, “I’m going to have to say that I’m going to either go in some direction that hasn’t even been conceived of, or created yet, or completely back the other direction to something as simple as traditional black and white photography.”

Growing up on 70 acres outside Warrensburg, in west-central Missouri, Robison’s passion for nature photography started with a passion for nature.

“During my youth, I spent a good portion of my free time hunting, fishing and exploring the creek and woods surrounding my home,” he remembers. “Hunting and fishing were also [among] my father’s favorite hobbies, and every year we would travel to Kansas to hunt or the Ozarks to fish.”

Art and photography came into the picture hand in hand.

“In high school I took a couple of photography classes and fell in love with cameras and the process of photography,” Robison says. “During that time, I was also doing quite a bit of photo-realism style oil paintings. By the time I was ready to graduate from high school, I had decided I wanted to pursue my interests in photography.”

Robison enrolled at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, but soon discovered “photojournalism was the only major the university offered in photography, and that I didn’t really enjoy people photography. So I took as many photography classes as I could at KU before transferring to the Kansas City Art Institute, where I would ultimately get my Bachelor of Fine Art degree in photography.”

Like so many things in life, Robison’s career was shaped serendipitously the summer after graduation, when his parents took him on a “final” summer vacation to the desert southwest of Arizona and Utah.

“While eating dinner at our hotel’s restaurant just outside of Zion National Park, I discovered the photographic artwork of photographer Michael Fatali,” he remembers. “His work captured the beauty and magic of nature and the landscape in an expressive, artistic way I had never seen before. It also mimicked what I had oftentimes wanted to paint, but with a camera instead of paint! Fatali’s work inspired me to follow the path of becoming a professional nature photographer.”

A photography workshop with Fatali came next, then an apprenticeship with the photographer.

“After studying with Fatali, I purchased my first large-format 4×5 camera. I then set out to capture my own images of the landscape I was connected to — the plains and Ozarks,” Robison says.

Now, he says, “the cutting edge is constantly changing and shifting, but currently I am working on some new virtual reality environments/experiences. These environments are built using a combination of stereoscopic 360 degree photographs, 3D photogrammetry models (created from thousands of still images), and live video and digital particle effect generators. These VR environments would then enable people who are not able to (due to health reasons or otherwise) to experience natural locations in Arkansas and the surrounding Ozarks through the use of a virtual reality headset.”

However he does what he does, Robison seeks the same effect on his audience.

“Ultimately, I hope to inspire people to get outside and connect more with nature. Hopefully my photographs will motivate them to explore the amazing planet we live on, and on a deeper level, possibly even find some form of spiritual connection along that journey.”



Edward Robison III:

‘The Nature of Photography

From Traditional to Augmented Reality’

WHEN — 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 1

WHERE — Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

COST — Free

INFO — 784-2787,



Through Another’s Eyes

Lou Meluso, executive director of the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, has known Edward Robison for many years, since they worked together at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. When he discovered they were both now in Arkansas, Meluso was delighted to book Robison to exhibit — and it’s “one of the most amazing shows we’ve had here,” he adds. “His work is so creative, he has such a sensitive eye for nature, and the augmented reality stuff just enhances all that. It’s great to see Edward spread his good name around.”

Categories: Galleries