Robin Enright Salcido, Age 61
What is your medium today?
I’m a writer, photographer, and artist who explores with water color, acrylic, collage and fine art photography. I do not feel limited or a need to restrict myself to one thing though photography and writing are dominant in my life. Curiosity drives me and whatever medium helps me explore is my favorite at the moment.
Why this medium?
I owned a Hawkeye film camera sometime in the late 60’s, maybe when I was around ten or eleven. Trying on the role of photographer, waiting for my film to be developed, wasting flash bulbs. The experience memory is vivid and tactile. Maybe I would be an artist. Maybe I would be a writer. Anything was possible. Sixty years later, here I am.
Stepping into my artist shoes has taken me most of my life. The past cannot be changed. The future can.
Sometimes I say, “I bet I would have been a journalist,” or after acknowledging my fascination with social sciences, “I wonder if I might have become a sociologist, studying the impact of group behavior on our culture.” Something very few people know about me is that I was enrolled at Westfield State College to study economics, but bailed at the last minute. I was afraid of having college loans. It was in my 30’s that I became fascinated with the science of sociology and I believe that still feeds me today. I am curious about human beings, women in particular. Why do we feel the way we do? What has influenced us? Art is a path to answering these questions.
How has your art evolved as you have become older?
I am more comfortable with failure, with missing the mark, because I know these are the things that will teach me. Photography is a perfect example. I might take 200 photos during a portrait session, but end up with only 35 that I consider good. The ones that didn’t work encourage me to figure out what went wrong. Was it ISO, shutter speed? Did I cut off a critical part of my subject’s anatomy? But sometimes, these ‘mistakes’ also become favorite photographs.
What does art mean to you especially at this stage of life?
Art and creativity are the very things that help me disseminate and navigate what is happening in the world and my own life. The outlet of creativity has always helped me make sense of my experiences and I honestly don’t know how I might have coped without it this year. Whether I am shooting portraits, working on my memoir or painting joyful flowers, I am transported and fully engaged. Any worries I might have fade into the background.
What is/has been the biggest roadblock to you as an artist?
Lack of support, encouragement and financial stability have all been roadblocks.
My creative growth did not happen in a vacuum. As a young woman, I didn’t have the support or understanding I needed to pursue the life of an artist. Life focus was earning a living in the 70’s, not chasing after one’s dream of using art to change the world. Writing, especially, was not considered a viable profession by the adults in my life.
My husband, Rob made the difference. He knew how much I loved photography and he surprised me one Christmas with a Nikon, assortment of lenses, a camera bag and tripod. A few years later, I took the plunge and spent a week at Santa Fe Workshop with instructor Jennifer Spelman and learned how to actually use this extraordinary tool. I haven’t touched the automatic setting since then. There was no thought in my mind of bringing photography into my professional life at the time. I worried I was too old to catch up my skills, didn’t have enough experience. My goal was to just learn enough to use my equipment so that my landscape photos would improve. I hadn’t bargained for falling head over heels in love with portrait work.
We had one day devoted to working on our portraits and I was terrified. Working in pairs with another student, we each had ten minutes to shoot an assortment of professional models. Decisions about where to pose, how to use the light, what our models should wear, all pushed me into wobbly territory. I didn’t know what I was doing.
I loved the adrenaline rush. And I learned. There really was no other option.
How did you/are you pushing past that roadblock?
Education and practice. Trust in myself. I study photo books from photographers I admire, take classes on MasterClass and when I need to learn a task, ask a respected peer or try to find a virtual source. For practice, I take lots of photographs; portraits, still life compositions, flowers. I write daily whether in my journal, a chapter of my memoir or for the Our Stories Today blog. I push through fear and allow myself to fail. I follow my own path which means while I listen to critiques from others, I know that my style may not suit everyone. I stay true to myself and my own curiosity. I’ve learned when feedback is coming from a place of support and guidance and from someone who understands my vision and interpretation.
Share a favorite quote:
“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.”
“If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered.”
“It’s ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
Advice to anyone just beginning to experiment with their creativity and who is over the age of 50?
Interested in photography? Explore and talk to photographers whose work you admire. Be realistic about the skills you have now and determine how far you are willing to go to improve. Want to write? Write. Read. Write. I think the most important thing to do is determine what really interests you and go from there. Be careful who you show your early work to–unfortunately not everyone will be supportive and our first creations are the beginning. Annie Leibovitz is a photographer I study extensively. Stephen King wrote one of my favorite books, “On Writing.” Study your craft, but DO NOT wait to be perfect to begin! Experience is the best teacher.
Anything you want to add?
Many people don’t know that it wasn’t until much later in life that I learned to appreciate my intellect and how my brain works. I thought I was stupid because of life-changing experiences with math and science in high school. My high school algebra teacher told me, “Don’t worry, girls don’t really need math.” My senior science class was Chem-Phys and I passed by the skin of my teeth and the help of a dear friend who had the patience of a saint.
So many starts and stops in my professional life, and I cannot lie, I do have regrets, the biggest of which is letting the view of others dictate my view of myself.
But today, I feel blessed.
Maybe all those interests were pushing me in this direction. Perhaps those life experiences provided life lessons that have developed into a deep, deep, gratitude that I, at least, have THIS time.
I can’t get enough. There aren’t enough hours in the day to explore and I appreciate each moment.
Women are the subject I have chosen because the more I learn about other women over 50, the more I understand myself. I photograph women because I find them beautiful. Beautiful in how shy they are at the beginning of a portrait session, beautiful in how they begin to see how lovely they truly are. Beautiful in the quiet way they impact every corner of every community. Every woman I photograph is different, but I believe all of them benefit from a few hours of seeing what I see. Such an experience lifts me up and I return home seeing my own inner glow.
You can view more of my photography at www.resphotography.com and I invite you to explore my portrait portfolio here. The goal of the Wise Women Project is to recognize and spotlight women over 50 in our community. I want to recognize and give voice to the many ways these women are impacting and inspiring others. Learn more about the Wise Women Project here. Custom printing and sizes are available for all images. Contact me here to inquire or to book a photoshoot of your own.