Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Matinee: Ron Corbin Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

11 June 2016

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 139th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Interview With Ron Corbin, Street Photographer.

In the time it takes Neil Young to sing Philadelphia, Ron Corbin introduces us to the homeless of Los Angeles and Philadelphia. He's a street photographer, he tells us.

But there are street photographers and then there are street photographers.

Corbin, who was born in Maryland but grew up in Philadelphia, spent 20 years in the Marine Corps., serving in Vietnam as a sergeant. He bought his first camera on a side trip to Japan and, inspired by the work of Gordon Parks, began photographing the people around him.

In the 1980s he began shooting in Los Angeles where he was drawn "to the less fortunate individuals that looked to the city's streets, bridges and abandoned structures as their home."

He returned to Philadelphia in 1999 but continued to capture "the lives of individuals he claims that many people continue to turn a blind eye towards," as his About page puts it.

Unlike some street photographers who can shoot their subjects unobtrusively, taking portraits is inherently intrusive. Corbin's approach is simple. He asks permission to take a person's photograph. And in some cases, he has come to know his subjects, following them for years.

He says of his own work, which is generously displayed on his site:

Through my photographs I have established not only a relationship of trust with these individuals, but have come to understand some of their hardships and attitude. Not all of them are what we perceive them to be. Every now and then hope provides some respite to them and at least one works up the nerve to choose a way out.

He's that kind of street photographer.

The video was produced by lifemeanswhat, which explains:

Our goal is not to preach or propound any one meaning of life, but to simply promote the search. The more diverse our array of perspectives, the greater are the odds that together we will discover something universal and true.

Corbin's perspective is different and disturbing. But, as he says in the video, it's real.

"I'm the proverbial fly on the wall with a camera," he says. "I photograph what I see, OK? And what I see is not always beautiful."

Neil Young's Philadelphia is certainly beautiful. Written for the film of the same name, it is heard at the end of the movie when the camera zooms in on a small TV set showing home movies of the deceased protagonist as a happy child.

Looking at Corbin's black-and-white portraits isn't easy. You see the ruin of lives so devastating you can't imagine they were ever children. But you know they must have been.

On Corbin's site, you can find his portfolio organized by subject under Works. To play a slide show, just click on an image. Use your arrow keys to navigate the show.

What you see may upset you but go through it again. The second time just look at the eyes. You'll see something completely different.

Those eyes looking back at you are what Corbin saw. They will remind you every one of us has a soul.

BackBack to Photo Corners