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The Man Behind the Camera

2/12/16 – Hailey Robinson interviews Robert Pennington, a traveling photographer, about his life and future goals.


On Thursday, February 4th, Robert Pennington was a guest speaker at Thornton Academy. He shared with the students some of his incredible photography captured in his time in places like Syria and Colombia. As a journalist and aspiring photographer, found his work inspiring and was curious to hear about the motivation for his work.

After, getting in touch with him and setting up a time, we had a Skype interview at 9 AM on February 12th. He covered his early life and things he has accomplished all the way through to his goals and plans.

Pennington explained how it was a part of his early consciousness, even as a child, that there were people out in the world that were less fortunate so he decided to start his work early in life. “I actually left for school when I was 17, for college, for me I always knew I wanted to do something in the creative field and the first thing I got turned on to was photography.”

In these early years, he found inspiration in people like Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe. He found photography to be the most moving medium and after going to school for film, spending time as an editor and making things like commercials and short features, he confirmed that his true passion was for photography.

I asked what, over his life working as a photographer, had been the most moving or most influential on his life. I knew that this question really resonated with him because of the fifteen questions that he was asked, this is the only one that really took time to think about before he gave an answer.

“Well, every moment is moving. Which is why I feel like I keep going back [overseas] for more.” The most moving moment however was much closer to home, in Lewiston, Maine. “I saw these two children, it was in a rough part of Lewiston, and these two children were playing and you know they were just filthy and I was just very struck by that and then struck by the fact that they were completely uninhibited… but they weren’t worried. I could see in their clothing and their shoes and I could tell that this was quite common to them. I was really struck by that because most of the time I go away to do most of the work that I’m interested in and this was you know only 35-40 minutes away from my home.”

Another moment which was indelible to Pennington occurred on his second trip to India. “It was right after 9/11, so October 2001. And I was along on the Pakistani border with India in a town called Jaisalmer. It’s a beautiful town it’s this old fortress that was built out of sandstone and when the sun sets on it it’s stunning and that’s exactly what the situation was. It wasn’t dusk it was late afternoon, low sun. And there was this hill, not a big hill but this hill… and I don’t want to say it was completely made of garbage but it was this huge mound of garbage and there was this little boy on top of this hill completely naked with one of his fingers in his mouth just looking around. And I just looked around, I scanned the area in a complete 360 and there was no one around. And when I say a little boy, maybe I’m not being clear, maybe I should say a toddler. This kid was under two years easily and I don’t know, it really really impacted me. I was not a father at this point, so I wasn’t a parent and I spent the next hour waiting around to see if someone was going to collect this child. Eventually, someone I was assuming was his brother who was actually quite a young kid himself came and scooped him up and off they went, but it was just so striking that he was just left there.”

After the interview with Pennington and seeing the motivation behind his work, I found mind. I want to use my work as a movement. Write inspiring pieces and take inspiring photos that will be able to capture and make a difference in peoples lives. My goal is that every single one of my pieces resonates with at least one person, starting here.




To watch the full interview, click the link below!


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One Comment

  1. Noah Niles Noah Niles May 17, 2016

    Great job Hailey!

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