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Meet Mel Rubin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mel Rubin.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a photographer, collage artist, and recently celebrated my 90th birthday. I began taking photos when I enlisted in the Air Force in the 1950s. My first camera was a Kodak Baby Brownie that I bought for a little more than a dollar. While in the service, I still remember what a wonderful and mysterious moment it was to see a photo being developed in a darkroom. It was then that I fell in love with photography.

After my discharge, I received my Bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1969. I began taking photography classes at night at The School of Visual Arts. I bought a new camera, basic darkroom equipment and turned the bedroom into a darkroom. In 1971, I entered the Life Magazine Photo Contest. Over one million photographs were submitted. I was awarded an Honorable Mention and was thrilled that my photograph was chosen for publication. After some time, I decided to pursue a career in photography. For over a decade, I represented internationally known fashion and editorial photographers.

In 1995, I moved to Los Angeles and began showing my work at Gallery 825. For ten years, I exhibited my photography and collage in the Sales and Rental Gallery at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I received the Adolph & Clara Obrig Prize and the Samuel F.B. Morse Medal from the National Academy Museum & School of Fine Arts in New York City for my collages. In 2013, I had a solo photography exhibit for the City of Buena Park.

For my 90th birthday, I published a website featuring my work and joined Instagram. It’s amazing to receive so much positive feedback and explore the work of so many artists around the world. For the next ninety years, I plan to continue to take photos. I will do so until I can no longer hold a camera. I will then take photos with my eyes.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In my early years, it wasn’t always easy to balance career, family, and my art. I was often torn between my responsibilities and the need to be creative. I was encouraged to pursue photography full-time, but I was happiest when I was able to do what I loved, stay true to my vision and not have to rely solely upon photography to make a living.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I consider the camera an extension of myself. I carry it with me everywhere I go—ready to capture a moment. I am constantly being visually and emotionally stimulated as if the environment is on an endless conveyor belt passing before me. I believe that photographs exist on their own, waiting to be captured. What causes me to snap the shutter? It can be a facial expression, the shift of a body, the reaction of one person to another in conversation, the graphic elements of a building, light—always light and shadow. I am most proud of a photograph when it evokes the same feeling that moved me to trip the shutter.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Sometimes I reflect back on the decisions that I have made over the years as they relate to my artistic pursuits. I really have no regrets about my creative journey. At 90, I am not as focused on what I would have done differently. Instead, I try to stay in the present and still produce good work. For me, the important thing is the work. That is what I am most passionate about.

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