Arkansas Sketchbook: Nina Robinson

From "Not Forgotten: An Arkansas Family Album"

“TAKING THEM, I wasn’t even thinking. I was just feeling,” says photographer Nina Robinson. “I wasn’t thinking about different shots. I was in this mode of, my camera is my shield, and I’m just snapping that photo.”

On April 2, 2015, when The New York Times Lens Blog published the photos with an accompanying article titled “Love and Loss on the Road to Arkansas,” readers from all around the globe saw what she’d seen. They read about how the California-born-and-raised New Yorker made her way down to Dalark, Arkansas, in October 2014, with the intention of reconnecting with extended family over the course of a week before embarking on a five-city tour of the South.

And then they read how plans had changed. The trip to Arkansas, originally slated for a week-long visit, was extended when Nina’s grandmother died while Nina was there. Before she knew it, a week had become 3 1/2 months. In the slideshow of 27 photographs, readers saw a cross section of life that, while narrow, relatively speaking, shed light on any number of different stories, all of which were part of life as she’d known it there.

“When I saw the body of work afterward, at a meeting with my photo editor, we saw like 10 different stories in that whole body of work—10 different stories, 10 different layers of a story. From loss, to love, to different traditions, to color, to location—just different layers.”

There were candy apples, bonfire marshmallows, goofy faces on a hot day. There were love and life and loss all in equal measure, the goings on of life’s little moments matched with its big moment. These are images that are feelings, and they’re universal.

A few years later, there’s been considerable change. Nina has since moved from New York, which she called home for six years, to Hot Springs, where she bought a house earlier this year. Of late, she’s been filing stories for National Geographic, The Atlantic and The New York Times Magazine. What’s remained true, however, are the emotions associated with those images. They’re still the same. The feelings are there still.

Not Forgotten: An Arkansas Family Album, which showcases Nina Robinson’s work, is on view at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center through Sept. 2.