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LeRoy Robbins | American, 1904 - 1987

LeRoy Robbins arrived in California from St. Louis in 1932 after his commercial photography business was decimated by the Great Depression. Drawing on his experience as official photographer for the City Art Museum in St. Louis, he soon found work in Hollywood creating still images for motion picture studios.

In 1937, Robbins became part of the Federal Arts Project, joining a group of California photographers that included Edward Weston, Brett Weston, Chandler Weston, Sonya Noskowiak, Nacho Bravo, Sybil Anikeyev and Hy Hirsch. This FAP group, centered in Southern California but with members stretching as far north as the Bay Area, proved distinct from other groups in the state that focused primarily upon the photo-documentation of the art works and projects of the FAP. The group was also distinct from its Eastern analog - coastal FAP groups that tended to heavily imbue their work with social content. Robbins and his contemporaries displayed a deep commitment to line and composition, and to quiet, more subtle subjects. They were in many ways the beginning of a new synthesis in photography - one between aesthetic consideration and social concern.

Robbins emerges among his contemporaries as particularly adept at obliquely referencing the definitive issues of his day. "Oranges," a closely cropped image of paper bags overflowing with the day's hand-picked harvest, quietly confronts the FSA narrative of rural hardship; His representations of physical terrain capture the juxtaposition of hope and desperation, progress and destruction - dichotomies that defined the era; and an austere image of an empty stretch of road asks: Are we coming or going? Is this the beginning or the end?


Washington University School of Architecture

Professional Experience

1940 - 1973 Documentary Film Director, Film Editor, Sound Recordist
1936 - 1939 Creative Photographer on the Federal Art Project (WPA)

Selected Exhibitions

Federal Art Project Exhibition, Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art, 1937
American Artists Congress Gallery, Los Angeles, 1939 (one-man show)
Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1940
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1967 (one-man show)
El Instituto Cultural Mexicano-Norteamericano de Jalisco, Guadalajara, 1938 (one-man show)
University of Santa Clara de Saissart Art Gallery and Museum, "New Deal Art: California" 1976
Phoenix Art Museum, 1976 (one-man show)

Permanent Collections

Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.
Minneapolis Art Institute, Minneapolis
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Brand Art Library
Oakland Museum
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Library of Congress
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Arizona State University Northlight Gallery
Center for Creative Photography
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
St. Louis Art Museum