We couldn't wait to catch up with Omar Z. Robles, NYC photographer extraordinaire. With his electrifying photographs of dancers around the city, Omar has gained quite the social media following--and with good reason. We are so excited to be working with Café Grumpy to hang Omar's photography in the Café Grumpy Grand Central location, up now until March 15th. (Bonus: You can shop the Café Grumpy + Omar collection now). Read on for more about Omar's work, and how his training as a mime helps him be a better photographer!
Does your training as a mime have any influence on your photography?
Absolutely, I started doing mime theatre while still very young and it has permeated not only my artistic views, but also the way I see the world in general. In terms of how it has affected my photography, there is a strong parallel in the way mime theatre and photography distinctively relate to the human experience to tell a story without the necessity of words. They both allude to a very universal and primal language, the non-verbal one. Apart from certain cultural nuances, we all respond instinctively to the same non-verbal visual cues every day. With photography and mime, you can attain that purpose beautifully. When you are able to evoke an emotion rather than describe it, or explain it, you are tapping into the very core of our instinct to communicate and empathize.
On the other hand, my mime training also helps me when it comes to directing a subject. As a mime, you are trained to meticulously utilize every part of your body in service of the dramaturgy. Just as you would on a musical instrument, you learn to compose phrases, orchestrating each body part as a separate note. I’ve been able to translate that same training when I’m directing a subject. Whether in a dance shoot, a fashion shoot or an editorial portrait, I sculpt my subjects precisely to evoke the emotion that I’m looking for.
2. What is your favorite spot in NYC to shoot? Any dream locations you haven't hit up yet?
I can’t say I have a favorite spot. Most of the time when I’m shooting with a dancer, we just meet at a certain spot; and I scout the locations where I’m going to shoot them as we walk. Sometimes, it’s the colors; other times, it's how the light falls on a particular spot. My goal this year is to get out of NYC and shoot abroad--that’s the dream right now. I love NYC, but I also want to reach out to other areas and find other aesthetics.
3. What does a day of shooting look like? How much direction do you give to the dancers you photograph, and how do you get this crazy city to cooperate?
I give a fair amount of direction to the dancers, as I mentioned before. Most times I start with a certain pose, and we diverge from that little by little. Other than the pose itself, I pay a lot of attention to details like hand placement, extension and suspension. Little details like those can significantly change the message and emotions the dancer is portraying. So I make sure to work with those details, to the advantage of the story I am creating.
This city inherently cooperates. In a way, I feel like it was “born” for that. There’s a reason why so many movies and series are filmed in NYC. Rather than the architecture though, I believe it’s the people who really make this city what it is. That same rhythm that moves it, is often what dictates the beat to the dancers when I’m shooting.
LIVES IN Harlem, NYC
OCCUPATION Freelance photographer/content creator
MUSICIAN Jorge Drexler, Joni Mitchel
EATS French Toast
GUILTY PLEASURE Chocolate…all the way