Column: Fathers and Sons By SUSAN PARKER

Tuesday February 28, 2006

Friday night I went over to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center to view the art show, SNAP! SNAP! is a satellite exhibit of the larger Art of Living Black 2006 exhibition hosted by the Richmond Art Center through March 19. In addition to the WCRC show, there are satellite exhibits taking place at various locations throughout the Bay Area, and a cyberspace site at 

The Women’s Cancer Resource Center, at 5741 Telegraph Ave., provides many services for women with cancer and their supporters. One of its core values is to educate the general community about the disease, and it does so in a number of unique ways, including hosting several art shows throughout the year. The WCRC opens its doors Monday through Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) to the general public in order to share in the celebration of life through art and to nurture awareness of the center’s many resources. SNAP! features the photography of David Johnson, Ron Moultrie Saunders, Saida Hagan Nassirruddin, Michael Johnson, Salongo Lee, Patricia Patterson, Tasin Sabir, and James Weeks.  

I went to the show specifically to see the photos taken by my neighbor, Joseph Robinson, and by father, long-time Berkeley resident Charles Robinson. Joseph, a graduate of Berkeley High School (class of ‘81), Columbia University, and California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, grew up in the 1960s and ‘70s, spending time in the darkroom with his dad. A 1994 trip to Central America rekindled his interest in photography. Since then, he’s been working on a collection of father/child portraits for a book entitled The Path I Walk. About his work, Joseph says, “I’ve been enchanted with images of people who aren’t particularly rich, particularly famous, particularly good singers, or particularly good athletes—just folks who are all particularly talented and do particularly heroic things everyday. The mainstream media don’t do a good job of recognizing these heroes, so my work as a man of color is to shine a light on them.” 

In contrast, Charles has taken thousands of photographs of the famous and soon-to-be famous. As the official photographer for the 1970 and ‘71 Monterey Jazz Festival, Charles shot many musicians as their stars were rising. In the SNAP! show, Charles shares with his viewers black and white images of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Paul Gonsalves, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown and Percy Heath, to name just a few of his well-known subjects. 

Charles grew up on the eastside of Baltimore and became interested in photography while still a teenager. In 1952 he came to California to attend San Francisco State University, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in biology and a master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling. For 33 years he worked for the state of California managing unemployment offices while pursuing his love of photography on the side. He is co-authoring a book with California Poet Laureate, and close friend Al Young. Tentatively titled Jazz Idiom, it contains photographs and interviews and is scheduled for publication by HeyDay Books in 2007.  

“I’ve always been a frustrated musician,” says Charles. “Back in Baltimore there was entertainment everywhere: Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Eubie Blake. Everyone was trying to tap dance and sing. The music was in me but I couldn’t express it through a musical instrument. That’s why I took up photography.” 

Joseph and Charles Robinson are just two of the more than 100 artists participating in the Art of Living Black exhibition. On March 4 and 5, many of them will be available to discuss their work at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium. This is a chance for the public to meet emerging and established artists and to purchase work directly from them. Items for sale will include paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, ceramics, stone carvings, textiles, jewelry, and mixed media work. Lunch is provided by the Gingerbread House, and a raffle will take place with proceeds going to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to the Friends of Faith, a cancer relief fund. For more information on this event and others, log onto or call 620-6772. For more on the Women’s Cancer Resource Center, go to›