Folk music maestro Pete Seeger was making a compliment, not a mistake, when he referred to photographer Robert Corwin as a "great songwriter." One of the visual artists most closely associated with the turbulent '60s folk scene, Corwin's career summation to date has been an exhibit entitled Images of Folk, shown in 65 North American venues including the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation's "Grandstand" at Jazzfest. Despite an overflowing portfolio of portraits of players in all conceivable styles of American folk, the shots Corwin is best known for date from his teenage years, when whippersnappers such as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell made interesting subjects at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and 1969, respectively.
Corwin studied under the President's Fellow scholarship in photography and design at the Rhode Island School of Design. As a graduate student he also worked in graphic design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, then advertising at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Corwin also holds a masters degree in psychology -- knowledge associated with this science as well as the field of advertising may have helped in his work with Peter, Paul & Mary, with whom his association was particularly close. If the hit albums by this folkie trio have a shared look to them it's no accident, Corwin toiling with both producer Phil Ramone and designer Milton Glaser to create a look that might be described as "puff the magic airbrush." Peter Yarrow of the trio has remained a strong supporter of the photographer's work and can be relied on for a more detailed appraisal than the Seeger quote: Corwin "...manages to portray essence in gesture, in the 'decisive moments,' in the description of color and space (or its deliberate absence) so that the layers of history, joy, love, passion, and concern are revealed."