Robin Gottesman of New Jersey and Oak Bluffs has been showing her photography at the Cousen Rose Gallery for five years now. Her beautiful Vineyard images featuring sunrises and sunsets as dramatic backdrops for peaceful Island landscapes have proven very popular. This year, Gottesman is introducing a new series to her current show at the gallery — one that might surprise some of her admirers.
Last winter, the New Jersey native was given the opportunity to photograph the classic college football rivalry, the Army vs. Navy game. “I’ve always wanted to go to a game but getting in as a photographer is really difficult,” says Gottesman, whose late father was a West Point graduate. Because of her reputation as a college and high school sports photographer, Gottesman had access to the game and pregame activities, and her documentation of the experience is nothing short of stunning.
Even those with no interest in football will find the images compelling. Some of the black-and-white shots of cadets in full dress uniform standing at attention on the field, or cheering like mad in the crowd, have the look of iconic Time/Life-style photojournalism. Blizzard conditions that day add to the drama of the photos. In one, Gottesman has captured a formation of cadets from behind with their snow-rimmed hats and dusted shoulders — a testament to the brutal weather. That image was shot during the March On — a time-honored tradition where the entire brigade of the Naval Academy and the full corp of the Military Academy march onto the field and assemble in formations.
The color shots of the actual game are equally impressive. Gottesman shows the eye of a professional sports photographer in capturing dramatic moments, including the teams charging onto the field and the West Point huddle. The fact that her father’s alma mater won the game, despite a recent history of dominance by the Navy team, was just icing on the cake.
Gottesman got her professional start as a photographer shooting college and high school sports for New Jersey newspapers. She retired from a successful career as a neuroradiologist a few years back, when her job at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan was going to require a full-time commitment. “I had gone directly to college after high school and then on to medical school and then to work,” says Gottesman. “I knew I didn’t want to work full time in New York City.”
Instead, she headed to her Vineyard home, where she and her family had vacationed every summer since purchasing the house in 1999. Having an entire summer on the Island gave Gottesman a chance to explore a lifelong interest in photography. By the end of the summer she was hooked. Upon returning to New Jersey, Gottesman approached her local newspaper and was given assignments shooting athletic events. She has gone on to become the official photographer for Colgate University and the University of Michigan, as well as providing photos for West Point’s promotional materials.
An avid sports fan, Gottesman describes, on her website, the appeal of pursuing sports photography as a speciality, “With sports, the emotions cannot be coached — the absolute joy, sorrow, elation, and disappointment are real and can change as quickly as the pace of the competition.”
On the Vineyard, Gottesman has found a way to combine her interest in nature and her love of sports. In many of her stunning photos, she has captured an image of a lone athlete — a kayaker, biker, paddle boarder — pursuing their passion against a spectacular sky. One of her most iconic shots shows a dancer leaping dramatically from a rock on Lucy Vincent Beach at sunrise. The image is one of pure joy at the coming of a perfect Vineyard day.
“I love the sunrise,” says Gottesman. “It’s hard to drag yourself out of bed, but I always call it the best show on earth.”
The photographer has found that she’s not the only one enjoying the daily show. “It’s a very active Island,” she says. “If you go out at 7 in the morning, there are a lot of people biking and running.”
Gottesman herself enjoys all the activities that the Vineyard has to offer — tennis, biking, kayaking and hiking, with her two dogs. “The Island is just beautiful,” she says. “I love the blues of the water and sky. I like boats. I like motion. The Vineyard really has everything that I could ask for.”
Cousen Rose Gallery is at 71 Upper Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs. Call 508-693-6656 for more information or visit cousenrose.com.