During my 30+ year career as a professional photographer, I’ve sought a wide variety of challenging projects. As a result, I’ve developed unique approaches to the five specialized areas of photography in which I’ve been most active.

Each area poses unique challenges and environments, requiring different combinations of lenses and lighting to bring out the full potential of the photograph. My experience ranges from shooting spontaneous documentary photos in extreme light conditions; to setting up on-site photo shoots in difficult work environments such as factories and operating theaters; to meticulously planning portraits in my studio or on-site, in corporate boardrooms and offices. Whatever the conditions, my expertise and flexibility yield imagery that is varied and distinctive.


I’ve been privileged to capture doctors and medical professionals at work, recording over 100 orthopedic, cardiovascular and neurosurgeries, as well as research laboratories and medical technology. Timing is critical in medical photography, and I plan my shoots to minimize my presence in the operating theater, clinic, or laboratory. Portraits: Whether photographing in the studio or on location, I seek to capture each individual’s uniqueness in an image that tells his or her story. I also rely my own vision and sense of the portrait subject. The resulting portrait satisfies the client’s needs and reflects the subject’s vision of him- or herself, and meets my exacting artistic standards.


The corporate environment presents unique challenges, as money and patience are often at a premium. I am able to communicate to busy executives the value of a well-executed portrait – one which captures their influence and presence. I’ve even successfully photographed busy executives in as little as five minutes by pre-planning every detail of the photo shoot.


From shooting on the floor of a factory or a down zinc mine shaft, to making visual sense miles of industrial pipes in a chemical plant, my mission as an industrial photographer is to simplify complex elements into a meaningful, strong composition. My choice of tools – lenses and lighting – and my sense of composition enable me to create images which draw the viewer into the photograph. Travel: Nothing is more visually stimulating than seeing something new for the first time, something historical, spontaneous, seasonal, or foreign. One of my favorite destinations is the Kansai region in Japan, with its breathtaking temples and castles. Japan’s blend of beauty and a long historical culture have provided me with a subject that conveys the magic of travel.

Global Health:

The International Trachoma Initiative brought me to Ethiopia, to document people in remote villages suffering from this infectious eye disease. Trachoma is an eye disease caused by a bacterium, spread by contact with an infected person’s hands or clothing. The experience traveling with the team – a doctor, an ITI representative, and a driver – was humbling, and exposed me to the hardships of life in an underdeveloped country. On one hand, simply getting to each destination – down dirt roads crowded with livestock and people – was arduous. On the other hand, the warmth and curiosity of the villagers, especially the children, was overwhelming.

Hope and Change:

I’ve worked with the Bowery Residents Committee in documenting the lives of homeless people in New York City. BRC searches out people in the streets and parks of New York every day, providing services to those who need shelter, food and a job. By simplifying my equipment and using the fastest lens and latest technology, I’m able to photograph in any kind of lighting. This gives which me the flexibility to capture spontaneously stories of hardship and resilience.

About Me:

After graduating from Brooks Institute of Photography in 1976 with a Bachelors degree in Photography, I worked as a photographer’s apprentice in a commercial photo studio in Connecticut called Images. In 1978, I moved to New York City and began working as an assistant to fashion, motion picture, studio and commercial on-location photographers. In 1981, I began my journey as an independent commercial photographer.

Robert Essel