Robert Sturman with VYP veterans. Photo Credit: Joe Longo

VYP Family Spotlight: Robert Sturman

Written By: Laura Diekema

Robert Sturman was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. He is the son of a veteran, his father serving as a cook in the Army. Other than his father’s time in the service,  he rarely saw anyone in uniform growing up in LA. He uses the language of art to tell stories through photographs. Robert provides VYP with powerful images of service members practicing yoga and meditation. He makes photographs that people can feel. We are so grateful to him!

Robert has a background in yoga, practicing since 1989. For Robert, yoga was a means to become a healthier, more grounded human being. As Robert says, “It’s just people trying to improve the quality of their lives and do their best. That’s what I see — humanity in pursuit of being better at being human. Acquiring a set of tools to deal with, at times, an incredibly difficult existence.”

Robert is very passionate about yoga. As he explains, “Yoga is for anybody and everybody, anywhere and everywhere. It can be as simple as just sitting down and breathing…You can just find your mat or your seat, and just breathe.”

When asked to tell us more about how he became involved with VYP, Robert said, “About 10 years ago, a woman asked if she could wear her uniform (during a photoshoot) and I said yea. She was the first service member that I created art with. After that, military organizations began reaching out asking if they could use those photos, and more and more people signing up for shoots began asking if they could wear their uniforms as well. The works were shared like crazy – it went viral.” 

Robert Sturman with VYP veterans. Photo Credit: Joe Longo

“Veterans Yoga Project was the first organization I worked with after that one shoot at Mayfest. When Brianna showed up in her dress blues, I was more star-struck than I have ever been in my life – and I grew up in Hollywood. I knew that something historical and evolutionary was about to occur, and I was so deeply humbled.” 

 He has developed incredible friendships with members of VYP, particularly Deb, Brianna, and Dan – they’ve become like family. 

When asked for some final thoughts Robert explained, “One thing I have learned from using the camera is that whether I’m working with a human being serving a life sentence, a first responder, or a person who is going to be on the cover of magazines, the common theme is that we all really want to be paid attention to. The camera has been an excuse to do that. Whether we are making a photograph or looking them in their eyes, it’s very powerful to acknowledge someone with a smile, a hello, to be interested in their life. Being a photographer, it is my job to pay attention. The gift is in the human connection. We mask it with the titles and purposes but it feels good when humanity is shared.” 

Learn more about how you can join the VYP Family and use your unique talents to further our mission of mindful resilience and recovery.