The work days cannot last long enough for LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture alumnus Robb Williamson (BLA ’92). His passion for his work leaves him anxiously anticipating the next work day—he only values sleep as a means to do what he loves all over again. It has taken him a while, but he has finally found what seldom do—a job he describes as “the best seat in the house.”
Taking his love for photography and merging it with his background in landscape architecture, Williamson has become a successful location photographer specializing in aviation, architecture, interior design, industry, and environmental portraits and landscapes. His work has appeared in publications such as Time magazine, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and USA Today, just to name a few.
With a list of clients that include AECOM, the National Park Service, StandardAero, National Air Transportation Association, Shea Homes, Castle Rock Development, and many more, Williamson works with internationally recognized clients to portray images that tell his clients’ stories best. “We are living in a visual world, and it is important to find a way to keep your business relevant and keep the audience interested,” said Williamson.
His story is one of many parts, but as he noted, “It all goes back to LSU.”
Williamson, with the help of a parental waiver, joined the army while still in high school. He served with a combat engineering company in Gonzales, Louisiana; Beaumont, Texas; and Denver, Colorado. He was a sergeant in the Army Reserve and the National Guard.
After two years of military service and a transfer to the Louisiana Army National Guard, the Houston native enrolled in LSU to study mechanical engineering. “The original dream was to be a car designer, but I had trouble in the chemistry classes,” said Williamson. He had a friend from the army who was at LSU studying landscape architecture. “I asked him why he was so tired, and he said he had been staying up all night working on projects in his studio,” Williamson recalled. His friend explained more about the field and showed him around, and landscape architecture ended up being one half of Williamson’s perfect fit.
His interest in photography started immediately when he enrolled in an introductory photo journalism course. “Ever since that first photography class at LSU, I was hooked,” said Williamson. His dual passions soon made him a workaholic. He started working for LSU’s The Daily Reveille as well as The Advocate in Baton Rouge. These extra jobs only made his passion grow.
After graduating, he worked as a designer at McDugald-Steele where he interned the summer of his fourth year. He continued to take photos for publications such as the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle. It was at this point that Williamson began taking photos of landscape designs, and the firm even won awards for some of the designs. “I realized then that my two passions could be mutually beneficial,” he said.
After a while, Williamson decided he needed a change. He moved to Colorado where he received his master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Colorado. “It was something I felt I had to do that would benefit me in the long run,” said Williamson. After graduation, he worked full time as a landscape architect and spent his evenings taking photos for United Press International and REUTERS News Pictures in Colorado. “I was working 80 hours a week,” Williamson continued. “I was a workaholic, but I was not willing to let go of either job.”
In 2008 he was laid off, due to the economic recession. Williamson saw the opportunity to put all of his energy into one passion for the first time in quite a while, and that is exactly what he did. As his photography business grew, his clients changed. “Many of my clients are landscape architecture firms; they know I share their knowledge base and know what they are looking to emphasize in photos,” said Williamson.
Williamson said he loved his time at LSU and attributes his intrigue and love for variety of life to Louisiana culture. “One thing I bring today that others don’t is the cultural background, thanks to LSU.” He continued, “Even the Louisiana ecosystem and landscape are unique, and that has prepared me for the diversity that I encounter in my travels.”
When asked about his times at the College of Art & Design, Williamson immediately mentioned the outstanding faculty. “Teachers came with great backgrounds and had some of the best minds in the field,” he said. “It made me excited about the world of design and showed me it wasn’t limited.”
What Williamson is most thankful for is the school’s focus on balancing creativity and practicality. “The Reich school gives you the best of both worlds—you can be creative and have boundaries, but you learn the right time to push those boundaries,” he said. Pushing boundaries is something he has done well in his life.
So, what makes his job “the best seat in the house?”
According to Williamson, “I have the incredible opportunity to be paid to witness amazing things and travel to beautiful places to tell stories.”
As for his own story, when asked if there was anything else he would like to add, Williamson simply replied, “GEAUX TIGERS!”