Robin Imaging: From Film to Print: evolving to a changing market

On the northwest corner of Linn Street and Central Parkway stands a large building that has noticeably grown additions over the years. Its outside appearance is unassuming and inconspicuous amongst its fellow, aged structures. Yet, upon entering, one steps into a world of color.

Robin Imaging, established 42 years ago, has weathered the storm. Through the major changes Cincinnati has undergone in the last four decades from geographic transformations to market revolutions, this business has survived. With 20 dark rooms, it was the biggest photo lab in Greater Cincinnati, Yet, when the market began to change and film started to phase out, owner Bill Johnson and his wife Deb Kittner Johnson had a choice: cease or evolve.

In 2013, “The new business began,” says Deb. 

“When technology changed, it collapsed a lot of businesses,” explains Bill. “I want to follow what the market wants.”

Bill and Deb describe their task of taking inventory of their skills to see what direction they could go. They had lots of experience with photographers and ad agencies and that easily translated to working with artists and design studios.

Today they are digital and specialize in art reproduction and wall décor. But, they don’t just print. Robin Imaging boasts the ability to work with a variety of media including oil, acrylic, pastel, pencil, and mosaic. They can even print on metals.

The process of each reproduction includes an investigation to understand the interpretation the artist is looking for. Bill explains, “We listen to story first to match environment ... We work with the artist to find out about environment, audience.” They have created reproductions from images in medical centers and museums to restaurants and homes. With so many possibilities, they spend time to ensure the reproduction is right.

The surprising interior begins with a two story gallery, flooded with natural light, brightly colored prints, and in midair, a replica DaVinci flying machine.

The second level homes the Mohawk Gallery, opened in 2016, to host locally inspired art.

The current exhibit, “Mobile Photography: Take #1, Playing Favorites” has been on display since April 27 and will run until July 13th. The show features images all captured with a smart phone with photographers ranging from ages 12 to 93. “The purpose,” Deb says, “Is to show people where smart phone imaging has come.”

They also offer photography, iPhoneography, and Photoshop classes.

Deb explains they hope to offer more classes and plan to host more exhibits.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Emily Dillingham.

Emily Dillingham is a Cincinnati native and University of Cincinnati graduate with degrees in English and Geology. She writes full-time for a local material science company and lives in Brighton with her husband and pack of dogs. Follow her on Instagram @keeperoftheplants