Mt. Airy doc takes up fine photography

by Len Lear
Posted 9/21/23

Dr. Claire E. Robinson, named a “Top Doctor” by Philadelphia magazine, is no stranger to well-earned attention.

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Mt. Airy doc takes up fine photography


Dr. Claire E. Robinson, who has lived in five different Mt. Airy locations over the last four decades, is no stranger to well-earned attention. A 1979 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, this OB-GYN was a rock star to her patients, you might say. On the website, where patients evaluate doctors, all of her 88 reviews are five-star, and she was also listed as a “Top Doctor” by Philadelphia magazine in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Unfortunately for those loyal patients, however, Robinson retired from the practice of medicine in 2021, although she has been involved with Planned Parenthood for four years (“I love it!”) and has been board chairman for the past two years. 

“I miss my patients tremendously,” she said last week, “especially the younger ones. They helped keep me young.”

But when Robinson retired after 42 years as a medical doctor, she decided to devote herself to a beloved pastime, photography. Her first gallery exhibit, “Looking Without Seeing,” at Third Street Gallery, an artist cooperative in Society Hill, opened Sept. 1 and will continue through Oct. 1.

 “I want to put everything I have into what I do, and I did not have the time and energy to devote to photography until my retirement from medicine,” Robinson said.

She grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Trinity College there, followed by graduate school for one year in psychology and family counseling. “I did not expect to become a doctor,” she said, “but I needed something more concrete, so I started to fill prerequisites for medical school. I was fortunate to have a neighbor in the graduate dorms who helped me with chemistry.”

In the 1960s, African American students, men or women, were rare in most American medical schools. In my undergraduate school (1958-1962), there was not one African American female student in the entire college, and in my freshman class at Hahnemann Medical School, there were 108 white males, two white women, and no Black women, 

“I was lucky,” Robinson continued “because in the 1970s Black people were becoming popular. I think there were about 30 African Americans in my medical school class. I finished my residency in Ob-Gyn in 1983 …and today the dean at Penn's Wharton School is a Black woman.”

Robinson's new avocation has roots in her engineer father’s own devotion to being an amateur  photographer. 

“He was always taking photos, so I became interested in it myself,” Robinson said, “I did take pictures in high school, a boarding school in Massachusetts. I thought I was so artsy. I recently found some black and white photos that I took there, like footprints in the snow.” 

According to local artist Sara Allen, Robinson is an excellent photographer who has a keen sense of objects in space — their placement, context and order. 

“She creates beautiful images of buildings, of objects like stairs, windows, benches, walls; the list goes on,” Allen said. “Claire creates a sense of three-dimensionality in a two-dimensional medium.  She is always seeking new challenges, new ways of growing. That’s the pleasure of this endeavor in our older years.” 

When asked why she titled her exhibit “Looking Without Seeing,” Robinson explained, “When I’m in my solitary space, I take the time to observe the details, lines, color, shapes in the most benign and common places that would normally not pull the eye. I’ll photograph these to study more closely later, to contemplate the fine details.”

For more information, call 267-768-6691 or visit 3rd Street Gallery is at 610 S. 3d Street. Len Lear can be reached at .