A young Evgeny Yorobe promised his parents he would be a doctor, like both of them were. He went as far as earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC San Diego, considering himself pre-med, before realizing that his heart lay elsewhere.
“I’ve always loved photography,” Yorobe says in the gallery he opened last week, Evgeny Yorobe Photography-San Diego Landscape Photography, at 7660 Fay Ave., Suite E.
One of La Jolla’s most buzzed-about new photographers, Yorobe, 41, specializes in landscapes with sunsets. It became his thing while working as a wedding photographer eight years ago. You might see a human here or there, but only in the distance as a tool for scale.
“The photos people liked the most were the landscapes,” he says. “And they were the ones I liked the most, too. Growing up here, I know every one of these spots.”
Yorobe’s tour of the gallery moves to a photograph of the Point Loma Lighthouse. Yorobe says it’s his favorite “for personal reasons.”
“Every Sunday after church, my family would drive out there,” he says. “It seemed like the longest drive to me. We’d go and just walk around, hang out at the lighthouse.”
Yorobe — named after the late Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, his dad’s favorite — spent his wonder years in Tierrasanta, where he was raised by 1970s Filipino immigrants he describes as “very old school.” (Dr. Edwin Yorobe is still a general practitioner there; Yorobe’s mom retired to raise Yorobe and his two older sisters.)
“When I was younger, it was ‘You’re gonna be a doctor,’ ” Yorobe says. “As I got older, the pressure kind of came off a little bit, but they still had hope.” (We contacted Dr. Yorobe, who explained: “Well, as a first-generation immigrant, it’s always like an imperative in our culture to have someone follow in your footsteps.”)
Hope began eroding when Yorobe took a photography course during his sophomore year at UCSD. By the time he won Best of Show in the La Jolla Festival of the Arts in 2015, all hope was lost.
“One of my first customers for this shot, they had their wedding there,” Yorobe says, stopping at a blow-up of Scripps Pier with the sun setting perfectly between two posts on the horizon. “It only happens twice a year with the sun down the center like that.”
Since everyone with a smartphone considers themselves a photographer these days, Yorobe says he knows “it’s my job to hopefully stand out from the crowd, to give people a reason why they would want this art in their house.”
Yorobe shoots with a graduated neutral density filter, which darkens the sky and gradually lightens to clear at the bottom. And he prefers long exposures, not 10 or 20 minutes, but a half-second to a second. At first, Yorobe says, he was a student of the “spray and pray” method, where “you just shoot a bunch of pictures and hope you get something.” Nowadays, he’ll sit and watch the movement of the ocean.
“I know what I’m looking for, seeing where the water’s going to break on the rocks,” he says. “I get into position and take 10 shots at most. It’s just a silky abstract look, but with the lines it creates, I’m hoping it will still lead your eye towards a subject, which is always going to be the sky, the sun or the colors of the clouds during sunset.”
Yorobe — who also works part-time in medical billing — sold at art shows and farmers markets, including the La Jolla Open Aire Market, for years. That’s how he struck up a friendship with William Waters, the woodworker with whom he shares the space that was most recently a nail salon.
“I have a website, but for me, most of my sales come in person because it’s a visceral thing,” Yorobe says. “You see it and you fall in love with it and I’ve found, for my art, that’s how I sell better. If you see it on a screen, you just don’t get how a print will pop in your house. There’s a difference.”
Once Yorobe’s parents’ friends and patients started telling them how much they loved his work, that’s when he says he finally felt their acceptance of his calling — along with extreme pride.
“Now, I’m not worried,” Dr. Yorobe says. “In fact, I’m so proud of him. I know it takes a lot of hard work on his part — waking up at unusual hours of the day and then after that, putting in hours and hours of work.
“Thankfully, it is slowly rewarding him now.”
Levitan writes for the La Jolla Light.