Robert Perkins is known for his storytelling through books, film, and the spoken word. Born in Boston and classically educated at Milton Academy and Harvard University (AB 1974), he received an MFA from the Graduate Program at Bennington College in 2004. His true education began while spending his 19th year on Bowditch Hall, the men’s locked ward at McLean Hospital in Belmont MA. (Humpty Dumpty River). Although it did not initially appear so, the trauma of this experience was the key to his life.
For fifteen years Perkins produced independent films for PBS and Channel 4 in England, traveling to wild and remote corners of the world. Based on 16 solo canoe journeys in the Canadian Arctic his reputation grew as a writer and filmmaker. He combines observation with reflection, creating a quirky and insightful body of work that caused one critic to call him the Lou Reed of documentary film. Instead of traveling different rivers, he focused on one, The Great Fish River, or Back River, northeast of Yellowknife. He knows this watershed, its tributaries and wildlife, its stories. The river flows unimpeded for 560 miles to the arctic coast, the only large arctic river completely inside the tundra.
Perkins follows the tenets of Social Practice, a movement where the edges of what is considered “art” remain constantly in flux. His combination of images, whether in film or on canvas, his storytelling, and his commitment to community building find expression through his ability to create unexpected beauty in, with, and from unlikely places and people.