Robert Yager was born and grew up in London, England. Fluent in Spanish, he lived in Mexico City for a year and then at 21 years of age, he moved to Los Angeles to study photography. In January 1992, the year of the Rodney King LA Riots and the highest murder rate, Yager began his intimate photography with the WestSide Playboys 13 Gang. Yager explored the cultural and human side of gang members, which he hadn’t previously seen in mainstream media at that time.
Yager became a freelance editorial photographer in 1993, starting off with a Newsweek cover and he began working for the LA Weekly and the U.K.’s Observer Magazine. Soon afterwards he was working for: The New York Times Magazine, The Independent Magazine (U.K.) The Face, The Telegraph Magazine, Marie Claire, TIME, Fortune, Fader and on occasion: Rolling Stone and Esquire. He shot covers, reportage features and portraits.
In 1996, Yager was awarded a fellowship by the Aaron Siskind Foundation for his photography with gangs. He also became a finalist in the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in 1994 and 2012. Some of his gang series was shown at Perpignan’s Visa Pour L’Image in 1997, and in 2005 he won Best Photo Essay in the International Photography Awards. In 2007, Yager created a modest book titled “a.k.a. BOOBOO”. The images spanned 14 years in the life of BooBoo. David Lee Roth saw the exhibition that accompanied it. He contracted Yager to document Roth’s return to touring in Van Halen and subsequently spent several months on the road with Van Halen in 2007, 2008, and 2012, sharing a tour bus with Roth. In 2018, Yager was chosen by the fashion house Balenciaga to shoot their Summer 2019 global campaign, which won him photography awards in fashion and advertising. His work has been shown in various galleries, including the “Pulp Fact” exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery in London (1995) and the “Ink” exhibition at the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California (2018-19).