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What Does Rob Santos Like to Do When He Is Not Being a Statistician?

1 January 2018 One Comment
Rob Santos

As an SXSW crew chief, Rob Santos helps manage about 100 photographers every year at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas.

Who are you, and what is your statistics position?
I am a native Texan, born and raised in the west side neighborhoods of San Antonio. I’ve always had a love for mathematics and statistics, and, to my delight, was able to pursue a career in survey research first as a sampling statistician and then as a survey methodologist and statistical consultant.

After about 40 years, I find myself in the rewarding role of chief methodologist and director of the Statistical Methods Group at the Urban Institute. It is an interesting and challenging position that allows me to work with researchers in a broad swath of policy research—immigration, housing discrimination, travel behavior, firefighter safety, education, program evaluation, health policy, justice policy, food insecurity, nonprofits collaborations, to name a few.

Rob Santos took this photo of St. Vincent, one of the many musical artists he has captured with his Nikon.

Tell us about what you like to do for fun when you are not being a statistician.
Being a native Texan who lived (and now lives) in Austin, I always enjoyed attending the Austin City Limits Festival, a three-day outdoor music fest at Zilker Park near downtown Austin. (Regarding Zilker Park, think “moontower” in the movie Dazed and Confused, shot in Austin.)

In 2009, as the ACL Fest was approaching, I awoke one morning and decided I wanted to be a live music photographer. I knew literally nothing about photography. I somehow managed to get a music magazine from New York City to give me media credentials and photoshot from the music pits at the foot of the stages during the 2010 and 2011 ACL Music Fests.

In 2012, the magazine figured out I knew nothing about photography and dropped me like a hot potato, so I submitted a portfolio with the few good images I had captured by chance, and was selected as a photographer for SXSW Film, Interactive/Music. I have now been photoshooting and learning event photography for SXSW since 2012.

I am a SXSW photo crew chief and help manage about 100 photographers in our crew each year at the SXSW Festival in Austin. I have had the opportunity to photograph artists of many musical genres who come from all over the world to play at SXSW. And I have learned and been inspired by the high-tech innovations of the Interactive Festival, plus the creative approaches to education at the SXSWEDU conference. In fact, a lot of my ideas for new programs at conferences like JSM and the annual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research stem from my exposure to the SXSW Festival. It’s always surprising that sources of inspiration and insight can come from the most unusual places. All this, while having fun taking pictures of celebrities, artists, and world leaders.

What drew you to this hobby, and what keeps you interested?
It’s weird, but my interest in live music photography was spontaneous. Once it occurred, I listened to and acted upon that sudden interest and it quickly grew into a passion. It is a way to be creative and use both sides of the brain in a fun way.

MORE: To see more photos, visit Santos’ Flickr page.

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One Comment »

  • Anonymous said:

    Photo of Rob Santos taken by David Rackley