Remembering Robi Hutas
Warm-hearted photographer touched the volleyball world and beyond
by Jon Hastings
Describing Robi Hutas as a unique photographer would be an understatement. Unconventional is a magnificent compliment for an artist and one of the reasons Hutas belongs on the Mount Rushmore of volleyball photographers.
Hutas, who was iconic figure in the South Bay, passed away in late March after a long battle with cancer. He was 85.
He was far from limited to just volleyball photography, but in a beach oasis where the sport dominates the landscape, Hutas found a niche. His panoramic shots of all the big tournaments in the South Bay since the late sixties became collector’s items. The Easy Reader aptly noted in a 2011 article that Hutas photos adorned the walls and mantels of hundreds of local residents and businesses. (Count the office of DiG as one of those establishments.)
Everyone knew Robi in Hermosa Beach, and he made sure he knew you. I had several encounters over the years with Robi, but one stands out. After playing volleyball at the courts at the Hermosa Beach pier late in the afternoon on a winter day, I was leaning against the wall separating the sand with the pavement on the strand. Hutas was walking around and asked from a short distance: “What do you think of our new president?” I gave a non-committal answer for no other reason than I was fairly apolitical at the time. Hutas countered with: “I think he’s going to be pretty good. We should give him a chance.” I shot back quickly: “Yeah, sure let’s give him a chance.”
Hutas was talking about Ronald Reagan.
For those keeping score, that was 40 years ago – early January of 1980. I thought of that encounter several times over the years when I would see Robi riding a bike on the strand or taking pictures at the Manhattan Six-Man. Only later did I make the connection and realize how important political freedom is to people who immigrated to America from a very different world. Hutas was a freedom fighter in Hungary in 1956 and eventually escaped imprisonment to land in America.
He did not squander the opportunity. He served in the Army and reportedly guarded nuclear missiles. He also served as one of the soldiers who escorted the first African American students to class at the University of Mississippi in the early sixties.
Although I knew him as a volleyball character, his powerful art was boundless and touched many subjects. Nobody has an infinite shutter speed, but Robi Hutas made the most of his time by following a passion that he was able to share with so many who appreciated his gift. That’s a legacy worth framing. – Jon Hastings