OLDSMAR — For Dr. Robert Norman, sleep is an inconvenience — he has too much to do.
In addition to his duties as a Tampa dermatologist, he also runs a traveling dermatological health care service, offering testing to nursing homes and assisted living facilities nationwide.
But that's only part of the picture. Norman writes poetry and bluegrass music, plays the harmonica with local bands and takes lots of nature photos.
The photography is the most visible of his avocations. Colorful coastlines and rocky cliffs dot the walls of his office waiting room and of his small gallery, Positively Artful, located on Tampa Road in Oldsmar. It's in the Washington Square shopping center, rubbing shoulders with a Quizno's Subs and a CarQuest Auto Parts.
In recent years the physician/artist has found a way to use both his medical and artistic skills to benefit people beyond the Tampa Bay area — specifically the Treasure Beach Women's Group in the Black River section of southern Jamaica. The group offers Jamaican women help in securing jobs and teaches them about nutrition and health.
The Black River area offers little or no professional medical care, though — a situation that inspired one of Norman's fellow physicians to start a medical clinic in the Treasure Beach Women's Group building in 2007. Norman, 55, was the first to come on board.
Since then, he has led weeklong medical missions twice a year, seeing hundreds of patients each time.
Proceeds from the sale of his photographs benefit the clinic as well. Some photos are sold at the Oldsmar gallery run by Norman's wife, Carol, and others at local art shows, most recently at a show in the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs. Norman also produces annual calendars featuring his photos of Jamaica, which are then sold in the TBWG gift shop.
The physician's photos usually reflect the beauty of the natural world, as well as his penchant for exploring the highways and byways of life.
"One of my favorite themes is entrances and exits," he said. "I like paths and walkways that lead people on unknown journeys."
Many scenes depict winding rivers, mountain lanes and small roads that lead who knows where. In one picture, a dusty mountain road seems to disappear around the edges of the photo. In others, a river winds through the White Mountains of New Hampshire or a stream curls around a bend amid Florida mangroves.
"These pathways are open-ended," Norman said. "They invite the viewers in and make them wonder."
Norman said he likes shooting the distant Jamaican coastline, but his hobby began closer to home — in his Tampa office.
"As a dermatologist, I take hundreds of photos a week of clinical images," he said. "From there I got interested in nature images."
Norman's next step will be featuring his exit and entrance photos at the Oldsmar gallery. After that, he doesn't know.
"I like doing things that haven't been done before," he said.
The doctor's artistic route may be as open-ended as the pathways in some of his favorite photos, but his commitment to the women of Black River, he said, will remain the same.