Robert Longo was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York. He was raised on suburban Long Island where as a youth he participated in various arts activities from a very young age. Longo developed an early fascination with all forms of mass media; especially movies, television, magazines, and comic books. These hallmark influences are still incorporated into the art work that he is producing today. Robert Longo received his education from the State University College in Buffalo, New York.
In order to create works such as Barbara and Ralph, Longo first projects photographs of his subjects onto paper and traces the figures in graphite, stripping away all details of the background. After he records the basic contours, his assistant, Diane Shea, continues work on the figure for about a week, filling in the details. Next, Longo goes back into the drawing, using a combination of graphite and charcoal, to provide as he says, "all the cosmetic work." At this point, he makes a number of changes in the figure. Some are subtle: just a little more definition to a shoulder, perhaps, or a darker cast to the shoes. Others are radical: a subject, who in the original photo was wearing jeans, may finally sport a pair of formal black trousers in the drawing. Longo continues to work on the drawing making numerous adjustments until, about a week later, it is completed.