Conceptual photographer based in British Columbia, Canada best-known for globetrotting with Coca-Cola for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF AND THE WORK THAT YOU CREATE.
My name is Joel Robison and I’m a creative portraiture and fine art photographer originally from Canada and currently living in the United Kingdom. I would say that I’m an introverted optimist at heart and I like to infuse both of those things in my work. Most of my images are solitary moments of whimsy, imagination, discovery or curiosity and I feel that is my way of showing that my time to recharge and feel most creative is often times when I’m alone. My work is a blend of surrealism and some realism. I like to take objects, places, things we all know and see as real and play with size, scale, function and change the way we see them.
WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH AND WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE ASSIGNMENT?
I’ve been fortunate to work with many different people and organizations over the years. It’s tough to choose a favorite, but I think it would be impossible not to choose my role as lead photographer for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour. I was able to travel around the world for nine months, capturing moments of happiness and celebrating sport with millions of people around the world. It was eye opening and life changing in every way possible.
RECOUNT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ARTIST.
It started by accident or by chance I suppose. I’d always loved expressing myself creatively and I tried many different mediums but nothing ever really fit. I came across some creative photography online while I was looking for images for a project and I was blown away by this new form of digital art. I became a bit obsessed and a few days later without any knowledge of cameras or photography I bought a used camera on eBay and just opened it up and taught myself the basics. I had joined a 365 project with a theme every day and at first I played along very simply and without much effort. But gradually I began to see Photography as more of a voice and opportunity to share who I was, and I began to explore this in my images. Over the course of the last 5 years, I’ve transitioned into a full-time artist, collaborating and working with other artists, brands, and organizations from around the world, and it’s been incredible.
YOU'VE TAKEN A LOT OF RISKS ALONG THE WAY, BUT WHAT WAS YOUR DEFINING ONE WHERE EVERYTHING WAS ON THE LINE?
Definitely leaving my job to pursue photography full time. I worked in a high school supporting students with learning difficulties and it was a job I really loved, it was something I felt passionate about and it was really hard to step away from but I knew that photography was a chance to pursue something new and I wanted to the chance. That decision changed everything in my life. I moved out of my hometown and eventually relocated to England which I never would have done had I continued to work full time in the education system.
HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS SUPPORTED YOU THROUGHOUT IT ALL?
At first I kept my photography a secret from everyone I knew in “real life”. I was sharing my work with thousands of people online, but not many people knew what I was up to. I was nervous to share it because it was personal and a bit different than what people might be used to but everyone in my life has been very supportive. Most of my friends are creative people and I love that we are able to create and share with each other.
LOOKING BACK ON ALL THAT HAS UNFOLDED, WHAT NUGGETS OF WISDOM HAVE YOU LEARNED AND EMBRACED?
There’s a lot I think I’ve learned over the last few years. I struggle with confidence and sometimes it can be difficult to walk both sides of sharing work online with a large audience and also feeling really sensitive about doing that. I think I’ve learned though that art is personal and it’s a piece of who you are and whether other people like it or hate it. It’s a reflection of how they see the world, not how you see it.
IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
The universe will give back to you what you put into it. Put good out into the world and it will reflect back.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS ALLOWED YOU TO BREAK THROUGH AND SUCCEED, PARTICULARLY AMONGST YOUR PEERS?
I think I try to create work that is accessible. I like to create work that is like pulling a little string out of my mind but is something that I think other people may relate to. I think to stand out you need to find out what makes you different than everyone else and embrace that and let it tell your story. The more you are able to show your original story the more you are able to stand out.
WHO ARE THE MENTORS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED AND INSPIRED YOUR LIFE?
My parents. They taught me all the lessons that I hold closest to me today. To treat other people with kindness, to embrace other people for their strengths, not their differences. My family has always encouraged each other to pursue happiness in whatever form it takes for you and I really believe in that.
IS THERE ANY ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD GIVE A YOUNG PERSON FOLLOWING THEIR PASSION AS AN ARTIST?
Look at what everyone else is doing, and then do something totally different to that.
WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CREATIVITY, WHAT DO YOU FIND YOURSELF CONSTANTLY SEARCHING FOR?
I think I’m searching for the connection between a visual and my emotions. There are several images that I’ve done that feel like a heartbeat or a piece of my mind in a picture and that’s what I strive for. I love to create and I love to take photographs but I live for the times I’m able to find that voice in a photograph.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT KEEP YOU CREATIVELY INSPIRED AND CONSISTENTLY INNOVATING?
I think I’m inspired just by trying to live life as fully as possible and using those lessons and experiences in my life. I love to travel and I love experiencing new cultures and meeting new people and using those opportunities as tools in my work. We’re never done growing and I want to use my growth to keep creating.
LOOKING AT OUR WORLD, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN IMPACT AND CHANGE ABOUT IT?
I think I can impact and change it by being honest, open and loving. Right now there is such a hostile tone online and in the media and I think if more people were able to be more open and loving and kind it could really change things. I try to lead by example the best way I can.
WE ALL DREAM OF LEAVING A LEGACY. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR, AND WHY?
I’d love to be remembered as being someone who helped other people, and who helped to create an environment of acceptance and creativity. My work is a reflection of who I am and I want all of that to speak on the type of person I want to be and work to be.
ANY CURRENT ALBUMS, ARTISTS OR SONGS ON REPEAT?
I’m a big Coldplay fan so I have all of their albums going around in constant rotation. But I love to listen to new music and I especially love listening to Canadian artists and supporting those smaller artists that work so hard to share their music. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Slean, Feist, Tegan and Sara. So many good Canadian artists!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MOVIE OR TV SHOW?
Friends has always been my favorite TV show. I admit I don’t watch much TV as I find that it kind of sucks me in and I don’t get much else accomplished. I like to have it on in the background sometimes and it’s usually Friends or something that just makes me laugh and feel happy.
I love reading, but I have a terrible habit of forgetting books that I’ve read almost immediately after reading them! I typically enjoy reading biographies or non-fiction as I like to know the history of people and places. One of my most recent purchases has been Kirsty Mitchell’s amazing Wonderland book which chronicles her incredible work over the last 6 years. It’s an amazing book filled with so much detail. I did write my own book called Create Your Self - A Creative Work Book.
Pizza has never let me down.
STAR WARS OR STAR TREK?
I’m going to anger some people with this answer, but I shamefully admit I’ve not seen either. I’ve seen bits of both and I think I’d say Star Wars based on what I know, but I’m going to wave my Hogwarts flag high and stick with Harry Potter!
WHAT IMPORTANT TRUTH DO VERY FEW PEOPLE AGREE WITH YOU ON?
I’ve been in a few discussions on law of attraction and for me it’s a truth, that we attract the very energy we put out. It’s not a sense of just waiting for something to happen because we want it to, but if we put the energy into the world and work with that energy as the fire inside everything we do, it creates a light around us that attracts similar light. I think it’s a truth. Not everyone does though.