Joel Robison is an incredibly talented fine art photographer, originally from Canada – but currently residing in the United Kingdom. He has been creating and sharing his conceptual portraiture for the last 7 years, and has a strong interest in storytelling and self expression through art. Alongside his own work, Joel Robison has also taught over 200 students across 7 countries in a series of photography workshops. The aim of those workshops was to help people build their creative portfolio, whilst also setting up their own photography business and social media presence. Joel Robison has produced work for clients all over the globe, including huge brands such as Coca-Cola, Yahoo, FIFA and many more. In fact, Joel spent the majority of 2013/2014 working exlcusively with Coca-Cola and FIFA as the lead photographer and voice of social media on their FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour campaign. The tour involved Joel travelling and photographing more than 80 countries in a 9 month period. Joel’s amazing work has garnered him much attention on social media, having built a strong following of people who love to engage with his photography on a daily basis. Please enjoy my interview with Joel Robison…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
It usually depends on the kind of day I’m having. Sometimes I just reply with “Photographer” and other times I’ll say that I’m an artist creating work that I hope changes the world.
A book called Lily and The Octopus by Steven Rowley about a man and his connection to his beloved dog. It’s a great book so far but I’m a bit worried about how it’s going to end!
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I remember going with my Mom to the local library, it was a makeshift building next to our local swimming pool. With my library card I could get out 10 books at a time and for a little kid, that was a lot! I remember walking out of the library with stack of books that was almost over my head and being so excited that I started reading them right in the car on the way home.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
Honestly I’d say the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, it’s what got me back into reading. The first book is short enough to read in a day or two and it really hooks you into the whole story.
When did you fall in love with photography?
I would say that it was actually a few years after I started! I had always wanted to be an artist but never found that one medium that struck me as “ME”. I bought a camera on a whim and started trying to show the ideas I had using photography, at first it was all just rather quick and crudely done but a couple years after I started taking photos I really fell in love with the ability to share who I was with other people using a visual medium. I can’t imagine my life without it.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve never really had any terrible jobs, but maybe one that wasn’t my favourite was working retail at a major store for Christmas. It was long hours of helping people buy irons and bedsheets and plastic tubs for the holidays, I was right next to the entertainment section and they played Finding Nemo every day all day for 6 weeks straight, I still can’t watch the whole film without getting flashbacks.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring photographer?
1) Take photos of everything, take your camera everywhere you go. You can only get better at something if you keep working on it so take photos of everything you can.
2) Take the time to find out what your voice as a photographer is going to be. Take a long look at your experiences, your fears, your opinions and how you want to show them all in your work, that will be how you stand out amongst the crowd.
Who would you say are the three photographers that continue to inspire you?
That’s a tough question! I would say:
Rodney Smith, his film and black and white work is both simply shot but tells such a story at the same time and I love to get lost in his work.
Tim Walker – Again like Rodney Smith, his work is so creative and diverse and really takes everything to a new level. His use of objects and space is always inspiring to me.
Kirsty Mitchell – She’s a friend and one of my favourite artists ever. Her life story inspires me, her attention to detail in her craft inspires me, her poise and grace inspires me. She’s absolutely incredible.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
Unfortunately no, and it’s totally my own fault. I think I’ve trained myself to have a short attention span, I get really consumed by editing photos or taking photos that I don’t often give myself the time to enjoy my other hobbies. Whenever I do sit down to read I have to really focus on the words because I start to drift on to other things rather quickly. I’m trying to get better at it by really allowing myself the time to enjoy reading without distractions.
I think it’s important to read books that help inspire and fuel creativity as well as expose our minds to new ways of thinking. I recommend books like Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, but also autobiographies and self help books like The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
Accidently I’ve read the same book twice because I tend to forget titles of books and then check out the same ones more than once! I have read Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll more than a few times, I love it because it is so weird and wonderful and visual and I can come up with ideas for images just from the stories and allowing my mind to wander.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Either the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling or The Do It Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade, it’s an honest and funny way of dealing with depression and how to set yourself up in the best way possible.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
I really like autobiographies, I like to learn about people and what they’ve done in their lives. I enjoy fiction as well but I find it takes me a long time to find a book that I want to read as I can’t tell if it’ll be good or not.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Rather sad I think. We owe so much to books, we grow up reading them and I think it’s our first real exposure to creative thinking and allowing our imaginations to take shape.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
I’ve read all of what J.K. Rowling has written, I think she’s done an amazing job of creating an entirely different world and bringing us all into it with her.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
I hope not. I do read books digitally when I’m travelling but there is nothing quite like walking into a book store and seeing the shelves of all those stories, used book stores are my favourite, they feel delicate and important and the smell just reminds me of good memories.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer I think was one of the first books that I read that really stuck with me for a long time, I felt so connected to the story and to Chris, the subject of the book. It really inspired me to try to live a life that was worthy of a story.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I really enjoyed reading the Dalai Lama’s autobiography, The Art of Happiness. There’s others like Between A Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston, In The Eyes of Mr Fury by Philip Ridley, and SoulPancake by Rainn Wilson. They’re all very different from each other but I enjoyed them all so much.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
A book on how to be more organized? I think I could do with reading some books on how to run a business more effectively, but in the meantime I’m really wanting books that feel hopeful or whimsical. Something to keep my imagination going!
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I actually have the game that I play with friends where I asked them that question and then I tell them what the cover would look like, it’s usually a funny way to pass the time. I think mine would end up being called Slightly Off-Centre.