Have you met Joel Robison?
By Brenda Ann Babinski
Have you ever taken a leap of faith?
Those who have will recognize that moment in time when you decided to jump towards your dream without being assured of the outcome. It is the pivotal moment where the longing for your dream outweighs the fear of the unknown.
Joel Robison is no stranger to taking that leap. The conceptual photographer whose exhibition, ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ runs at the Key City Theatre from August 17 to September 12 has taken several leaps in the past few years.
The first leap of faith happened a few years ago when Robison was working at Mount Baker Secondary School as an Education Assistant.
During the years he worked for the school district, Joel had spent his free time developing a great passion for a unique form of conceptual photography. His creations are whimsical pieces, depicting the subject, typically Robison himself, in fanciful scenes. It is not unusual to see the artist holding a conversation with a giant raven, or walking up a balloon staircase into a magical sky, or dressed in pilot’s helmet, goggles, and Harry Potter scarf while flying in an upturned umbrella. The photos tell stories, each one more interesting than the next, and beg the viewer to open their own imaginations.
Robison’s passion for his art started to overwhelm his free time. Lunch hours, after work, weekends and anytime he could squeeze in a spare moment, he was busy working on his creations. Along the way he had done a few small conceptual jobs for the Coca Cola Company. Little did he know that they were about to change his life.
One day during his lunch break Joel received a phone call. It was from a team of people at Coca Cola. They loved his work and wanted to invite him along on a round-the-world tour for FIFA (the Federation of International Football Association), sponsored by Coca-Cola. Robison was to be their official tour photographer. In an instant he knew his life was changed. He gave notice at his job, packed up his equipment and soon headed out for nine months to visit 90 countries. Leap successfully taken.
His second big leap came months after returning home from the tour. He had been bitten by the travel bug and was soon to pack up once again and head over to England, where he now resides. His audience has grown in leaps and bounds and he now tours the world offering photography workshops. Cranbrook will be his next stop on the tour. August 28 and 29 Robison will hold his 28th workshop.
Robison’s work has now been seen by millions of people around the world. “I am really proud that I get to show people Cranbrook through my photography.”
The workshop is open to all levels of expertise from the very newest beginner to the most experienced photographer. Robison is honored to help facilitate the creative process in others. “Everyone has a passion – something they hold very close to themselves. Not everyone gets to work on it because of time and responsibilities. This workshop is designed to help people connect with their own creative inspirations, and shows how to take small steps, without any expectations for yourself. Once people give themselves the time to really invest in something that matters they will start to appreciate it for what it really is and also what it is giving back to them.”
Robison’s art centers a great deal on self-portraiture. He started out working with his own image almost exclusively, simply because he was too shy to ask other people to help. “My creative process stems from being a visual learner and wanting to share myself, visually. It is the best way I have found to express myself.”
The more Robison created, the more he began to realize the process of self-portraiture was therapeutic. “I had really low self-esteem and it helped to boost my confidence a bit. My next focus is to try to open some doors for people who might not get that.”
That led Robison to his most recent leap of faith, taking him the further from his comfort zone than he’s been before. Happiest behind his camera, he has made the bold move of beginning to speak up publicly about his own personal struggles.
Recently named a Community Ambassador for Wear Your Label, a clothing company dedicated to removing the stigma attached to mental illness, Robison is opening up publicly for the first time about his battles with depression. “I felt like I owed it to myself and to the people around me to be as honest as possible. I just bit the bullet. I have this platform that I’ve worked for and I knew this could hinder it or help it.”
From the safe security of a good job to the life of traveling artist enjoying international adventures and now to his latest leap into the role of ambassador, Robison continues to reach out and touch people with his art, his words and his example.
Be sure to catch his exhibition on display at the Key City Theatre from August 17 to September 12. His works will be sure to excite the imagination and perhaps inspire others to follow their dreams and take their own leaps of faith.