There’s a lot to admire about photographer, artist and visual storyteller Joel Robison. It's hard not to smile at his magical self-portraits and conceptual edits that toe the line between the whimsical and surreal. These fantastical feats of Photoshop alone are be impressive enough, but it is also his advocacy for the impact of creative expression on mental health and ability to inspire others that makes Joel an admirable creator of substance and heart.
Joel believes creativity is an important vessel for enabling self-expression and improving your well-being. His candid transparency about his own struggles with mental health helps demonstrate the benefits of using visual storytelling to overcome hardships as, previously shared with us in our article practicing the art of self-care through creative expression
As well as being an impressive photographer and storytelling, Joel is an avid baker and endurance athlete having completed 6 marathons and an ultra-marathon to boot! We chatted to Joel to learn about his creative journey and what inspires his magical artworks.
Welcome Joel! We'd love to find out how you got started creating magical self portraits and telling whimsical tales?
It started by accident actually! As a kid I'd always wanted to be an animator or illustrator at Disney. I spent my entire childhood drawing on anything I could get my hands on but when I graduated high school I decided I probably wouldn't make it as far as I wanted so I walked away from anything artistic.
A few years later I realized I missed artistic expression so I started trying out different things like painting, sculpting and eventually picked up a camera and almost instantly felt a connection.
When I realized I could use my computer and Photoshop with my camera to create the stories I had instead of drawing them, I was hooked!
Where are you based?
I'm originally from a smaller town in the Canadian Rocky Mountains called Cranbrook, but now I spend about half my time in the UK as well!
What are some things people might not know about you?
What equipment do you currently use to create your images?
I use a Sony A7riii camera with a series of prime lenses. Usually a 35mm 1.4, 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.4. I use Vanguard tripods and bags (the best!) and usually just shoot my images using natural light!
To edit I use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom and edit all my images on either a Microsoft Surface Studio or Microsoft SurfaceBook 3.
What is your favourite lighting?
I love using natural light most. It keeps me connected to the outside world, it's a challenge at times and it involves patience but I love to know that I'm just relying on mother nature to create!
Do you have any advice to share with aspiring creative photographers?
Keep shooting! We're so used to having instant results and often when we start we don't know where our style is and feel frustrated when we don't feel confident in our style, but it takes time to develop and build up our own images.
My best advice is to keep shooting different styles and ideas and keep saying yes to ideas.
How do you keep learning and evolving your skills?
I keep learning and evolving by seeing what others are doing and getting inspired by their innovation. I love to see how I can connect our changing times to my own work and that helps keep me inspired. I may suggest my own course with ExpertPhotography!
Who inspires your own work?
I love the work that Vanessa Rivera (@the_lifie_of_aivax) and Alexandria Ramos (@alexandriaslens) post, they're excellent storytellers! I'm always inspired by Rich (@paperboyo) and the powerful work of my friend Hussain (@hussainmanawer).
What are your top go-to props to use in your images?
Lastly, we would love to know - what's next for you?
That's a good question! I feel in my own creative journey I'm about to enter a new phase. This year I've spend a lot of time developing some new creative tools that are physical items and resources that artists and teachers can use to inspire ideas. I've been going into schools and teaching students how to connect art with their emotions and how to use art to feel better and I think that it's leading me toward a path where I'd like to explore that more in the future. I'll always be telling stories but I'm excited to see how I change the way I tell them.
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Watch Joel Robison demonstrate some of his Photoshop techniques to add effect and enhance compositions in his images
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