This week’s Friday Night Feature, is once again not an author...well, not of printed words at least, but through his eye and artistry, he speaks volumes in a single frame.
If you venture to JOEL ROBISON’S website (http://joelrobisonphoto.wordpress.com) you’ll read many comments by readers and fans praising his works with such platitudes as wonderful, stunning, whimsical and the much used ‘inspiring’, which are all very true...but this patron (humble way of saying ardent fan) sees much more than those adjectives. I see Robison’s work in one word:
As it states in my Encarta Dictionary;
“Effective,” by definition, is causing a result, especially the desired or intended result; successful, especially in producing a strong or favorable impression on people; actual or in practice, even if not officially or theoretically so; officially in force, operative, or applicable.
Each of these descriptions not only fit Robison’s works but they fit the man, and the artist himself.
I first heard of Robison via a Facebook post of a photo depicting a young man mid-stride, looking up at a pigeon flying overhead, while the shadows of the two characters reflect a knight preparing to battle an angry dragon. This particular version had some Hallmark-like verbiage across it, but the picture itself was what drew me in. The picture put me in a good mood because of its effectiveness...but after I looked into it further, it made me sad.
From my further research, and link to link, I was taken to Robison’s website, with five incredibly honest, and most telling blogs I’ve ever read. Including a recent post called “The “Borrowed” Photographer”- depicting the artist’s current troubling dilemma. Robison writes:
“Calling it “borrowing” is probably too nice a term, in short, this blog is about stealing another’s work, editing it and then posting it without credit.”
He tells about his situation with an air of genuine hurt at length, and while he states that he is not ‘complaining’ about his images being shared worldwide without credit, I personally feel his pain and frustration for the affront to his body of work. There appears to be an unwritten rule that if it’s on the Web, it must be free. Somewhere along the road, the people that share this world forgot the old adage that nothing in life is free. Everything has a price. You may not see it at first glance, but it’s there. Here, it is in the love that Robison puts into his art. It’s his heart and soul that is being used freely without so much as an acknowledgement.
“One image in particular has been taken over by “the internet”.
Here Robison speaks of my most favorite work titled, “Shadowplay,” (the one I first saw on Facebook); which no one knew by name, nor did they know the artist behind it because it was over-shadowed by the obvious statement penned across.
“This photo, taken in 2011, has been used so many times that I now don’t even feel a connection to it. I don’t see it as my own work, even though I’m IN the photo. In a way, I wish I had never taken it and at times I resent it because it makes me feel totally devalued as a photographer.”
At this point, I stopped reading, immediately went back to Facebook, and deleted my re-posting. Had I known that this image was manipulated without the artists consent, I’d have never shared it on my page. After deleting it, I immediately went to Robison’s Etsy page (http://www.etsy.com/shop/boywonder) and purchased my own print. It was something I had to have, and somehow protect and preserve. It was at this moment I needed to know more about the man behind the lens.
When I contacted Joel (I can call him Joel, now) I already knew a little about him from his site (27, lives in Cranbrook, BC, works in a high school by day and loves coffee, running marathons, music, and photography.), but I just felt there was so much more to him. Especially after I read his other blogs on his life philosophies, and his natural need to share his craft, and teach. Wanting to know more about where this extraordinary mind came from, I asked him for his earliest childhood memory and learned that even then, he was bound for a darkroom:
“...I believe that my earliest memory was from when I was about 3 years old; my family lived in an older house with a root cellar for a basement. I remember following my mom down the stairs to the pantry one time, and then sitting on the steps and seeing shapes and images of animals in the wood grain on the walls.”
Joel enjoys running in his spare time and in the last two years, has been active in racing and competing in marathons. To date, he’s completed four marathons, and 30+ other distance races. He claims to be stubborn, and doesn’t believe in quitting something that he starts. This is what he feels motivates him to complete his work and to keep creating.
“I'm influenced by so many things but mostly by the notion of making the impossible a reality. So many times I think we are told as we grow up that we need to start thinking more concrete things and that fiction and fantasy don't have a place in the adult world but I'm trying to show people that you can still be a part of something whimsical and freeing while still being a grown up.”
Having read his thoughts on life through his blog posts, I knew there had to be some secret morsel of wisdom from a man who creates such thought provoking, yet witty works of art. Joel says:
“...in life, you get out of it exactly what you put into it. If you work hard, you reap the benefits, if you are kind you will see kindness and if you surround yourself with the things you want to see, you will become those things.”
And what does the future hold for Joel?
“Wow, that's a tough one! I don't usually plan more than 2 months into the future so thinking that far ahead is a stretch! Ideally I would love to be living in a small house near the woods or near the ocean, with a big window to overlook the sky. I would love to be creating art in one way or another with music playing in the background and a warm cup of coffee always on hand.”
You see, Joel is a romantic, like me...which is why his work resonates with me so much. His view of the world, much like mine on the pages of my books, is twisted, different, emotive, funny, magical, and always...effective.
I encourage you all to visit Joel’s website, Facebook page and store on Etsy.
Links to Joel Robison:
To purchase prints: http://www.etsy.com/shop/boywonder
A different view of Joel: http://projectmade.wordpress.com/