Conceptual portrait photographer Joel Robison has been on an adventure, living what many photographers would describe as their dream job. What began as a gig moderating Coca-Cola’s Flickr community is now a full-time role as photographer and voice of the Coca-Cola FIFA World Cup Tour. Joel tells us his story and shares advice for other photographers looking to work with prestigious brands.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Joel Robison, I’m a 29-year-old conceptual portrait photographer from Cranbrook, British Columbia. I’ve been pursuing photography for the last 5 years but only recently decided to try and make it my full-time focus. I love running and specifically racing in long-distance events. Being alone outdoors inspires me and gives me time to come up with new ideas.
When you got the job to travel with Coca-Cola for the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, what were you most excited about?
A lot of things! Getting a job where your task is to travel to over 80 countries and capture the smiling faces of the people in those places is an amazing opportunity. When I found out that I was going on the trip, I was most excited to see places that I had never dreamed of seeing. It’s a photographer’s dream to be able to capture images from other places and see the world through their lens.
Tell us about your favorite photograph. How did it come to life?
A couple of days before I left for my tour, I decided to work on a photo that I had sketched a long time ago. I’d drawn the concept almost a year earlier and had plenty of opportunities to shoot it, but for some reason I never did. There are some photos I work on that feel rushed or feel forced, but this photograph was like a deep breath before I left home. It was a warm September evening and I was able to spend the time reflecting on where I was going and what I wanted. It almost felt like a dance, setting up my equipment and shooting the parts of the photo. It felt easy, like it was all exactly how I saw it in my mind. This photo became A Place to Fill Up, shown below.
In a previous interview, you share that it used to take you a few hours to edit an image in Photoshop. How long does it take you now? How has your use of Photoshop changed over time?
I go through different phases. When I was working on a 365 project (and working a full-time job,) I was rushed. I would spend a few hours in the evening working and then post an image that same night. I forced creativity into my mind and sometimes it worked well and sometimes it was frustrating. Now I’ve learned to give myself time and work a bit slower. I take a few days to edit, coming back to my photos, which helps me refine my ideas and work on the details.
How does using Photoshop change your perspective while shooting?
I would say that it’s helped me feel more comfortable shooting. I recently shot a photo of a friend in a busy plaza in Colombia. I knew that there were people standing in the background, walking through my shots, but I knew that I could easily get rid of them later. There are times when I know that my confidence in Photoshop makes it easier to shoot. I shoot for what I know I need to edit and what I need to have so I can put my final image together.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen or experienced so far on the tour?
That list could be a long one! Aside from the traffic (or lack of traffic rules) in some countries, I think the craziest thing I’ve seen has been the sheer excitement that people have for the sport of Football and for the FIFA World Cup Trophy. Coming from a place where the sport wasn’t a huge part of my life, it’s eye opening to see people crying, cheering and celebrating because of their love for this sport.
What advice would you give to creatives who aspire to work for major brands like Coca-Cola?
My advice would be to share your work. Share it with companies that you admire, talk to them and tell them your story. There are people behind the walls of many companies that are looking to be innovative and are looking to be different.
What’s next for you after the tour ends in April?
This summer, I’m planning on traveling across the United States and Canada with three of my close friends and fellow photographers under the organization The Wild Ones. We’re holding between 20 and 30 workshops in different cities where we’ll teach students our shooting and editing styles and how to tap into the creative side of their minds. Aside from that, my future is as bright and open as I want it to be. I’ve made some amazing friends and contacts at Coca-Cola and I’m hoping that there is a place for me to continue to be involved in future campaigns and projects with them.
Many thanks to Joel for taking the time out of his hectic schedule traveling the world to answer our questions. You can see what Joel comes up with next on Flickr.