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  • by Jamie Foley



“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” the Mad Hatter asks in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This unworkable riddle is dropped in a conversation, inspiring the reader to imagine a quirky world filled with the impossible. For fans of such impossibilities, the appeal often comes not just with the story itself, but with the evocative interplay in its telling. For photographers, the perfect light can be fickle and inspiration fleeting; however, when the image is realized, that single work of art is said to be worth a thousand storyteller words. This statement can certainly be applied to Joel Robison’s photography. But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. After all, a story is best started at the beginning.

Robison grew up in Cranbrook, British Columbia, a small town nestled in the southeast corner of the Rocky Mountains. He spent his childhood playing on the doorstep of some of the most spectacular natural scenery the world could offer and takes much of his inspiration from those dramatic Canadian canvases and their wide-open spaces. “I’ve always been a visual person,” Robison admits. “Since I was young, I’ve interpreted my world through images.” As a child, he loved coming up with stories, but it was through photography that he eventually found his voice. He shares, “With photography I feel as though I’ve found an avenue to express my thoughts.”

Robison’s process differs from shoot to shoot. Experience has taught him to spend his time carefully choosing the perfect location and to never settle. He wanders an area looking for the perfect spot and light before setting up his tripod, framing the space, and beginning the shoot. His shots are often layered in post-production like a puzzle, showing the viewer an ethereal, fantastical world that seems so perfectly irrational it can’t help but spark the imagination.

“My photographs are interpretations of conversations, fears, dreams, and goals. Often they mean something different to me than to my audience, but they help give the viewer an opportunity to really see the world in a new light.” Robison openly admits he likes to hide messages in his pictures, intending that everyone sees the picture differently. The result is a personal experience unique to the viewer.

Today, Robison is a conceptual portrait photographer with a fascinating resumé. “You can never predict what people will like,” Robison says, regarding the astounding number of Facebook followers he has acquired. “I think Facebook is one of the easiest ways for artists to connect with a large audience.”

The turning point in Robison’s career can be traced back to a social media project. Robison’s objective was to photograph a well-known brand, and in a moment of inspiration he took several bottles of Coca-Cola, dropped them in a pristine snow bank, and started shooting. Satisfied, he uploaded his best shot and moved on to other projects. However, as with any good story, the beginning layers often act as catalysts later on. Such was the case with that picture, which came to Coca-Cola’s attention nearl