With the right imagination, anything can happen in the backyard.

@joelrobison

Where the magic happens

Conversation || Joel Robison
Joel Robison
Photographer || Communication Magician

Joel Robison is a fine art photographer from British Columbia, Canada. His work has been used world-wide by clients such as Coca-Cola, FIFA, Yahoo, ArcAngel, Trevillion, PhotoNews Canada, and many more. He aims to show that anything is possible if we open our minds to it.

 @joelrobison  ||  JoelRobison.com

Part storyteller, part image-wizard, part globetrotter, part original Rocky Mountain homeboy, Joel has an extraordinary talent for connecting the weird, the wild, the impossible, and the inner-child.

Joel is renowned for creating images with a distinct style that elicit possibility, ignite imagination, and compel curiosity. But in addition to magic, he's just a solid all-around awesome fella and photographer. That could be why he was asked to joined the 2014 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour as the lead photographer and as the voice of social media for Coca-Cola. Joel visited almost 85 countries over the course of 9 months, taking photos of presidents, royalty, sports heroes, and roaming streets searching for people playing football.

Joel is one of those rare folks with a knack for being simultaneously down-to-earth while happily having his head in the clouds. It's a fine balance, and it shows in his work: scenes of the impossible brought to life.

When he's not fighting dragons, bicycling with balloons, or inviting viewers to extraordinary places, Joel currently calls London home. We thought it a fairly smashing experience to stick our heads into London's clouds with him, and catch up on his perspectives. His work inspires us. No surprise, his words do too.

Circle of Knowledge@joelrobison

Coffee Break - Inspired by quiet mornings that need a big cup to get moving @joelrobison

Door - the door to anywhere you need is right in front of you @joelrobison

Tall Tales - Our backyards are often our quiet spaces where we feel most comfortable @joelrobison

Hideaway - Some days just need more coffee @joelrobison

Led To Your True Path - Your journey, the destination is always changing but we have the opportunity to experience so many things on the way @joelrobison

Home Is Where You Make It - Wherever your home is, your backyard will be also @joelrobison

FP || What's important about a backyard?

JR || The most important part of a backyard is the door into it. The entrance! Nothing happens back there until it opens and one steps on through.

FP || What's your first memory of a backyard?

JR || Once upon a time, I grew up in a small city in the Rocky Mountains. We lived in a house in the middle of the city. Everyone in the neighbourhood looked out for each other. As kids, we roamed the streets having big adventures in small places. It was an ideal childhood. Our backyard contained a garden shed, and my parents allowed us to take it over. It was a special place for me. That shed, in the backyard ... I was away from it all. It's where I would go to draw, sitting there in the dust amidst garden shovels and bags of topsoil. It was just there in the backyard, 15 steps away from the house, but inside it was another world that led to other worlds. 

FP || What's the most memorable yard you've seen?

JR || Here in the UK, there are backyards that are manors; grand spaces filled with pools and shrubs. But where I grew up, my greater backyard was the Community Forest. It was a natural space full of trees and little lakes and Rocky Mountain views and lots of trails. The Forest was this expansive public area looked after by a dedicated group of volunteers. It was a safe haven, a private space, and a place that could be enjoyed by people from all sorts of backgrounds. You could walk, run, bike, and see other people. But it was also a space where you could happily go to feel alone.

It was just there, in the backyard, 15 steps away from the house, but inside it was another world that led to other worlds.

FP || Happily alone?

JR || Yah! A great backyard is a kind of sanctuary, a place to unwind, and a place to step away from things. I love spaces that have natural and sacred and organic qualities. I was fortunate to have them growing up. And I think I’m quite lucky living where I am in London, there are many pockets of natural places. I currently live next to a river, and a lake that is, oddly enough, filled with Canadian Geese. It’s a place that allows me to walk around quietly. 

FP || Do you have a fence preference?

JR || No fence. I can see that fences have a purpose, but I think they are just walls with a different name. We spend so much of our time putting up walls around people, or living within walls, a backyard with no fence gives us the opportunity to be unbounded.

FP || If you head out of the backyard, you are always in possession of a...?

JR || A camera. A multitude of cameras! I try and always have at least one. A sketch book and notepad to write down things and ideas that come to mind. And music, it’s a great way to have a different tone. Music can paint things in a different light; it can slow things down so you're not hearing trucks and traffic, you're hearing your mind instead.

FP || What do you think doesn't belong in your back yard?

JR || I wouldn’t want anyone or anything that would harm the environment and diversity of the backyard. Diversity is what makes backyards unique, and whether that's plants or people, it's something to be embraced. 

FP || Backyards aside, what's your morning ritual?

JR || I’m one of those people who wakes up and is ready to start the day. I’m ready to get up and go. My day starts with a coffee. It’s my alarm clock, the thing that says, "This day has begun." I enjoy the process of making something, and I use an Aeropress or hand grind it. It’s a moment I enjoy as part of my day-to-day schedule. And then often the rest of the day is haphazard and without a set schedule. And I like that. There’s a freedom in being able to experience a lot of different things. My days may look different, but there's one moment where it’s the same: the first half hour of the day.

FP || Who do you think does a good job of telling the backyard stories?

JR || I think singer Sarah Harmer has this distinct sound, a Canadian sound I think. She sings about natural things and the areas around her. Her music is real.

And then there's the Good Ol' Goats, a young band from my hometown. I’ve had the good fortune to work with them, and I know they draw on their natural and cultural environments. They do a good job of sharing their story of summer through their sound. 

FP || Soundtrack for backyarding?

JR || Moments that are my own might get a soundtrack that features a few of these:

FP || What makes you want to leave the backyard?

JR || I’ve always been curious about the world around me. Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky to travel and see more places in the world. I want to see it and let it influence me and teach me about myself. The more you get out and do things, the more it pushes you to do more. But that said, it’s helpful to have a great place to come back to.

Joel Robison photos

Photos (clockwise):
Enthralled - Reading and Nature are comforts that exist in partnership with me and should be the same in a backyard
Rest Stop - Coffee is a ritual that for me forces myself to take a break
Worldly Balance - Our world is both big and small at the same time, so many stories all balanced in one @joelrobison

FP || What point in your journeys did you want to be home the most?

JR || If I'm in a foreign place on a holiday. Or part of other people's family celebrations; that's where I feel like I’m worlds away from the people I know. That's when that sense of home, a sense of belonging to a place is probably at its strongest.

FP || What should no backyard be without?

JR || People! People who possess the ability to get into it, to enjoy its existence. To create a sense of personal space and belong there. City people often seem to miss out on the doorway to personal space. The entire city could be a backyard. Most cities have some amazing outlying natural spaces. But if it takes longer than 20 minutes to get there ... So many people think that if it’s not immediate, it might not be of value. Once people take the time to experience it, they can discover how much of an impact it can have in their life. But most people don’t like to journey out to those spaces because they seem far. Here in London, there's a space on the edge of the underground line that's got wild deer and a forested area. It's special.

FP || Where does magic have meaning with regards to your work?

JR || The idea that anything is possible. My work is the visual representation of seeing so far outside the box that I don’t even really see the box anymore. They're often things that probably won't happen in life, but ... they could! As we grow up we are told to get our heads out of the clouds and think realistically ... but I’m happy to fight that with my work.

FP || What makes you want to wake up and kick ass?

JR || I feel like I want to do so much! I know that the more I go out and see, I'll know there is still so much more to see and do. The more you uncover, the more things there are to uncover. And sharing that, and sharing in that, is what motivates me to get going.

FP || Any recommended further backyard reading?

JR || How about some books for the backyard, about the backyard. Here's a few choice picks...

  • Where The Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
  • Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
  • The Secret Underground World of Og - Pierre Berton

FP || Last word for now...?

JR || With the right imagination, anything can happen in the backyard.