Have you ever had one of those defining, fork-in-the-road, flip-a-coin, change-your-life kind of moments?
I’ve had a couple pop up in life, and I think about the paths each decision leads to all the time. When I was in my teens, I had applied for a volunteering program in Canada that would have taken me around the country for nine months and been something totally unlike anything I’d ever done. I also applied for college roughly around the same time, and as fate would have it, my acceptance letters to both came on the same day. I chose college, and that choice changed my life. It led to me a relationship, a job which led to more schooling and another job, a house, and adulthood.
A few years ago, fairly early on in my photography journey, I had a similar door present itself to me that changed my life.
When I first started taking photos, I had no idea what I was doing and, as a visual learner, I knew that the only way I was going to learn how to be a better photographer was to take photos every day. But along with being a better tactical photographer, I wanted to grow my creative vision, as well. I found some groups on Flickr that were perfect for that. Each day, someone would choose a theme, and you could submit a photo to that theme. It helped me a lot to narrow down my ideas and build on my creative voice.
One day in January 2010, the theme of the day was Coca-Cola, one of my favorite brands. I lived in British Columbia and it was January, so it was cold. My ideas were limited to using the huge depths of snow outside. I decided to plunk a few bottles of Coke in the snow and make my own take on an ad. I posted it, a few people commented that Coke should take notice. And that was it.
Cool. Crisp. Refreshing
I’d long been a fan of Coca-Cola. For me the brand was always associated with the happiest memories of my childhood. We were treated to a glass of Coke at Christmas on our birthdays, on trips to the beach and roadtrips. For me, the advertising was always heartwarming, but it was the emotional connection that made me appreciate the company.
Fast-forward to almost two years later, and things suddenly moved toward that flip-a-coin moment I mentioned earlier. A fellow photographer at Coca-Cola had come across my image and passed it along to the social media team, who then asked if they could tweet it out as a fan-generated post. I was over the moon! At the time, photography was my hobby, and this was one of the biggest things to happen to me. I enthusiastically said yes.
I thought that was the peak of this story, but how wrong I was. A few days later, I was offered a chance to moderate Coca-Cola’s online presence on Flickr.com. I spent more than a year creating a series of images based around the positive themes and words associated with the brand and encouraging other fans to post their content. It was not only a chance for me to work with one of the biggest brands in the world, but it was an opportunity for me to stretch my style into a brand's vision as well.
At the end of this contract, I visited the headquarters of Coca-Cola. It was a bit like visiting Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I was given tours, samples, gifts and a chance to sit in the chair of the CEO in the boardroom. I left Atlanta feeling happy for the opportunity, assuming that was all I’d do with the company.
Fast-forward again, and here is the life-changing moment. A few months after that meeting, I was back in Atlanta being offered the chance of a lifetime... the chance to not just change my life, but to provide an entirely new lease on life. I was given the opportunity to join one Coca-Cola’s largest marketing projects in its history and one of the world’s largest world tours. I joined the 2014 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour as the lead photographer and the voice of social media. My story of getting the job was a bit of a story in itself, and I found myself giving interviews to media outlets around the world.
This trip, visiting almost 85 countries over the course of nine months, was something I had no preparation for. I was taking photos of presidents, royalty, sports heroes. I was walking through the streets of countries I’d barely heard of searching for people playing football and taking more photos than I think I’d taken in the four years prior.
During that trip, I decided to move to another country. I saved up enough money to afford to start my business, and for the first time in my life, devote my time and energy into art. This job, the opportunity to work with two huge brands, gave me many things. But it was the confidence in myself that gave me the chance to pursue my passion.
I’ve also been working exclusively with the World of Coca-Cola, helping to provide a library of images for their website and social channels.
Reflecting back to that tweet six years ago seems so far away, but so fresh in my mind. I wanted to share this story to show you that achieving your goals is possible if you have the motivation, passion, belief and hard word to move yourself toward them.
Sometimes all it takes is one photo to change your life.
Joel Robison is a fine art photographer currently living in the United Kingdom. In 2013 and 2014, he worked exclusively with Coca-Cola and FIFA as the lead photographer and voice of social media for the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola, travelling and photographing more than 80 countries over a nine-month period. Visit JoelRobison.com to learn more.
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