J IS FOR JOEL – EPIPHANY IN THE DARK – THE A TO Z’s OF ART


Pepper 30, Edward Weston

Many artists say they had a life-changing moment. This is such a story.  Joel Conison saw something in the blink of an eye that changed the direction of his life.

What if you were brought up in a traditional household and never thought of yourself as an artist. However, you  had the advantage of a mother being an award winning sculptor in both stone and marble. Your father is a CPA.  A career in art never crosses your mind because you are too busy being a kid.

Going to Ohio State, he did what any normal college boy would do, and trust me, he didn’t write home about it.

He will admit he had an interest in photography. BUT – when taking a photography class, the teacher had a lesson called “art in the dark” – showing famous photographs on a screen. It was here he saw the famous photograph, Pepper 30 by Edward Weston.  At that exact moment he knew he was meant to be a still life photographer. Truly an epiphany in the dark (that is the photograph above).

After seeing that photograph, he moved to Chicago and apprenticed for five years with several still photographers (and yes, one worked for Playboy).

Joel became a successful commercial photographer in the Cincinnati area, photographing prestigious clients like the Cincinnati Symphony and the Cincinnati Ballet, But, after 20 years, he found himself a little bored and he knew the advertising business was changing. He had been teaching adults in the evening and realized he liked it. So, he sold everything and moved to Brooklyn and pursued his MFA at Pratt. (This is the highest you can go as a studio artist)

Fast forward to today, he has come full circle. After practicing commercial photography, getting an MFA, teaching on the college level, he went back to what originally made his heart beat – still life art photography.

At this moment he is photographing taxidermied birds. (see them and read his artist statement here) Yes, I didn’t understand taxidermy either, but trust me – animal lovers out there – they are the biggest animal lovers in the world.

I’d love to hear other stories of a moment that changed your life!


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