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From Spiderman to Ansel Adams


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

“Photography, is more than a medium of factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.” ~ Ansel Adams It’s this spirit that drives local, world-trekking photographer Joel Wolfson as he developed his dream by believing, “You make your own luck, it takes perseverance, tenacity and an open mind.” 

Beginning life in Albuquerque, N.M., Joel entered a coloring contest when he was 8 years old. To his surprise and delight, he won the grand prize: his own camera. This was a game changer in the way young Joel would see and share his world. He found at age 8, he was barely tall enough to peer over the edge of the developer tray. At this point, Joel’s older sister, interested in photography herself, became his guide through the black and white land of ghostly images that magically appear on blank photo paper. By the age of 13, Joel was studying photography on his own. He built his own darkroom and as he tells it, “abandoned Spiderman in favor of photography heroes Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Ed Weston.“

Joel’s family moved to the Midwest during his mid childhood. There he completed his college degree program in Intercultural and Business Communications, but Joel’s lifelong passion for capturing rare images in creative ways took him in a different direction, earning him a reputation for quality in the publishing world. It wasn’t long before Joel was adding to his elite client base with Fortune 500 companies and an opportunity to sign on with a picture agency in New York. Yet, the magnetic power of the spacious Southwest landscapes and the rheumatic whispers of the Pacific’s jeweled shores would tempt him back to the landscapes he admired as a boy. With his companions in creative spirit Ansel Adams and Edward Henry Weston, Joel set out to create a body of work he hoped would communicate the inspiring stories of his images to others.

Joel’s studio is anywhere his inspiration transports him, from the rugged coastline of the central California coast to the lush rolling landscapes of Tuscany. His gift for seeing final images in his mind’s eye affords Joel the unique opportunity to compose the best elements of the scene into the masterpiece that captivates its viewers.  But Joel isn’t just a lone photographer in search of the next spectacular image; he is also a passionate teacher of his art. He loves teaching photography as much as he loves creating with it.  He offers one on one instruction, workshops, as well as small group overseas workshops and tours. His ability to reach out using the Internet offering webinars, writing blogs and posting articles increases his audience and his student participation proportionately.  Joel invites those interested to sign up for his mailing list when they visit his Web site at This November, he will be conducting sessions at the Arizona Highways 30th anniversary symposium in photography.

A pro for over 25 years, Joe has been on the national and international stage, working with companies such as Newsweek, Elle, AT&T, United Airlines, and Apple.  He frequently speaks at professional conferences and writes articles seen in international publications. With his heart in the Southwest, Joel is a member of the Sonoran Arts League and participates in their Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour each November. To stay up to date on events, shows, workshops, and browse images of Joel Wolfson’s photography, he invites everyone to check out the latest information on the Web site; you can also find Joel’s contact information there if you are interested in lessons for yourself, family or friends.

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at