Interview by Andy Morris
Excerpt from 18 seconds Magazine.
Rather than a bible or crucifix or something to hang around his neck when he was confirmed at the age of 12, Peter ‘Joli’ Wilson was given a Kodak Instamatic camera by his eccentric God-Father.
Combined with a Grandfather who was a polished photographer and cinematographer in the ‘20s and ‘30s, Joli was destined to live with a camera strapped over his shoulder and a monopod in his left hand.
By the age of 14, he’d purchased a surfboard and printed his first roll of film with his Grandfather. In the collection of photos lay a print of his board. First surfboard, first roll of film: there’s the connection between surfing and photography. Pure and simple. This is where the love affair began.
As a landlocked kid in country Victoria (Ballarat) every summer was spent down at Ocean Grove in the State’s South West. Alan Green (who started Quiksilver) would hurl him into the back of his panel van on route to 13th Beach to surf.
Joli quickly established an appreciation of the ocean and its captivating lifestyle.
During his University years in the late sixties he met Murray Bourton, (surfboard shaper) who was studying at the same University – Joli, a Metallurgy Degree (mining) and Murray, an Arts Degree, but their backsides rarely occupied classroom seats.
Instead they’d be high-tailing towards the Coast with youthful grins of freedom and minds full of exciting ideas.
Joli’s first ‘real’ photographic job was with the Australian Defence Department at an engineering design establishment in Melbourne.
He’d been living in Torquay, VIC, satisfying his salty needs by this stage. Picture this: Joli was this long-haired coastal hippie who had to go through stringent screenings by ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation), because his role involved photographing teams, who were developing military guns, tanks, bomb disposal devices and even the testing of the push button telephone. Hair up in his trademark ponytail, sea salt removed from his skin, a pair of shoes on, he broke the ‘60s surfer stereotype and passed the tests.
After leaving Torquay in the pitch black five days a week, and returning in the dark, two years was enough.
Next gig was working closer to home at Deakin University in the Photography Department. Eventually Joli ended up running the show whilst continuing with side projects centred on surfing.
In the early ‘80s, Quiksilver came along requesting his services in charge of their Marketing and Advertising Department.
He walked from Deakin.
Although shooting wasn’t in his job description, fortunately for Joli, he was able to bring his photographic skills to the table on Quiksilver team trips, product shoots and advertising.
In 1989, Joli left Quiksilver and began freelancing. What followed is Joli Productions and a lifestyle on the road with his wife Jan, creating one of the most comprehensive photo libraries of the sport.
From World Tour events to free surfing, Joli’s collection is staggering. What’s also impressive is he was filing stories from remote places on earth way before digital cameras, email and websites.
Now days you’d be hard pressed to find a stock photography site hosting more generational surf images than Joli’s.
With 30 years of freelancing up his sleeve, Joli’s seen a lot on tour.
From Slater’s 11 World Titles to being invited by the pro’s to shoot a rare east swell, which lit up a Tahitian reef during the Teahupo’o waiting period – a testament to the solid relationships he’s formed with surfing’s elite.
It’s access all areas for Joli – and no, there isn’t a Media pass for this.