Invitational Focus: Rob Johnson, Photographer
The StarCityGames.com Invitational has generated some indelible images in the minds of Magic players. The end of Day 1 image is often a particularly memorable one: the Michael Hetrick/Shaheen Soorani Face/Off-like image from Indianapolis in 2012, Johnny%2C+Combo+Player turn in New Jersey, and last night’s Gods of the Invitational featuring Brian Braun-Duin and William Jensen are a few examples of this. The champion’s photo is often just as striking: Lauren Nolan’s pose in front of Victory Field last time we were in Indianapolis for the Invitational, Gerry Thompson’s reclining with his giant check, and Todd Anderson’s proud trophy shot from Atlanta are all equally unforgettable. And these snapshots are all thanks to our official Invitational photographer Rob Johnson.
But don’t pigeonhole the talented Mr. Johnson into just one facet of Magic life. He’s also head judged a Legacy Open when the Open Series visited Providence, appeared on SCGLive camera as a player numerous times (most notably in Buffalo, where he narrowly missed top 8 of the Standard Open while wearing his infamous kilt), and founded the Canadian Magic Tour. “I find myself a jack-of-all-trades with Magic. I started off as a player in Beta, and since then Magic has taken me around the world. It has literally shaped my life.” Rob has been to Paris for Magic Weekend, Japan for large-scale Magic events, and every single state in the United States except Hawaii to take photographs for Magic. “Plus I do the four major conventions for Wizards of the Coast [Gen Con, PAX East, PAX Prime, and San Diego Comic Con]. I’ve sung karaoke on five continents. So I get around.”
StarCityGames.com Invitational photographer Rob Johnson
Rob has even dipped his toe into the realm of running a game store, getting grass roots with his support of the Magic scene. “I had a store called OMG Games and Collectibles. I sold it to one of my players to concentrate full time on photography. When I founded it I thought my local player base deserved the best local game store. They needed somebody who could give them the attention they deserved.” So, as usual, Rob stepped up.
Player, judge, photographer, and store owner. That would be enough for some people… but not Rob. You will also recognize his bellowing voice when he does professional wrestling-style intros for the head judges of the large events he’s working, a skill he picked up with some real world wrestling experience. “I actually spent a decade working as a professional wrestler and manager… and announcer. Then some people found out about it, and Riki [Hayashi] had me introduce him in the style one time. It’s sort of become a staple of the Invitationals.” He enjoys doing the powerful introductions, but he would prefer to become the bad guy when he has the center stage. “It’s so hard not to go ‘heel’ on people on the mic!”
Outside of Magic, Rob is a professional photographer in Barrie, Ontario, about an hour north Toronto. “I’ve got a studio in my house, which rarely gets used because I’m always on the road. I shoot for magazines, fashion shows, shooting beautiful people in exotic locations. It’s a rough life.” And Magic isn’t the only game that consumes much of Rob’s time. He’s actually a very skilled bowler as well! “I make a video show reviewing the bowling industry called ‘Lane Side Reviews.’ I’ve been bowling for 25 years, and next November I’m making my debut on the Professional Bowler’s Tour.”
Well that’s about enough life experience for one person, don’t you think? Well, one more thing: “Oh, and I was a former contestant on Canadian Idol.”
“Eventually, my wife is going to ask me to stay home,” admits Rob. “But it’s nice because sometimes my family gets to come on the road with me. Last year I went on the road 52 times in eight months. Even my dogs didn’t know who I was when I got back. But I wouldn’t trade it. Not a chance. There’s an old saying: ‘I’ve dined with kings and queens, and eaten pork and beans.’ The people I’ve met the places I’ve been, you can’t buy that kind of experience. And, further than that, the SCG people are fantastic to be around because I’m with them a lot. They’re like a second family to me.”
As someone so central to the festivities of the Invitational, and someone so connected to the chronicling of the event, it is perhaps a little ironic that of all of the people photographed at the event Rob rarely gets his photo taken as well. So when you see him taking pictures at the next Invitational in Las Vegas this December be sure to say hi. Outside of Magic, he might be in a judge shirt, kilt, bowling shoes, or on a microphone. But come tournament time he’ll be the one with the camera, making sure we remember the event for years to come.