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Reinventing Yourself: A Meandering Journey with Joe.

An Interview with Joe Buissink by Rachel LaCour Niesen

Atlanta photographers- hear more of Joe’s story tomorrow, July 13th,  at the Atlanta PUG Meeting! Then, come back on Thursday for Pictage & ShootQ Business Bootcamp!

“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.”  – Henry Rollins

This is one of my favorite quotes by an artist I admire. He’s characteristically irreverent and unconcerned about pissing people off. In fact, he implies that we must define ourselves by reinvention. The last statement is particularly poignant: “To cut yourself out of stone.” Notice he didn’t say “sculpt.” He said “cut.” Did you hear that? CUT. Reinvention is a painful process. And it’s a process you have to go through alone. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? I think so.

Yet reinvention also means renewal, hope for a fresh future. As creative professionals, we must constantly reinvent ourselves. It’s how we stay fresh, focused and full of passion for our craft.

1. How long have you been a photographer?

I’ve been a photographer (professional) for 16yrs now.  I’ve been a visual person all my life.  Friends, when I was younger, always thought I was weird or awkward… you know, always seeing things differently than they were.

2. Do you think there’s a time when every photographer must reinvent themselves? Their style? Their business? Have you had to do either or both?

I’m constantly reinventing myself. I have to. It’s the only way I can stay in business. I’ve been very fortunate in my career… I’ve had great success. But when 2008 hit, the bottom fell out. I thought I’d be just fine – that I would continue getting work because of my good reputation and good work. But, I was so wrong! The last three or so years have been tough on me as well. I quickly found that I could no longer rest on my laurels (It’s kind of easy to do that when you’ve been successful… for me anyways), I had to put in the effort to reinvent myself and my business. So, I am. I shut down my Beverly Hills studio and moved it home, I’m creating a new website, and making more changes.

Wedding Photography by Joe Buissink

3. Does the personal nature of your photographs take a toll on you?

I usually feel invigorated after a shoot. Tired, but invigorated. Being present in people lives on one of the most important days for them is, well, an honor, privilege, and blessing. That is invigorating!! Now, at 60 years young, I do feel a bit slower. However, working out every day and eating right seems to be bringing me back up to speed – slowly.  This, by the way, is another part of reinventing yourself. Overcoming obstacles sometimes requires you to reinvent.

4. Some say you’re the “Shaman of Wedding Photographers.” What do you think about that?

I feel humbled and embarrassed by this question. I’m just your average Joe (literally). I’m a photographer that is VERY passionate about photography. I found it to be my voice in life. Ya kinda haveta know my background as a child to know that I never had a voice. It was literally beaten out of me. Photography gave me a voice; A way to express my feelings. I simply want to share those things with others who have taken up the camera. And share what I’ve discovered it can do for people. For me… it’s therapy.

I also feel the need to make sure that the new generation of photographers realizes that what we (some of us old timers) endeavor to do in this industry is to continue to show the world that what we do is a craft, an art form. There is no magic bullet for success. It requires dedication and hard work. And if you wish to truly excel at this craft… it requires introspection. A very deep look inside yourself.

Wedding Photography by Joe Buissink

5. Will you ever stop photographing? Put your camera down for good?

I think I’ll be buried with a camera in my hand. I can never and will never stop shooting. For me it would be like stopping talking. Remember, for me, it’s a form of communication (by the way… this writing thing I’m doing right now, isn’t one of them). I’m a lousy writer. However, I can see really well. Even better, is my ability to being aware of how I feel, and expressing that through photos.

6. Good gear is cheap. Digital gives everyone instant feedback. Photography is being democratized and the line between “pros” and “hobbyists” is blurred. Do you think photographs created by pros have more intrinsic value than images photographs created by hobbyists?

For me it doesn’t matter if the image was shot by a professional or a hobbyist. I’ll always relate to the image, and through that image I’ll relate to the person that took it. Could have been a soccer mom that shot it, or a 5yr old. The value in a photograph is what it communicates to the viewer.

Wedding Photography by Joe Buissink

7. What’s your take on Henry Rollin’s quote? Can you relate to that phrase, “To cut yourself out of stone?”

Henry has it right – it fits perfectly in my life story. I was told by ALL not to become a photographer. I was told by my photographer friends that there were too many people in the field, and I was asked what I could possibly offer. I was told by my family that wedding photography wasn’t a respected field of photography. After all, the general consensus at the time was that anyone can become a photographer. I was to be a doctor, and I was shamed for even trying something other than being a doctor.

Ok, so I happened to be working towards my PhD in psychology when I quit, and took up the camera. It was a radical move, I understand. It was not a ‘normal’ decision to make. So what!!  Without pursuing your passion, reinventing yourself to pursue your dreams, you’ll never know who you really are. I will continue to chase my dreams. I will continue to follow my passion. Until I die.  And no one can convince me not to.

8. What’s your favorite way to chill out after a crazy long wedding shoot?

Come home and simply be with my family. Sunday bike ride with Marilyn and Sebastien. Cook and do dishes together. Watch a movie with my wife. Hold hands. No words. Then early to bed.

Wedding Photography by Joe Buissink

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!