Celebrity Photographer Joe Buissink Gets RAW

This past fall I had the pleasure to produce another series of short films for Pictage’s ParnterConference in New Orleans. The ones I shot last year were the most rewarding filmmaking experience I had in 2009, allowing me to delve into topics that inspired and provoked thought. The series I got to produce this year was equally, if not more fulfilling. A series of four short documentary films profiling people in the photography world, most of whom I’m sure you have never heard of; but whose openness and honesty left an indelible effect on the 500+ attendees at PartnerCon: and one story in particular that changed people’s lives (more on that in a few weeks). I’ve gotten the okay to start blogging about them and share my insight behind their creation.

[This video (and the other ones I created for ParnterCon) will be part of Pictage’s new education and inspiration site The Photo Life. Very cool! Check it out for some great articles, as well as intriguing podcast interviews. Oh, and it’ll be the first place you’ll see the other films I shot for PartnerCon. Go there to see them first, then come back here to read my back story on their creation.]

I Thought I Knew Joe Buissink

Joe Buissink is arguably one of the top ten most successful celebrity wedding and portrait photographers around. He’s shot for Kelsey Grammar, J-Lo, Bishop TD Jake’s, Christine Aguillera, and Stephen Speilberg just to name a few. He’s also one of the most down to earth, honest, and authentic people I’ve met. Some how, despite Joe’s fame, he’s been able to elude the whole “rock star” photographer image. He doesn’t boast on Twitter or Facebook about his work; he doesn’t blog; he doesn’t bad mouth anyone; and he sports regular t-shirts, jeans and sneakers vs. Marc Ecko designer shirts and points shoes. He’s “just Joe.” If you’ve ever heard any of his talks at any number of photography expos, you also know that he’s open and forthright. (Arguably more so than ever in this last PartnerCon as he shared about his own challenges in this tough industry and economy).

In this PartnerCon film series, we wanted to explore the trial and tribulations that occur among “newbie” photographers and old-timers like Joe. After a week-long stint shooting for three other clients in Northern California, I took a 24 hour detour to Southern California to grab some time with Joe and create the film below. I knew I would want to touch on his work with autistic children (he has two himself) and the affect that’s had on him. But as we rode from his home in Marina del Rey to is Beverly Hills office, he started sharing about his childhood and early adult life.

My jaw just hung in disbelief as he shared what it was like being left on a door step at age 4.5 by his biological mother who left his dad; about having an abusive stepmother; and about being called the N-word (yes, THAT word). About drugs, racism, alcohol. My mind was racing. How in the world was I going to capture all this information AND make it relevant to photographers? I think what we ended up with worked out just fine. But you be the judge.

Thank you Joe for your vulnerability, your openness, your compassionate nature, and your willingness to give back to this industry. You are what’s best about this business. You da real deal my friend!