Known for capturing majestic landscapes, few know of the arduous struggles Bruce has overcome. For him, photography serves as a means of recovery from his past life. Check him out below.
Say hello to Bruce:
Where are you from? Where have you been?
I am from New York. I have been to Argentina, Siberia, and Australia, and all throughout the United States.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
I have not been to my favorite place yet – it’s most likely Iceland, some parts of Canada, and the rest of Australia that I have not seen yet! And all throughout Europe, I have not been!
What’s on your “bucket list” of ideas to create?
I want to hike the Overland track in Tasmania to Lake Oben!
How would you describe your visual style?
I like capturing things how I see it without digital manipulation.
Was there a particular image or photographer who inspired you to pursue this path in the arts?
I have a lot of friends that are photographers and we inspire each other to create and explore! I am recovering from my past life!
Have you ever considered what career path you would’ve pursued had you not chosen photography?
Yes, I would’ve joined the army or become a fireman, but I’ve been a Carpenter my whole life. And I currently am still, to make ends meet. I’m also doing antique restoration on furniture and antique lighting specialization. I started carving these light fixtures out of solid stone in 2000.
You’re also an educator in landscape photography – tell us more about this aspect of your career.
About two years ago, I realized I had enough confidence as people were asking me a lot about settings and stuff, where I decided I would start doing one-to-one and small group trainings, and photo tours. I have only been photographing for about four years now. I take people to sunrise and sunset locations on-site; sometimes they pick the location, sometimes I pick the location based on the weather. I am a member of Escaype, which is a great forecaster of sunsets, sunrises, and weather – very useful for my sessions. Jeff Lewis is the creator, and he is also a great photographer – he calls himself the beauty chaser . Usually after we do a session, there will be minor editing on the pictures – I show them basic Lightroom workflow and basic tools in Photoshop. That’s all I do – I am not doing any crazy type of digital manipulation. Sometimes, I blend exposures and I do that in Photoshop.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?
OK, here we go with this part. I have battled drug and alcohol addiction my entire life since I was 11 years old. I have been in and out of prison hospitals and institutions my whole entire life up until four years ago. I got out in 1997 and started working as a union carpenter. In 2000, I decided I wanted to be an artist. I created an antique lighting business called Getty’s Vintage Lighting . I was sober at the time until 2003, then I started to use again. Methamphetamine and alcohol were my drugs of choice. My thriving business completely went downhill. I started to go back to jail and psychiatric hospitals again. During this time, I bought a camera, a Nikon D 7000, and the following three lenses: 14 to 24, 24 to 70, and 70 to 200. I all of a sudden decided I wanted to be a photographer for some reason – I was really high and out. Somehow, I managed to get my father to cosign for me and I bought a $11,000 400 mm Nikon lens. I became an avid nature and bird photographer. I do not know how I pulled it off! In 2008, I found myself in jail again and lost everything. In 2013, I found Instagram and a whole community of people that liked to take pictures. I continued taking pictures and developing my photography skills to the next level. Interacting with people throughout the world and traveling – all of this was done without the use of going to AA or NA. Shooting with people that are just like me – sober and normal. Anyways, to make a long story short, here I am now and I built my Instagram up. Things are looking up! No alcohol or drugs! Probably, had I not started using when I was 11 years old, I would be in the military right now such as the Special Forces. Who knows – that’s what I really wanted to do when I was a kid.
What is the strangest situation you’ve ever faced as a photographer?
I was at Mono Lake and someone took a picture of me standing on the Tufa Rock. We were there in the middle of the night, but the whole bay area photography community made a big deal about it. It’s not like I was standing on it – there was a trail leading to where I was.
Going to be very honest with you – during my meth psychosis, I was friendly with a camera store in San Francisco and I went and took things from there in broad daylight, thinking that the store was mine. Anyways, that was the end of my drug use – it was the last day I used.
Not sure what you meant by strangest situation, but that’s pretty strange! I was also accused of starting a fire, which I did not do – because of steel wool photography, I have that in my feed and on my Facebook page.
What has been your biggest setback as a photographer?
Having bad credit and not having a credit card – not being able to go everywhere I want to go because of money.
What are your favorite three photos you’ve taken?
What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?
My advice for somebody just starting out in photography is to be patient. Study other people’s compositions as you can get a feel for how things are supposed to be. Of course, you have your own vision. Mistakes a lot of people make are that they do not think they’re going to take it seriously and they buy a lesser camera and lens, and then they suddenly realize that they have outgrown and exceeded the capabilities of the camera.
Where was the most unforgettable landscape that you’ve captured thus far?
Moab, Utah and Australia.
Who do you want to give a shoutout to?
Israel Marino of Marino Photography.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to being a great photographer?
Plan ahead and watch the weather.
What’s a deal breaker for you when deciding to do a shoot?
When the sky is going to blow up when the clouds are right. And if the fog is at the right elevation.
How do you express yourself through your photography?
I expressed it through my Instagram – you can see through all my photos of what I see when I travel.
What’s the most inspiring photo you’ve ever seen?
What are 3 tips you have for aspiring photographers?
Pay attention to your surroundings so you do not get robbed of your things. Study composition. And take your time when you set up your shots – no distortion in the camera. Be aware of how the buildings and bridges lean by the way you point your camera.
What kind of gear do you have?
I shoot with Nikon D8 10 – I would like to get a D5.
What’s one post-processing tip you’d like to share with other photographers?
Watch your edges – not too much sharpening, not too much D highlighting, and not too much punching up the shadows. All of this will create halos around your edges; also, if you use Instagram editing tools, you will create halos around your edges .
What is your most life-changing event?
When I was arrested the last time on Treasure Island. I was completely psychotic, and I’m very lucky that the police did not kill me.
What has photography done for you as a person? How has it changed you?
It has kept me grounded close to nature and my surroundings – it gives me the urge to travel the world. Need to see more and more and more.
What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?
I have told you everything through my previous answers.
What will you be doing five years from now?
I have no idea what I’ll be doing in five years – I’m taking it one day at a time, just barely making it.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?
So many things.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Bruce, here’s some contact information:
Bruce, thank you for the candid interview – it was a pleasure.
If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.