Sometimes a photograph is mesmerizing. The artist has captured the ineffable – that something just beyond the reach of words. When that force is goodness, I can’t stop looking. I want to see more of it through the artist’s eyes.
And so it was that I discovered photographer Bruce Barone on Instagram. Born and raised in New Jersey, in his childhood Bruce was two great kids rolled into one: a baseball player who wrote poetry. He discovered his passion for creating images, stories, and combinations of these while still in middle school. His creations eventually led to a career as a corporate photographer, writer, and marketing executive at Hearst Magazines (Good Housekeeping, Cosmo, Esquire, House Beautiful, and Town & Country). He later moved to Massachusetts and started his own design and marketing agency, then an art gallery and photo studio in a renovated factory.
Today, gorgeous shots of his garden, family, and everyday beauty delight me and all of his many, many followers and customers. It is my joy to interview him here on Like the Dewfall.
You do weddings, portraits, nature, and documentary photography. How have you noticed your approach change in the years you’ve been working, and what experiences have contributed to maturity in your portfolio?
That’s a great question and required of me some deep thinking. I think my approach has been fairly consistent over the years, maybe because my love of people and nature has been consistent. The French philosopher and Jesuit Catholic Priest, (Pierre) Tielhard de Chardin wrote: “Seeing: We might say that the whole of life lies in that verb – if not ultimately, at least essentially.” I think we can find, see, and experience an epiphany in the richness of the ordinary day. To see. To be astonished. To embrace truth.
Often, I ask myself, “What am I called to do?” and “How can I make the world a better place?” To paraphrase Rumi, the 13th century Persian, poet, Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic; I remind myself: you need to be permanently astonished–this is the real work of religion. Maybe of art. The second thing you need is love; draw upon love for energy. And the third thing is sacrifice–give the drop that is ourselves; we are given an ocean. To be astonished, to become more like a child. Gifts are all around us. Be nourished by being amazed–it is a great thing to be alive.
Simone Weil, the French philosopher and political activist, said: “Absolute attention is prayer.” Seeing. Astonishment. Prayer.
Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, writes:
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
We design the world by the way we choose to see it! Yes; I choose to see beauty and to share that wonder, that astonishment with all.
How would you describe your general philosophy when it comes to your work?
I believe my photography reflects my passion for life, a love of life, nature, beauty; a calling to share this vision, This, I believe, is my ministry. I believe I have been given a gift from God. A gift for seeing beauty–-creating artful, remarkable, memorable photographs. Drawing on a degree in Art and English, inspired by Nature, a passion for telling stories and years working as a writer and photojournalist helps me to follow my heart–bringing a heightened sensitivity to all my photography. I believe I am making the world a better place with beautiful photography.
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened while you’re working?
True story. I was photographing a wedding one sultry summer day. As was my custom, I was wearing a dress suit and carrying two cameras. When the ceremony ended I made a dash for the outside so I could photograph the bride and groom leaving the church and walking down the 20+ steps to their limo. My assistant stayed inside to photograph them walking down the aisle. Perhaps, my pants were too long. I’m not sure, but no sooner had I started to walk down the steps when I lost my balance and tumbled down a few steps. I was OK; just a bit shaken up. And my cameras were okay. Only a few people saw the tumble!
What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken to get a shot? Did it pay off?
I am not sure if this a risk, but I can be fairly outgoing and once on a lunch break when I worked at Hearst Magazines in New York City I stopped at a friend’s bar for a beer (It was very hot that day!) and a bite to eat and sitting at the bar were the members of the band The Clash. I was giddy with excitement. I loved them and had just seen them in concert. I sat down at the bar next to Joe Strummer, the leader of the band. After some small talk, I asked him if I could photograph him outside. He agreed. I must say he was a very nice man. He passed away in 2002 at age 50. He’s drinking the beer in the photo. Bandmate Mick Jones behind him. Actress, singer Ellen Foley on the left. I don’t know name of woman on the right.
In all of your life, professionally or otherwise, what are you most proud of?
First, my children and my wife. And second, my gift for bringing beauty into people’s lives.
A stranger once wrote to me the following:
“Thank you for making my life more beautiful with each of your photographs. Thank you for your art.”
“You have shown me to see the world with a completely different set of eyes. Every single day you bring beauty, joy, depth and a new perspective into my life. I cannot thank you enough for being the beautiful, kind, loving, gentle, and soulful man you are.”
What personal qualities do you think you still need to develop and why?
Focus and persistence because these are tools to help me bring greater and brighter light into the world. I often find myself procrastinating!
What are you most grateful for right now and how do you express that gratitude?
My children, grandchildren, my wife, my dog. My gifts. I express this gratitude with love.
I understand that you are Christian. Was this always your faith? If not, when you did choose to follow Christ?
Some family history…My great-grandfather was one of the first Baptist ministers in America. My mom was a Sunday school teacher at our Congregational Church. One of my sisters was the Director of Christian Education at a Congregational Church. I taught Sunday school. (Funny story. One year I had my son and a girl named Julia in my class. They must have been in third or fourth grade. Years passed and they met again working at summer camp. They now live together in Denver.)
I was a Deacon. I often spoke in church. Once, after giving a talk about stewardship, people said you should be a minister!!!
So, yes. Faith has always been part of my life.
Why is your faith important to you and what benefits do you receive from pursuing this path?
It gives me guidance. Hope.
You recently gave a classic black and white photograph of Ducky’s Hot Dogs on the Asbury Park Boardwalk in New Jersey to Ducky Fornicola’s family after he passed and cited Luke 6:38 and Hebrews 13:16 in your blog post about it. The gift meant a great deal to the grieving family. How does Christianity affect the way you run your business and interact with people?
It truly is all about love.
What does the word ‘grace’ mean to you?
Grace for me is God’s gift. It is always there. I think of it as the path in the park, the river nearby, the stars in the sky; it is always available to me, the good that is always present.
How do you see evidence of grace in your life?
Grace flows like a river to me and through me, filling me with hope and renewing my faith, guiding me, an ultimate gift of perfect love.
Thank you, Bruce, for your the time and love you’ve shared with us here.