Student Success: John Munno
When John Munno encountered a bout of health challenges, he began to spend time sorting through the photos he used to take in high school. In what he describes as a ‘defining moment,’ John realized the happiness and wellbeing he experienced when he tapped into this creative passion, and he decided to pick up where he had left off. Now a graduate of NYIP, he has successfully launched his own photography business, shooting everything from nature to weddings, and even stock shots for greeting cards. We recently got in touch with John to chat about his journey, and to ask what advice he’d offer to current and prospective students of NYIP. Here’s what we learned:
1. When did you realize that photography was the field you wanted to pursue?
I started shooting in high school up into my mid-20s. Then I got into the healing field and stopped shooting for many years. It wasn’t until a bit later in my life when I was having health challenges of my own that I had what you would call a “defining moment.” While putting together an eBook called “Nature Speaks” and going through my photo library and slides from my earlier years of photographing exotic places around the world, I noticed my health improving by the beauty and healing properties contained within the images. This fueled my desire to pick up my camera and start shooting. I felt a calling from deep within myself. Something started to come alive in me that wanted to create and express itself, to create beautiful things that would help people heal.
2. When did you enroll at NYIP?
Though I had photographed for many years, I wanted to be formally trained, to improve my skills and fill in any holes that had been missing in my education. I wasn’t in a positon to go to photography school far away and shift my whole life around and pay for housing etc. I didn’t have the funds at the time for such an education. So l looked into some of distance type of classes and found NYIP. The training was something I could afford and the way the course was broken down into lessons made it easy to move along step by step through the program. Each month when the lessons came in the mail, it was like Christmas time for me.
3. What was your coursework like?
My course work was very eye opening. I had been interested only in nature photography and that was all I did for many years. When taking the course I learned about so many different aspects of photography. It gave me such an appreciation for photography and its history and impact on the world. It taught me that photography was everywhere. I learned the skills necessary to be successful in many types of photography and that allowed me to make it as a full time photographer doing nature and fine art photography, commercial photography, real estate photography, portraits, events and weddings.
4. Was your mentor helpful during the process?
My mentor was helpful in that he always brought it back to the lesson of what is the story and message you are trying to convey through your photography. He kept bringing me back to that lesson.
5. We can see on your site that your photo gallery is separated into 8 different categories. Plus, you’re also making quite a name for yourself in the wedding photography industry. Would you say that one of these sub-fields interests you the most?
Nature is one of my favorite subjects- especially nature or land untouched by the hand of man. I try to find these remote and hidden places of Connecticut and the world. This has always been a passion for me. In these places I find solace, healing, peace and understanding. I try to share these places and properties through my images with people that don’t have the chance or opportunity to have this experience.
And then there are weddings. Weddings are a very different aspect of photography that I enjoy very much. What I like most about shooting weddings is the people, the emotions, the joy, the tears and touching moments. We are such wonderful beings. I am not sure if we realize it. I try to share that wonder through my wedding photography.
6. When you approach a new project, what are the first steps you typically take in your creative planning process?
When I start a new project it is like traveling on a road or taking a journey. I look at the end product or destination-what needs to be accomplished. Then I figure out what is needed, (the steps) to take me on that journey from point A to B. Those steps are the details of what needs to be accomplished, the hows and in what order.
7. What qualities do you think a successful, aspiring photographer needs?
- Passion would be number 1. You have to have a passion for your subject be it a sports game, a newborn baby, a car, news events, trees or a landscape. You need to have a love, interest and connection with your subject
- Vision: You have to have an eye to see. It is not necessarily two eyes that one sees with but an inner eye or vision that can communicate that passion and express it through the lens of a camera
- Skill: You have to know about your equipment the camera and lens. How they work and how to make them express that vision and passion. You have to research, study, read and examine the work of others. You have to continue to grow, experiment and strive every day. It never ends.
8. After graduation, what were your first steps? Were you already actively working in the field? If not, how did you get a foot in the door?
My first steps were to set up a business, create business cards and set up a website and social media. Then starting to create products to sell, post cards, greeting cards etc. and then hitting the pavement, knocking door to door, soliciting business for work etc. It was a lot of work in the beginning with more rejections then success that was for sure.
9. Some aspiring photographers struggle to make a name for themselves because they’re hesitant to make connections. What advice would you give to younger photographers who are shy about reaching out?
I have found my friends and family to be some of my best supporters and fans over the years. Start small, stay close to home with sharing your work with friends and family, co-workers etc. Start within your immediate circle. Gain the experience and confidence and then expand that circle outward.
Work as an intern; donate your talents to a non-profit you support. This all will help gain the experience and confidence to reach out.
10. What do you always carry with you in your camera bag? Anything special?
Lens paper, a rocket blower and lens pen.
11. What’s the most interesting thing you learned at NYIP?
It may seem very basic but I learned how a photograph tells a story, and that was drilled into me over and over with every lesson.
12. We can see that you specialize in some specifics like bridges, lighthouses, churches, etc. Do you have a personal favorite subject to shoot?
My favorite subject to shoot is moving water in the forms of waterfalls, rivers, and seascapes. I could shoot it all day long. Every wave is different. Water is a long-time friend and companion going back to my days as a river guide. Water heals, water nourishes and water provides food and Life. We take water for granted and we don’t respect and treat water in the forms of streams, rivers, lakes and oceans as we should. We pollute them and use them as dumps. I try to convey the importance of water in our lives through my waterscapes and I am working on an eBook called “Living Waters” which I hope to finish this year which will build upon this theme.
13. How has maintaining a blog and website helped you creatively and professionally?
We often don’t realize the impact our lives and work have on people. We can become immersed in something and the day to day routines of our work and put our blinders on in a sense. We can’t see out of it sometimes. Maintaining a blog and website as brought me so many customer and fan comments feedback and testimonials about how my work touches people’s lives and how special it is. I read the comments over and I am amazed. I never realized this impact my work has on people. This helps fuel my determination, and constancy and to prefect my art and craft.
14. If you had to pick one, what was the most memorable photography project you’ve ever completed, either during school or otherwise?
Working with a historian and taking photos of my town’s historic districts for two walking tour brochures. It was great to work along with a historian and lean about the homes and history of my town as well as spending months shooting out in the field taking thousands of photos.
15. Describe a typical day in your life as a photographer lately.
In addition to my own wedding photography and landscape photography, I also work as a studio manager for an active wedding photography company. So I am often juggling 6 projects at once. I do a lot of editing work! About half to three quarters of my week is taken up with editing. There is the regular editing of my wedding and landscape work. Then there is the editing for the company I work for. This is often special request, creative editing, color splashes, and enhancing and correcting images, removing people, objects etc.--things that happened to be in the way. Sometimes it is major overhauling of images and image corrections. This is a lot of fun for me. The weekends are often taken up with shooting weddings and traveling all over the state from end to end. Every weekend is like going on another adventure. Then there are the hours spent on social media, blog posting meeting with clients, email correspondences and oh quick get your camera, a beautiful sunset!!
16. What’s the most rewarding part of studying photography?
Photography catches a fleeting moment of time-a fleeting moment that comes and will never happen again. Photography touches lives, holds memories and moments and has the ability to affect people in so many ways. Photography brings peace, can inspire, can lift ones spirits can cause one to reflect and grieve. Photography can be a profound communication tool-The Voice- of the subject expressing and communicating in a language that is universal, that has no boundaries. My focus in photography is to share beauty. I love to share the beauty around me through photography, to create an image that can heal, can bring peace, can heal and restore and share a timeless and important message. To be able to share a sense of wonder, awe and beauty for something that is greater then me through an image. Now that is exciting!
17. If you could give one piece of advice to our current and prospective students, what would it be?
Keep Shooting!!! And never give up- shoot that which feeds your passion!
After working as a self-proclaimed ‘computer geek’ for most of his life, Alex Braverman realized his untapped eye for photography. After receiving a digital camera as a New Year’s gift from his wife, he’s gone on to win countless worldwide photography competitions, including the 2015 B&W Magazine Portfolio Award for Dance Photography. We recently caught up with Alex to chat…