A special thanks to Laura Brunow Miner, founder of Phoot Camp for putting me in touch with some of her attendees…
JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you want to be growing up?
HENRY BUSBY: In first grade we had this assignment to write a sentence about what we wanted to do when we grew up and then draw it. I wrote, Wen I gro up I want to jrawl. which meant, When I grow up I want to draw. I was never much of a speller, but the picture was really good. I was drawing all the time. I made things up or I’d draw my friends or whatever I found in books around the house. It was really all I wanted to do. In high school and college I started painting, and then I think that led me towards my cinematography major. Photography actually only came around a few years ago when I bought my first DSLR to do location scouts for film projects. I really quickly found that I was drawn to that as a way of expression as well. It’s always been in that ball park of visual arts though. A pencil was just the first thing in my hand before a camera or a brush.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
HB: Jake Stangel inspires me all the time. His work speaks for itself, but I’m also inspired by his hard work and his openness to share advice with young photographers. It always feels like he’s in at least 7 different places at the same time, taking gorgeous photos in all of them. Bryan Schumatt’s Grays the Mountain Sends really hit a sweet spot for me. It’s very different from my photography, but a lot of those ideas relate to a screenplay I’m writing now. I’m inspired by the work of my friends and other photographers working right now. That list is huge, and I reblog a lot of those on my blog. I like experimenting in different styles and trying lots of different things so having a deep pool of inspiration to draw from is important.
I watch a lot of films too. Last week I caught up with Upstream Color, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and George Washington. All three of those have some early Terrence Malick influence, and those happen to be some of my favorite films too. It’s corny, but inspiration is everywhere. I think about the color of a bird I saw on a walk or the look on someone’s face at a specific moment, little things like that. The stories about how people got into what they’re doing or the paths they took to get there are really interesting too. I’ll inhale any interviews with photographers or director or musicians that I like. Being able to to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth is invaluable to me.
JC: What are you up to right now?
HB: Right now, I’m writing my first feature film with my writer/directing partner Marcus Tortorici. It’s really, really early on, but even just taking time out to explore some very personal ideas has been good no matter what comes of it.
In photography, I’m shooting editorials and some ad work. I shoot a lot of personal work, but it’s rarely project based. I enjoy editorial work a lot. I don’t think it’s any less valid than personal work. It’s like when you get assigned a really open ended project in school. Those were always my favorite.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
HB: Yeah, I’ve had tons of people that really helped me along the way. Both of my parents encouraged me to use my own voice and find my own way to think. Early on in college, I took a documentary course with Andrew Grace. He was the first person to ever tear my work completely to shreds which I definitely needed. I learned so much about critical thinking from him. Miller Mobley has been a big mentor. We did a project together in Alabama right before I moved to New York. He and his wife, Jana, helped me get on my feet a little bit, and I always had someone to talk to when I was trying to figure out how to survive in the city. His drive and ambition are so impressive, and I learned a lot about the business side of photography from him. I can’t really overstate the value of my friends from Phoot Camp. I was still really, really new to photography and a lot of those people were some of the very first people inspiring me to take pictures, so to have suddenly ended being friends with those people and being able to call them up when I have a question was totally humbling and bizarre. It all felt like a very happy mistake.
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
HB: I’m based in Brooklyn now, but as I sit here typing this, I’m in Alabama shooting a story. I grew up in Alabama and moved to New York last year. The difference between those two places is probably influencing me in some way. My senses are more heightened in New York because this place is still new in so many ways. My jaw drops usually once a day at something I saw or heard, and I like to tell people those stories.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
HB: That’s tough to say because I went to a state school and didn’t major in photography so I can’t say what I would or wouldn’t have learned in art school, BUT I’ve never really felt limited in any way by that. I think most of what there is to know out there can be learned through doing, talking with people, or reading, and you don’t have to go to school for those things. If there’s anything that I hope they’re teaching, it would be a good attitude and few business courses. I’m only 23 so I don’t want to be presumptuous about advice for others, but those are my experiences.
JC: If all else fails - what is your plan B?
HB: I’ve never thought about a Plan B really. It’s what I want to do so I will make it work. My temperament and skillsets feel way too specific for other things. I’d probably make a pretty terrible employee at most jobs. I think later in life when I’m ready to not be so crazy, I’d be fulfilled by teaching art in some capacity. A lot of people in my family are really amazing teachers.
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
HB: Absolutely, I know some people prefer having work & life in separate spheres, but I love being around creative people and talking about ideas or experiences all the time. If we’re out getting beers or coffee or whatever, I’m not the kind of person that wants to avoid talking about it because “it’s work”. You can learn so much that way, and more directly, it’s also led to a lot of bookings through friend referrals. Enthusiasm is contagious and I don’t really see the downside of community. It’s a really difficult field that breaks your heart a lot so having that friend around that can tell you a story about getting their heart broken too is good. Without that kind of community around, I’d probably need a therapist. I need some other crazy people to keep me sane too.