10 Questions: Joni Burtt

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When it comes to photography, Canadian based Joni Burtt’s passion is in her personal work and finds her muse in her best friend (husband) and her children. She doesn’t hesitate to break the rules when it comes to her art, and has even employed an old beat-up Pentax lens filled with scratches. When you view Joni’s work, you are instantly transported to the moment; you feel the mood, hear the laughter, breath the dust in the air – it invokes hidden childhood memories tucked away as life goes by. Joni’s work is the testimony of her world view, keenness in storytelling and her passion in approaching photography without fear.

1. What is life to you? What it should be?

Wow, this is a big question! Life to me is about the culmination of all kinds of small moments into one large purpose; maybe not even something tangible, but a feeling like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.  A lot of it plays into it in my life – my faith, family, what brings me joy, how I spend my time, goals, and what kind of legacy I leave.  Ask me again tomorrow and I may have a different answer.

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2. There are a lot of professions out there – why be a photographer?  

I didn’t go into photography expecting it to become a profession (though, for me, my personal work is where I am most passionate).  But doing something every day where creativity and profession intersect is extremely fulfilling. I actually don’t take on very many clients but when I do, I love being able to capture emotion on a regular basis.  

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3. What is your favourite non-photography pastime?  

We love to be outside.  Hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, running, all of it. We get a great deal of joy out of waking up on the edge of a secluded lake, tromping through the forest, skipping rocks in the surf, and we have even scheduled our last three vacations around hiking in Maine and Utah.  I also love thrift shopping, cooking, and naps.

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4. What movie did you love recently?  

I honestly cannot tell you the last movie I watched!  The only things I watch with any regularity are nature/travel documentaries.  In my downtime I read, to the detriment of my cluttered house sometimes.  I’ve recently read through a few Jon Krakauer books and loved them, and The Lonely Polygamist by Bradley Udall has been one of my favourites this year, and of course, I always love to sit down with a book of Alice Munro’s short stories.

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5. Is/Are there any project(s) you wish you could do – or might do?  

I would love to do more destination shoots.  I love traveling but we currently have a very modest life and extensive travel is something we’re saving for the future when our children are older.  

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6. Do you shoot with your left or right eye?  

Right eye.

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7. Are there any unseen experimental images in your attic you’d like to show us now?

I really enjoy taking photos of my husband with our children.  I took this image a few days ago with my Lensbaby.  I love how he sees fatherhood as an extension of himself.  If he’s going to the woods, the toddler is on his back, the big kid is in his footprints.  I’d love to extend this into a project on what fatherhood looks like to different people.  

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8. Who do you respect – in photography or elsewhere?

I have friends who are these amazing artists and take such poignant photos of their children, and I respect that they have done so much and come so far within their own gorgeous little worlds.  I respect artists who are constantly pushing the limits and breaking the rules.    

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9. If you were to start all over again, is there anything you would do differently? Why?  

I don’t know that I’d change anything about my actual art.  I started out like everyone else does and have finally found my niche, and the experiences I’ve had directly point to what I’ve become.  The only thing I might change is to document more of my children’s lives in those days.  I do it all the time now, and it is my absolute passion, but early on I got a lot of really horrible, cheesy portraits.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 year’s time?  

I hope I’m even better at what I do, but this is a creative medium that is always in flux.  I will always be learning.  I do still see myself in my little white house in the woods with my best friend and children. Perhaps with more dogs.

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11. Bonus Q: Do you think the gear you use affects the way you photograph? Why?

Yes and no.  I don’t have anything terribly fancy and I don’t feel limited by that.  At the same time, I am a rule-breaker (not by nature, but at least in art) and I absolutely could not do without my two freelensing lenses.  I free lens a lot of photos (and, with similar results, also use a Lensbaby Composer + Edge80) because I love the dream-like effect, and the way it makes photos look like memories.  My gear includes: Nikon D600, Sigma ART 35 f/1.4, Nikon 50mm f/1.4, Sigma 24-70 f/2.8, Lensbaby Edge80, Tamron 90mm Macro, and an old beat-up Pentax 100mm lens I use for ‘freelensing’ (it’s covered in scratches and dents but boy, that thing is a beaut!).


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