We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Joanne West a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Joanne, appreciate you joining us today. We’d love to hear about when you first realized that you wanted to pursue a creative path professionally.
In the early 80’s while attending school for automotive technology I was hired at General Motors Proving Grounds as a test driver. After a bit the fun job of going round and round , literally a test track was no longer challenging. I returned to school part time to study business to open my options for advancement at GM. Philosophy and psychology held great interest for me. When my mother died at the age of 49 I began to search for deeper meaning in life. Out of the curiosity I met with a psychic who told me I had an eye for things others do not see and that she saw me doing very well in photography. She even predicted I would do photography for General Motors, travel and be very successful. So I took photography classes for my business degree art electives. And as she said it was like 2nd nature to me. I ended up taking all the photography classes the community college had to offer and told General Motors I wanted to major in photography with hopes of working in communications and design at headquarters in Detroit. Shortly after stating this a job opening was posted for someone with both mechanical and photography experience to take photos of the test vehicles. As part of this job I began creating artistic photos of prototype cars and trucks in the desert with dust storms and sunsets and documenting off road trips around the western states. Soon I was in a supervisory position with a team of 3 others. In 2001 General Motors decided to sell the east Mesa AZ facility and move the testing operations to Yuma. Rather than uproot from my Gold Canyon desert home after 20 years of working for GM I agreed to a buyout. With freedom and a bit of money I launched a full time photography business doing mostly fine art nature photography but also accepted weddings, events and portraits to supplement my income.
Joanne, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I arrived in Arizona at the age of 17, from the windy cold city of Chicago. I instantly felt inspired by the amazing sunsets, strange plants and desert critters. Yes the summers are hot but the sun, blue skies, wide open lands with easy access to mountains and higher elevations really motivates me. I have traveled and captured beautiful photos in Italy, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and most recently Africa but my true home and my most heartfelt images are made right here in Arizona. I live in an underground dome home on almost 4 acres near the legendary Superstition Mountains. From here I photograph the super full moons rising, summer monsoons with lightning, wild animals, birds and cactus blooms. Many of my art collectors have shared that my photos they have displayed in their homes bring them peace and joy everyday. I love to share my experience and inspire others to explore their own passions thru photography. I am a certified AZ community college photography instructor. I like to lead workshops and have taught at the Desert Botanical Gardens, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, local photography clubs and personal coaching. I am an advocate for photography with cell phones because there is no fuss, anyone can use and its always with you. I believe in capturing the nuances of what life presents in each moment, finding and celebrating the beauty in everything.
Is there a particular goal or mission driving your creative journey?
Being a spiritual seeker most of my life I have to say the mission that drives my creative journey is to bring more joy into the world. I love to show the similarities of animals, plants and people, the interconnection of all. There truly is a oneness that flows thru everything and when that is perceived one can’t help but smile and appreciate every living thing. I try to see the humor in things and see light where others see darkness – my photos often convey this. A happy person creates a happy world around them.
Is there something you think non-creatives will struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can provide some insight – you never know who might benefit from the enlightenment.
In the beginning of my creative journey my goal was to make money and its taken a very long time to let that become secondary. When I find something I am inspired to photograph or even research for a possible photoshoot if I start to analyze the situation or predict if it will be interesting to others or look good on someone’s wall I lose some of the initial spark that attracted me to it. In fact I may even skip photographing it. I have found to just let myself enjoy the subject, experiment with different angles and lighting. Going with the flow rather than controlling can sometimes result in an amazing photo that is more aligned with my unique vision. Ironically it seems the photos I create from this place that make for myself, are the ones that become most popular touching others at deeper level and making the most money.
- Website: www.jwestphotography.com
- Instagram: joannewestphotography
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JoanneWestPhotography/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joannewest/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/1joannewest
- Youtube: email@example.com
- Other: https://pixels.com/profiles/joanne-west
Joanne West Photography