Joe Baez is a photographer in his freshman year at Montclair State University, majoring in acting. Baez focuses on portrait photography and conducts shoots for people in New Jersey and New York. He spoke with The Montclarion Video Editor Mackenzie Robertson about his passion for photography and acting.
Q: What sparked your interest in photography?
A: The way that my photography really sparked was that I was just a big fan of memories. Freshman year [of high school] is really where it just struck me that I wanted to start taking photos for the sake of just looking back and being able to say, ‘Wow I relived that moment,’ you know? I didn’t have a really great time, just as a kid, because I was bullied in high school and regrettably at home.
I needed something to look forward to when I was with friends, those little tiny moments that I had. I would basically take these photos, print them out at CVS and I would look back at them and say, ‘Wow, I really enjoyed this.’ Now when I do it professionally, I can say that when I’m taking this photo I had a really intense emotion, and I just think it says that I am living, you know?
Q: How did you end up getting into the Acting Program at Montclair State, given your interest in photography?
A: Through auditions, I got into the acting program. It was kind of leveled out, so photography and acting are both of my passions. I won’t say which one I will shoot for if there was an ultimatum. It was actually a walk-in when I went for the acting program. I was supposed to go to musical theater auditions, and when I went in there they seemed really caring about my decision when I told them about having to choose between musical theater or acting. So, I took that into account, and I have a lot of friends that kind of influenced my decision.
Q: Does acting influence your photography and has it helped shape you as a photographer?
A: I would say photography shaped me as a person. Acting and photography both have their own aspects, but acting is just more of an emotional kind of thing and photography is saving the moment. I wouldn’t say one shaped me more than the other.
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish with your photography?
A: I’m trying to capture the beauty of every moment. I think that is just a very general thing that a lot of photographers would say. For me, of course, is keeping the memory alive. Even for people that I’ve taken photos of them smiling, being sad or whatever scenario that we are in, and just being able to look back at the day. I think that photographs are really important. I always think, ‘what if the internet just dies?’ If I can’t go back online and all my photos are gone, I have to print them out and I can see that I was there.
Q: Tell me about your favorite or most memorable photo shoots.
A: Feb. 12 was one of my favorite photo shoots. It was a snow day, and it was a little bit of a blizzard. I had three photo shoots scheduled. The first photo shoot was pretty weird, but I liked that kind of weird. We took vintage dresses and then we took a couch out into the snow. It was just a eccentric in that kind of way. I just loved the idea of just playing with different things. I think that was a way of showing myself that I am starting to branch off into my portrait photography.
Q: Do you think your subject helps guide where the shoot is going?
A: I think it definitely depends on the person that I am shooting with. It could be a different vibe or something they would want. My main priority is, of course, capturing the beauty of the model that I am taking photos of. I want them to feel comfortable, I don’t want them to feel like they don’t like the photos. I make sure I check in with them, I show them the photos that I’m taking so we can adjust. I see photo shoots as hangouts because I am getting to know someone, and I don’t want them to feel like I’m a stranger to them.
Q: How has Montclair State helped you build your craft?
A: [Montclair State] has definitely helped my social cues a lot. Just being less awkward, and it’s just a way to go up to people and [say], ‘Hey, I think you’re good-looking, let’s do a photo shoot.’ That’s just how I started getting connections, and I’ve found a lot of great people here who even just ended up becoming friends through photo shoots. I definitely would say [Montclair State] helped me with social skills and making connections with models.
Q: Do you have a model you have worked with that you thought was particularly interesting?
A: One that struck me is actually from Montclair State, her name is Gianni. We did a photo shoot in September. I don’t know how to describe it but it was just a feeling that I had that we were going through the right track in our photo shoot. It was wonderful for me to see because that was her first photo shoot that she has done in like three years. Now I hear that she’s walking New York Fashion Week. It has only been a couple months and now she’s doing prime photo shoots. It’s just nice to see the growth in that.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Overall, my main priority is being happy. Acting and photography I’d like to still keep doing. I still have a great love for it. I’m just hoping to keep the memories alive.