Photographer. Writer. Marketing Director. World Traveler.
Justin Press is a world traveler, writer and photographer, as well as cultural and music writer for several print and digital publications. He has written pieces on everyone from Boston to Rival Sons in addition to photographing live performances including Iron Maiden, Rob Zombie, KISS and Tool among others.
In a touching and personal release (Stages: An 18 Month Journey with my Mom and iPhone) Justin captured the final 18 months of his mum's life as she battled the complications of dementia and broken hip. Justin committed himself to document her journey and bring awareness of the disease to others who may be in a similar position.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Portsmouth, VA in 1967 at the Naval Hospital as my father was a Naval officer heading up the Naval Security Group. Soon after I awoke in Germany, North Africa, England, Scotland and finally back to Washington DC, so I was a child of the world before my parents retired in Texas (for what reason we never knew why, and he took that to his grave). My father was German born and my Mum is English, so I always consider myself a World Kid.
Tell us about your vision, or mission. What’s ahead for you and/or your career?
Vision and mission were constant until about two years ago. I was the caregiver for my mother as she battled dementia until her passing in 2018 (my father had passed 10 years prior) and a year later I found myself divorced. Prior to that my photography and writing mostly music and cultural-based with some travel thrown in for good measure. I took the time using my mother's illness to document it through images and words in order to preserve the moments and to also showcase to the world so that others dealing with this illness (primarily friends and family) could see that they are not alone. It took ahold and many people started reaching out to me on how to be a caregiver as a family member, it struck a chord. So, I became determined on photographing the human condition more. I still shoot bands, travel and do street scenes, but 2020 is about portraiture and finding the humanity in the world.
I'm in the beginning stages of writing a book called, “You Bastard.” It’s about those years with my mom suffering with dementia, and Alzheimer’s from a son's perspective, that will run the gamut from the onset to her passing away and the aftermath. It’s a very personal work, but I want it to be a guide for those who feel caught in the crosshairs. So, to answer your initial question, my mission to become more engaged and that's why I will not shoot outside of 50mm anymore, I don't want to feel detached from my subject.
We love people who break the boundaries and relentlessly push toward their goals. That said, what drives you? Was there an event, or personal moment that triggered it all?
See above for the trigger. What drives me is I am interested in a million different things and people, which is ironic since I am a bit of an introvert and a loner, but I am fascinated by people. As I get older, and deal with the blows that life can throw at you, the more I feel like an empath. I'd interviewed the famous for years, so engagement has never been hard for me. Conversation and reflection drive me. We've forgotten how to communicate, so I want to invite that back into the mainstream - talking. Plus, when you can get people to trust you and then open up like a lotus flower, that's where the good stuff is.
Have you been rejected along the way? How did you feel? How did you overcome it?
I get rejected consistently in all facets of my life (younger people get hired, women, etc.), but I have an unfair advantage. I've already dealt with the hard stuff in life, putting both of my parents, and my best friend into the ground, losing my marriage, my house, my pets…f*ck it, there is nothing that can affect me, not even death. I overcome rejection knowing that nothing is permanent. This life thing is fleeting and I am not about to get hung up on what someone else thinks of me.
If you could offer a piece of wisdom/advice to someone who is ready to break their own boundaries, what would you tell them?
Again, see above, life is fleeting, so f*cking go for it. What do you have to lose, a job/assignment/commission? Who cares, another one will come along if you play your cards right. I am eyeballing my mid-50s, and at 52 I lived and worked my most fascinating year yet (and believe you me, I have lived thru a lot of interesting years). At 52 I went on tour doing photo/video for a major band playing fests, theaters and arenas; I did security for a vocalist, I traveled to India, I learned to live in a single room and adapt; I travelled globally and I considered having children, and that's just skimming the surface. Exciting and invigorating times are not delegated to just the young. Stop being ambitious about your career and get ambitious about your life. Don't be boring, have some f*cking stories. I have tons of them from kicking drugs to eating at Buckingham Palace, to seeing the sun rise over the Taj Mahal, to making love to incredible women, to being a commercial actor. If I died today, I would say that, "f*cking-A I did it right.” But my parents are due the credit, they raised me in a gypsy like environment, and adapting to change is in my DNA.
What mantra do you would want the world to remember you by?
There is a saying with the English, "Get On With It." Basically, life keeps going, make sure and keep up.
What does it mean to you to be fueled by choice?
Well choice is great, and choice is a tough. People tend to have their mind made up and then they are offered more of A or B., and all of sudden they go haywire and lose sight of the shore. So, to me to fueled by choice means to not let go of the vision you choose and adhere to it.
Get distracted, but don't lose sight.
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