• Success stems from Veldstra’s ability to “see beauty in everyone”
By Sean Pearson
Ask any one of Joshua Veldstra’s 1,494 Facebook friends, and they will tell you the 28-year-old lifelong Alaskan is not only a brilliantly talented artist/photographer, he’s also just a really nice guy.
Ask Joshua Veldstra about his talent behind the camera and you’ll get a bit more modest answer.
“Why did I choose photography over any other art medium?” Veldstra repeated the question. “Well, I can’t draw, paint or sculpt to save my life, so thank goodness there is photography.”
Don’t let him fool you.
Veldstra was born and raised in Homer. He graduated from Christian Community School in 2002, where his height, and talent, made him a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court.
“I’m pretty sure, back then, I wanted to be a basketball player when I grew up,” Veldstra said with a chuckle. “Obviously, that didn’t work out quite as well as I thought it would.”
Despite his formidable talent on the high school basketball court, Veldstra was somehow overlooked in the NBA draft. That’s when he started looking into a back-up career.
“I first got into photography when I lived in Europe,” he explained. “I went over there when I was 17, and my parents sent me a digital camera for my 18th birthday.”
Veldstra’s first “real” camera was a 3.2 megapixel, point-and-shoot Olympus.
“My iPhone has more megapixels than that now,” he said.
Veldstra said he knew he wanted to be a photographer for a living when he found himself turning away more jobs than he was taking.
“I was working a day job and actually took some time to sit down and do the math,” he said. “I figured out that I could make more doing photography full time, and started putting more time into perfecting my art.”
According to Veldstra, he has a long list of inspirational photographers that have continued to help shape his profession.
“When I was first starting out, my inspiration came from local photographers like Jaime Clapp, Linda Smogor and Don Pitcher,” he said. “As I began to develop my skills a bit more over time, I expanded that circle of inspiration to include Alaska artists like Vanessa Powell, Shalem Matthew, Mitch Kitter, Courtney Hays and Thuy Vo.”
On a national level, Veldstra said he looked to artists like Annie Leibovitz, Chase Martin and Martin Schoeller.
“It was a little bit intimidating to try to start a career as an artist in Homer,” Veldstra explained. “There are so many amazing artists here. My challenge was to figure out how to do it differently.”
Early in his photo career, Veldstra traveled to Oregon to complete an internship under photographer Jelani Memory.
“He’s and amazing photographer, and just an amazing guy all around,” Veldstra said of Memory. “He taught me so much; I can honestly say I would not be where I am today without his help.”
In 2010, Veldstra traveled to several places abroad, soaking up the culture and shooting as many pictures as he could cram on his memory cards. He also squirmed his way into the Occupy Movement in November 2011 to capture some strikingly intense black and white photos of police/protester interactions.
“Traveling abroad has helped me so much in how I see the world and how I see the beauty in everyone,” he said. “It also helped me to remember just how grateful I am to be able to capture that beauty for a living.”
Veldstra said he has run into people in the past who consider his chosen career field to be, “just a hobby.”
It can be a very expensive hobby.
“My style is very editorial, so I don’t need a whole lot of equipment,” he explained. “And the equipment I do have, pays for itself, thankfully.”
With what seems like daily advancements in digital and computer technology, keeping up with all the latest photography equipment can be a fairly daunting task.
However, it’s one that Veldstra embraces.
“I really don’t think keeping up with all the changes in technology is that difficult,” he said. “I love playing with new stuff and I love change, so it works well for me.”
Most recently, Veldstra had eight of his photographs published by the online fashion and beauty experts at “Vogue.”
“Well, it’s not actually in their print magazine, but it’s close,” he said. “The photo goes on their online photo blog that is picked by Vogue’s editorial staff. So it’s more like saying that I’m good enough to be a Vogue photographer and I am now listed as a Vogue photographer.”
Veldstra said he felt quite a sense of accomplishment upon seeing his photos used by Vogue, and plans to keep photography as his main career focus.
“If I just keep running my business, or if I wind up working for some other company, I want to feel like I’m continuing to progress as a photographer,” he explained. “I don’t ever want to feel like I have nothing left to learn. I love learning and growing.”
And, with so many stunning photos to choose from, even Veldstra has a hard time picking out favorites.
“I think my favorites are the ones that are not only technically solid, but also of a subject matter that I enjoy shooting,” he said. “My favorites are the ones that make me go, ‘Oh wow! I took that?’”
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