Everything about Vincent J Musi that you need to know
A regular contributor to National Geographic since 1993, Vincent J. Musi is keen on covering subjects from global warming to illegal immigration, from life under volcanoes to Texas Hill Country. Musi’s deep affection for capturing wildlife has made him travel all around the world from South Carolina’s own ACE Basin to the oldest temple of Earth in Turkey. He has also captured scenes for Time, Life, Fortune and The New York Times Magazine, and Newsweek.
Early Photography Life
He was born in 1962 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and educated in journalism at Ohio University. His first experience of touching a camera was with a broken one with which he was just pretending to click the shutter. The first actually working camera he laid hands on was his father’s 126 Instamatic that granted him a few shots with the last few frames of the roll on a family holiday.
At first, he was unaware of photography as a career. Seeing people shooting game events, he was gradually attracted to photography as a thing. Consequently, sports photography happened to be his stepping stone to start looking through a camera, a good practice which lasted for years in various magazines, most importantly Pittsburgh Press. Interested in images of National Geographic he had found in library copies, he soon realized where he could find what he would have loved to do. He was engrossed in the thoughtfulness of each frame he saw in those pictures taken with infinite patience.
Being all alone by himself, making meaningful photographs and thinking about each of them in a unique way made him set a whole new set of goals. His wishes were fulfilled in 1993 when he started working for National Geographic as a freelance photographer, capturing everything but animals. For quite a long time. He used to capture people and their emotions and experiences under the impact of natural disasters, historical places, and the sceneries particularly in the United States.
From Exotic Creatures to Wildlife
In the early 2000s, an editor steered his photography toward a different direction. The editor had seen a picture of a wild animal rescuer who had helped Musi remove exotic creatures from his rented beach cottage outside Charleston, South Carolina. That very observation utterly altered Musi’s professional life from taking landscapes and people to capturing animals.
Learning the Ways of Nature the Hardest Way
He started from knowing nothing about wildlife and step by step learnt the ways of nature. Some of this photographs have been taken in a few hours and some have lasted for three days. He puts tremendous efforts into making and having animals comfortable. He is well-aware of the fact that no one can tell a wild animal what to do, and not all perseverance and endeavor is fruitful.
After more than a decade of making his reputation in this area, he admits that he still has a pretty rough time with every single subject he has to confront and capture a scene from. Considering himself still as a learner, he acknowledges how he has learned the hardest way how to face a wide animal. According to Musi, a photographer may frequently step into shooting with very little confidence, a feeling which may be easily sensed by the photographer’s subject and cause him/her real trouble.
He is sometimes in the enclosure and sometimes shoots through fences, especially when dealing with big cats. Bitten a few times or having his eyes almost poked out, he acknowledges that even the smallest and most docile animal can be as dangerous as a wild giant animal. Evidently, he does not take pleasure in being in danger. That is the experience of spending hours near these miracles of nature which gives him a thrill.
One of his most peculiar way of dealing with his subjects is talking and communicating with them, an approach which astonishes other people but wonderfully works for him. In doing so, he tries his best to be and act humble with the subjects, one great of a lesson he has been taught all through his path, he believes. Not all animals are willing to cooperate with the photographer or know what exactly is going on; that is why Musi has practiced how to slow the whole process down and wait for the golden moment.
Photography’s Perspective in Musi’s Eyes
Musi is also a meticulous photographer, too much a perfectionist to stop shooting a subject. There is always one more shot for which he cannot wait for tomorrow. This is the very feature which makes his photographs prominent on the publication’s covers of National Geographic.
Similar to how he regards his own photographs, he is specifically concerned with how photography and photographers are treated in the society. As a matter of fact, Musi’s second job in photography takes place on the stage of Paramount Theater in Charlottesville’s city center, where he introduces the LOOK3 festival keynote speakers. LOOK3 festival, with a motto of “Peace, Love and Photography” is what he believes to be the realization of prioritizing the artist and his/her perspective rather than drowning in the vast sea of photography’s information and technology. Musi believes that this festival offers the opportunity to slow down the process, as he always does with his photography, and treat real photographers as they deserve.