living under the same night sky: a q&a with jack fusco
It's not every day you see something miraculous, but for Jack Fusco, looking at the night sky is just that. Jack specializes in astrophotography, or in simpler terms, he is really great at taking pictures of the night sky. We sat down with the talented photographer to hear more about his life, how he got his start, and what inspires him.
Toms River, NJ
How did you first get interested or involved in Photography? Who gave you your first camera?
I bought my first camera when I was quitting my full time IT job to go play guitar for a punk band on tour in Europe. Work wouldn’t let me take a month and a half off, so I quit. I figured I needed a camera for my trip to document the tour and that's how it all started!
If you could travel anywhere, where would it be and why?
My dream shot ideas are not necessarily tied to a specific location. But I'd love to photograph the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere (New Zealand, Australia, the Atacama Desert in Chile) or b) I dream of photographing the Northern Lights from inside an ice cave. I have tried to make that happen a few times but it hasn’t happened yet (ice caves change year to year and only certain times of year are safe to enter them, so it is a matter of finding an ice cave that has an opening facing the correct direction and is aesthetically pleasing and a clear night...not a huge ask).
Who taught you what it means to be a man?
Not one specific person. I learned a lot of values from my immediate family and my grandfather. Music was a big part of his life and help shape his core beliefs. I was taught that treating people equally and also being accepting is not always the traditional view of being a man, but it is okay to be vulnerable and caring. Being a man is more than being a tough person.
What is something you are extremely proud of?
Part of the journey of taking my photos and what it takes to get them. There are locations that I have traveled back to 5-10 times or over the course of 2-3 years for some shots until it actually worked out or lined up with the weather, the night sky, and other conditions I had to plan around. There may have been short cuts I could have taken, like putting two pics together to make a digital replication which would have looked similar, but I take pride in chasing the shot all the way through. It is important to me personally to do that. A lot of people create beautiful composite work with two separate images, but I love the journey and failures along the way. It makes it that much better when it all works out.
Who is/was your photography inspiration?
I probably have a different answer than a lot of other photographers. I didn’t know a lot about it when I fell into it, so I never really had one I looked up to when I got started. I draw a lot of inspiration from the huge community of photographers online and photographers I have become friends with. It's a never-ending source of inspiration.
Who is someone who routinely makes your life better?
Rachel and Kona. Every day is much better because of them.
What takes up too much of your time?
Coffee. Ha! My photos are split up between Rachel, Kona, Night sky, and soccer. “Too much of my time” implies negative. So we will go with driving to locations--the least fun form of traveling.
Best part about being a photographer is....
I'm fortunate enough to get to see and experience these beautiful places, so the best part is capturing the shots I can share, and then hearing that my shot inspired someone to go spend some time outside to try and take photographs of the night sky. Something unique to night photography is how far you have to get away from everything, so you’re normally more remote which forces you to disconnect a little. It's more peaceful knowing with all the insanity of the day to day world getting to experience and share that is rewarding.
Favorite road trip song/playlist?
I routinely create Spotify playlists. There are a few artists who always make it on to all of them: Rocky Votolato, Frank Turner, (being from Jersey, obviously) Springstein. I still listen to some punk music, even though it may not always fit in with these peaceful serene places he travels.
Here are a few of my recent favorite playlists:
The Light and the Sound (A bit more laid back)
Gratitude (More upbeat)
Endlessly Adrift (Mostly instrumental)
Anchor End (Mostly punk)
Favorite childhood book?
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
What’s your favorite memory traveling with Kona?
The first time I got a photo with him under the stars. Since then there have been a few cool moments we have captured photos, but that first time was the coolest. He has to stand still for 8-15 seconds which is never easy for him to do!
How did you prepare for Tedx Talk? What piece of advice would you give to someone getting ready to speak at their own Tedx Talk?
I listened to a lot of other Ted Talks that I had previously listened to and analyzed why I enjoyed them so much. The topic of my talk was “emerge”. I tried to tell the story of what I do in a way that had a more universal appeal that everyone can resonate with me in their own way. I spoke about traveling away from night pollution and tying in how we are all under the same night sky no matter where you are, and whether or not you are interested in night time photography you can still go out and stargaze and appreciate the sky. For someone prepping, I'd say find the story you are really passionate about. I had a few other directions I was going to take the talk, but it wouldn’t have been as parallel to what I do or relatable as it would have just been informative. Make sure you get across why you are passionate about what you’re doing.
Were you nervous? How do you deal with nerves?
Yes. Very excited and nervous. My talk was in the middle of all the talks, so I was trying to balance wanting to enjoy the other talks while preparing to deliver my own talk. Leading up to it, I took a little bit of time to slow myself down and think about all the specific things I wanted to hit in the talk. Then I hit peak nervousness 30 seconds before I walked out. At the same moment I got a text from my friend saying, “You got this!”, and he thought about the night he got that first photo of Kona and it made me really happy which overtook that moment of nervousness. All the nerves disappeared and I felt prepared and felt happy walking out there.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you could give to someone aspiring to become a professional photographer?
Whether its photography or something else, just finding the thing that really drives you is super important. There are so many obstacles along the way and until you experience it, hearing “find what's important to you” sounds cliche. But you need that drive to keep pushing you especially in figuring out each obstacle and how to get past each one. You learn what didn't work but you also how to keep moving forward. You become successful when you find out how to keep moving forward.
To view Jack's full Tedx Talk, click below!