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What makes someone stand out? Is it their talent, their perseverance, or their knack for being at the right place at the right time? Perhaps, it’s a culmination of all three – a formula for success that only a select few, are fortunate enough to piece together. This is one such story. This is the story of Jerry Buttles, a New York-based photographer, who at twenty-seven, appears to have figured out his very own formula. This is the story of a journey, and how moments, memories, and the things we cherish most, can change everything.
Every successful artist will tell you that their artistic instrument, whether a brush, pencil, or keyboard, becomes a part of them after a while. It’s almost like an added limb, one needed to navigate throughout the day to accomplish tasks of unmatched fulfillment. During our visit with Jerry Buttles to conduct the interview for this piece, we decided to take a walk for something to eat. As we got ready to leave, tying our shoes and putting on our jackets, Jerry reached over for his camera and strapped it around his neck. The gesture, while simple, spoke volumes. It was immediately clear based on his demeanor, that the action was second nature. He always left the house with that camera around his neck, because without it, he simply wouldn’t be whole, he wouldn’t be fulfilled, he wouldn’t be a photographer, he wouldn’t be chasing a dream – his dream.
In a world where photography has exploded, it has become harder to stand out and become noticed. Only the very best become recognized, and only the best of the best can turn their passion for photography into a career. During our time getting to know Jerry, a few themes arose which would shine a light onto his newfound success. One such theme, was his determination to put himself in positions to be inspired. Growing up in California all his life, a monumental realization came to life’s forefront for Jerry upon graduating college. That realization was centered around the overwhelming desire to be surrounded by something new, something foreign, something which would inspire him. So, a decision was made with his wife, that after saving for a year, they would pack up and move to France – a move that would have an incredible impact on him and his passion for photography. By putting himself in a completely new environment, Jerry was able to spend months discovering uncanny beauty, devoting countless hours behind the lens refining his craft – a dedication that would pay off in his eventual partnership with some of the biggest brands in fashion today.
Much like moving to a new country, choosing to focus exclusively on a career where your next payday isn’t guaranteed can be nerve wrecking. Of the few people who take on the risk of such pursuit, most succumb to the pressures and difficulties of such a lifestyle, eventually veering back into a more mainstream regimen. A few however, simply can’t live without their passion at the focal point of everyday life. Jerry Buttles is undoubtedly one of those people. His grandfather, a major role model for Jerry, lived by his own rules as well. As a biker, Jerry’s grandfather would make a name for himself customizing motorcycles – a passion he was able to turn into a business, allowing him to do what made him happy day in and day out, regret, serving as nothing more than an unfamiliar term. An image of his grandfather on a motorcycle can be seen on Jerry’s Twitter page, a reminder of a man who not only introduced him to photography (he would give his grandson his very first camera), but passed on the mindset that success is what you make it and always within reach, if you put your mind to it and work your ass off. As it turns out, his lessons would stick, leaving a profound impact on a young man who seemingly wants nothing more than to carry on the name ‘Jerry Buttles’ (a name shared with his grandfather), with the same dignity and morality as the man he was named after. To be a great artist and make a living from your work, you have to be a good person. This rang loudly as ever during our time with Jerry Buttles.
Life can be rough yet extraordinarily beautiful at the same time. The best way to describe it perhaps, would be imperfect perfection. The word ‘imperfect,’ rooted in the infinite truth that everything can be improved upon - us as people, the work we do, the house we keep. At the same time, these things can all be full of life, passion and beauty, putting into context what the word ‘perfect’ means to us. This balance of imperfection and perfection that is life, is in many ways reflective of Jerry Buttles’ work. His images are raw and gritty at times, but that’s what makes them beautiful – they emulate life. His pictures take you to that very place the image was captured. You feel ‘there.’ This is what separates Jerry from other photographers. His use of light, shadow, focus, and the ability to capture human emotion so thoroughly, put his images in a class of their own. His work is distinguishable, a necessary trait for any successful photographer. His work is the work of a young man who understands that the raw beauty of life is much more precious than the beauty we forcefully try to inflict on it. It’s this understanding matched with an incredible work ethic and a passion that burns deep in his soul, that has made Jerry Buttles one of the most exciting and intriguing names in the ever growing world of photography.
Watching Jerry work during our Aimé Leon Dore ‘Debut’ lookbook shoot is how one might imagine Haring or Basquiat while painting. It was as though he was in a trance – utterly confident and completely at peace with his surroundings. Perhaps this was Jerry’s most telling moment. Perhaps, in order to be successful pursuing a passion, one must feel at peace with their surroundings, and bold enough to risk everything to find what that might be. For Jerry, that meant moving from California halfway around the world to France on a whim, to find the inspiration he had been yearning for. And once that peace is found, anything is possible with hard work and dedication. As human beings, we owe it to ourselves to find that peace much like Jerry has, because then, and only then, can we turn our lifelong dreams into the realities they were meant to be.
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