question, the entertainment community in Provo have made strides in
their own ways to show off what their city has to offer. Shaking
off the stigma that you're “not allowed to do anything fun” by
highlighting their own Gallery Stroll, featured concerts, new venues
and shops, and now with plans underway to start up their own short film
festival, the creative residents are asserting themselves and
their town as an entertainment hotspot that's slowly starting to rival SLC. Take for example, the photographic works from one of the men leading the creative charge...
--- Jake Buntjer should be a familiar name to many as one of the most prolific photographers in Utah County. Beyond his artistic works of subtle and even sometimes gritty beauty, he's become one of the heaviest documenters of the Provo music scene, both in covering live shows and creating memorable artistic shots for albums and promotional material. I got a chance to chat with Jake about his career so far and his work, plus thoughts the local art scene and his coverage of local music, all with photos of his work for you to check out.Jake
Hey Jake, first off, tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Jake Buntjer I am 29 years old. I am single with two
beautiful little ladies, my Isabella and Alyza are my true passion in
life. I often refer to myself as a vintage or recycled soul because I
feel like maybe I was meant for an earlier time in history. I am
drawn to all things vintage, old and rusty my friends often joke that
when you walk into my house you feel like you’re entering an
What first sparked you interest in photography, and what were some
My journey to photography simply put, fell into my lap. About two
years ago I lost my job and needed to figure out what I was going to
do, I had done a few basic graphic design projects for my company and
thought it would be a good opportunity to go back to school and get
enrolled in some graphic design courses. So I enrolled at UVU and
begun classes I decided to take a photography class the first
semester as one of my electives and well the rest is history I fell
in love with photography and the darkroom I spent hours upon hours
shooting, and working in the darkroom, by the end of the semester I
had decided that photography was something I loved and wanted to
You're currently going to UVU studying photography and graphic
design. What made you choose UVU and what's their program been like
UVU has been an incredible platform in my learning it offers an
incredible selection of technical and conceptual classes we are lucky
to have some amazing facility that have some incredible real world
experience. We are also one of the only schools left who have a full
darkroom still available to their students.
How did the idea come about to start up your own photography
company? And what was it like for you getting things together and
essentially working from home?
Starting my own photography business is a necessity. It’s such a
hard career choice there are so many photographers out there who have
huge hopes and dreams but find themselves drowning in a sea of
mediocrity, so they end up giving up and looking elsewhere for money
and leave photography as a hobby. I simply refuse! I have to succeed! I will create a name and niche for what I do, end of story. And to do
so I have to begin now not when I graduate, at school I am
consistently pushed to create and try new things and look at my work
with a critical eye, all of these things help give me a platform to
become a better photographer quicker.
For your own personal choice, do you prefer traditional film or
digital, and why?
I shoot 90% of my work digitally it’s quicker and easier and on
the end cheaper. I love film, I love the darkroom but I am a single
father of two so a digital darkroom (Adobe Lightroom and
Photoshop) that I can work until all hours of the night makes so much
For those who may be interested, what kind of equipment do you
choose to shoot with?
I shoot with a Nikon D90. I started with a whole bunch of lenses but
now I stick mostly to my 50mm 1.4 and my 70 to 200mm 2.8 and if I am
feeling crazy I but out my 10 to 20mm 3.5.
How has it been for you balancing between getting you degree while
using those same skills to earn a living and start your career?
The balancing act of student, father and new business owner is
stressful as hell but I work well under pressure so I somehow seem to
be making it. I have been blessed to have made some great contacts in
San Francisco and Seattle that have allowed me to go there and sell
my work as well as pick up a few amazing shoots that have ended up
opening all sorts of wonderful doors. I am always looking for new
work and I hope that my business will continue to increase so that I
can support my little ladies with what I love to do.
A lot of your portfolio is made up of profile shots, but you also
have a niche working with musicians and covering live shows. What
drew you toward working with music, and how has it been for you being
involved with our local music scene?
My passion for local music is almost as strong as my passion for
photography so when I can blend the two together it’s like pure bliss. There’s something so exhilarating about being out front of a
screaming crowd taking pictures it’s like this fusion of excitement
and creativity, it’s a total high! I hope I always have the
opportunity to continue to shoot live concerts. I also love the
conceptual nature of band photos it gives me a creative license to
look into a world that doesn’t really exist and create an image
that people connect to.
You've also delved into some artistic shoots, such as the stuffed
bear head and the circus people shoot. What influenced that change,
and how do you compare it to your other work?
My hopes and dreams as a photographer is to be able to tell stories
through images. I learned early on that I could create moments in
time that never existed but felt so real to the viewer and allowed
them to connect emotionally to my characters and situations I was
creating. I am drawn to themes and time periods that have such a rich
sense of character and emotion, so I try to build my concepts around
these common characteristics.
Do you have any plans to expand beyond what you're doing now with
your business, or sticking to what you're doing until you're done
I am in a constant state of growth and movement I want to get my
work out to more and more venues and galleries as well as continue to
work with local musicians here to help create a brand and images that
support their visions as artists. I have also set out to create more series with even more production value and depth, I have felt this
excitement and drive to continue to tell the stories of characters in
the past that I feel were misunderstood or mistreated.
Going state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local art scene,
both good and bad, and Is there anything you feel could be done to
make it bigger or better?
The local art scene is something that I feel is, well, very
disjointed. There is a Salt Lake City art scene and a Utah County art
scene. I don’t think this is intentional but I do feel like there is
a very deep separation of the two valleys. I grew up in Sandy, and
Salt Lake City had always been my social scene I hardly if ever ventured
to Utah County for anything but the occasional 4th of July parade, so
when I got divorced and decided to move closer to school to save on
travel time and money, I was terrified by the thought of living in
Provo the “Bubble” the “Mormon Mecca.”
Jake:%uFFFDWhen I moved here, I had the ever so prevalent negative mindset that seems to be very
common here with the Provo outsiders. But the more I got involved
with the local music scene I begun to see that this valley is full of
amazing and talented people in all the arts, and the city itself is
full of the beautiful old buildings and this wonderful and inspiring
sense of preservation. Now I have a real excitement and desire to
help build the Utah County art scene here in Provo with excellent Gallery Strolls and a support group for artists that will help fuel
the success of Art in the valley. I am fully committed to seeing this
Gavin:%uFFFDTo kinda finish up, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
I would like to plug my website and also my Facebook page.
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