Catching up with...Paul Buckowski

Publication Date

Paul Buckowski joined Union in September 2022 as the college photographer in the Communications and Marketing office.

Paul Buckowski is the College's first full-time photographer

Paul Buckowski on the beach in Maine with his son Dylan.

As a child, he lived in New Jersey, Colorado, back to New Jersey, then up to Bloomingdale, N.Y., then back to New Jersey, then back to Bloomingdale, then back to New Jersey, and finally back to Bloomingdale, and then just a short move to Saranac Lake, N.Y.

In the woods behind an elementary school near his home in Bloomingdale is where Buckowski took some of his first photographs. That elementary school parking lot is also where he destroyed his father's Volkswagen Beetle, as his dad was trying to teach him how to drive a stick shift.

Buckowski studied commercial photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where in his freshman year he witnessed his roommate almost burn down a photo studio on campus. His roommate learned that rubber cement, a paper backdrop and fire are not a good combination. In the final semester of his senior year, an independent study project doing documentary-style photography at a tattoo parlor in Rochester changed his photography direction.

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After college, he worked as a photojournalist in New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota and New York. Some of his most memorable assignments were spent on a cattle ranch during calving season, riding a horse for days through the rolling hills of western South Dakota (not once did he fall off his horse). He spent months traveling through the Adirondacks for a story on acid rain and its effects on the lakes. He spent several years covering the annual Big Foot Memorial Ride, which was held to remember the Lakota murdered at Wounded Knee by the U.S. in 1890. He spent weeks traveling the length of the Hudson River from Lake Tear in the Clouds down to New York City. He spent a lot of time documenting the families who travel from the south to the north combining wheat during harvest time.

Buckowski and his wife, Alisa, an English teacher, live in East Greenbush with their son, Dylan, 10, and their dog, Ottisey. Buckowski loves to be out in nature. He is still trying to get his son interested in hiking.

FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING: Drafts. I just use it for everything, thoughts, ideas, my things to do list (that never gets done). Drafts is my brain in so many ways.

GO-TO BREAKFAST: Eggs. Many different ways, but just eggs.

WHAT'S THE LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ? “A Bridge Too Far” by Cornelius Ryan. I am reading it to my son at bedtime, and because I am reading to him, that makes it special for me.

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED: Do not let yourself being there to photograph a moment or event become more important than the event itself and the people there. I've forgotten the name of the priest, but this was in Rochester, N.Y. when I was in college. He told this to me when I was allowed to photograph him administering last rites to a woman. I took that advice to heart. It has made me a better human being and photographer.

FAVORITE PLACE TO VISIT: The beach on the Maine coast. My wife and I have always loved the ocean, and with Dylan it is just one huge sandbox where he and I can just dig and play and talk. I play in the sand with Dylan and Alisa plays in the water with him (Maine water is a little too cold for me), and the three of us take a lot of walks on the beach.

WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING RIGHT NOW?: Re-watching/finishing “The Good Place.” I started it a few years ago and never finished, so I'm starting from the beginning again. By the end, I should have life and after life figured out, fingers crossed!

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD: Sculpting stone, or any material. I am amazed when someone can look at a block of material and then carve away at it to create a piece of art. My brain just cannot figure that out. If I had that skill it could translate to helping me in other ways in life.

THREE DINNER PARTY GUESTS (living or deceased): My son, Dylan, so he can meet my father and so I can get him away from playing online games, although when I said this to him he said he would probably bring his computer with him, but I'd still invite him to the dinner.

My father died shortly after I had started working my first job at a newspaper. I'd like him to meet Dylan, and see the two of them have a conversation.

Eugene Smith, a photographer who died in 1978. I did a grade school book report on him. Smith was a huge influence on me wanting to become a photographer and he was a master at photo stories. I would love to talk with him about how he sees things through his camera and how he dealt with the very emotional situations he photographed, and how he understood his purpose in life being a photographer.

FIRST CONCERT: Loverboy, in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1984

LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU: Former President Jimmy Carter once yelled at me at a Habitat for Humanity build in South Dakota. I was photographing the event, and he asked me to put my camera down and hand a long piece of siding up to him and his wife, Rosalynn, as they stood on scaffolding. Being a photographer and not a siding contractor, I had it flipped the wrong way. He pretty much destroyed me and my lack of vinyl material knowledge. I would have made a strong argument back and set him straight had those large Secret Service agents not been standing right there.