The Story

Hey all! My name is Pete. I run Peter Jensen Bissell Photographic (creative name, right?) I was born in Salem, Oregon. My family moved to Maine in 1987 so my Dad could start working at Baxter State Park, and I grew up in tiny Milo, raised with a kind of freedom that you only find in a small town. I went to college at The University of Maine. During my junior year, I started working for the Maine Campus, the college’s newspaper. I wrote a bi-weekly column and began taking pictures.

Also during this time, I began taking my Sony Cybershot everywhere I  went, and documenting my life. I then began painstakingly editing the photos on Photoshop 7, and posting them to I had so much to learn at first- what settings made photos look a certain way, and how to make people comfortable enough to capture interesting images. I got the idea to make the photos a series, sort of a photo study of the previous two weeks. I processed them all in black and white, named the album “The Good Times Are Killing Me” (In honor of the Modest Mouse track that I was listening to at the time) and put a link to the album in my AIM info box. Well, it took off, and before too long I was taking pictures every weekend, wherever I went, and people were hounding me to see them on Monday. This was 2004, Facebook had just been launched, and was a few years away from carrying photos, so I would just put links to the pictures in my AIM info box. I enjoyed helping showcase different people in different settings, and enjoyed the positive response I got, but more than that I realized how much I enjoyed the inherent act of taking the photos, editing, and disseminating them.

Graduation – May 2006. My skills as a point-and-shootographer nearly at their peak, my parents were kind enough to give me a Canon Rebel XT as a graduation gift. This was like starting back at ground zero for me! Once again, I had so much to learn. Before anything happened though, I needed to get out in the real world and put some work in, and make some money. As it turns out, the “real world” of entry-level cubicle jobs and unlivable wages that someone with my degree could expect was less than appealing, so I entered the “real-ish world” of restaurants. I didn’t think about photography at all. I needed to leave my mind blank for a while, and enjoy being part of the workforce and having financial independence after 16 straight years of my life in school.

After a few years in restaurants, I decided it was time to get back on track. I picked up the camera again, and began tuning my craft. More people were using Photoshop at this point, and I realized from the beginning that if I was going to make this work as a career, first and foremost I needed to learn about how the camera itself works, and how to take great photos that stood by themselves without the help of Photoshop. Like anyone in my position, I often found myself thinking better and more gear was the answer. But due to the incredible cost of photography equipment I was forced to learn to use what I already had to its maximum potential. This was a good thing. It forced me to learn about the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. I learned how to meter and how to white balance. As I researched established Portland and New England photographers, I quickly realized that this knowledge of how photography works would be indispensible in making my images stand out in an industry that was growing more and more computer-dependent.

And so, I dove in. I began doing weddings in 2008. Weddings are incredibly high-stakes  events for a photographer, and I wanted to learn how to take incredible photos under lots of pressure. With no time for mistakes, especially during the ceremony, I learned fast!

In 2009, I found myself in Manhattan, working on my first fashion shoot. I had to deal with a producer, stylists, models with entourages, and people constantly on the phone. Once again, there was no margin for error. I was quickly learning that the easiest way for me to become a better photographer was to keep putting myself in demanding positions that I had never been in before.

In 2010, I began working with musicians, small businesses, and restaurants. I shot my first album cover, got invited to shoot a major music festival, and started seeing my work in publications and on business websites. I also vowed to continue my learning, and began assisting at a major commercial studio, watching the masters and learning everything I possibly could.

And there’s where I’m at now. I love the diversity of my work. The trend in photography is to get good in one area, and become a perceived “expert” in that branch, but that’s just not how my brain works. I would rather push forward with everything. I still love getting into uncharted waters, and testing myself when there is no option for failure.

This blog is designed to allow me to connect further with past, present, and future clients, as well as other people who follow my work. Thanks a lot for stopping by.

-Pete Bissell

March 31, 2011

One Response to The Story

  1. Josh says:

    Great story and I love your work!

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