My name is Joe Lemke. Iâ€™m assuming you probably got that much out of the title of my website, but just in case... It wasnâ€™t JUST a clever name ha ha!
I love photography. Not everything about it. I respect it all and everything but what I am really into is PEOPLE. People are what made me want to pursue photography for a living.
I started selling cameras at Best Buy when I was in high school and fell in love with them. I ended up buying my first camera when I was 17 and started taking pictures of everything! I even got hired by a company to photograph real estate and to do 360 degree virtual tours. Boring.
One day during June of 2006 in my senior year of high school I was hanging out with a two friends of mine. One friend in particular went by the name of Deanna. Deanna had a bubbly, giddy personality. I took a picture of Deanna when I had asked her something that made her laugh and she threw up her arms like, â€œI donâ€™t know?!?â€ This picture captured Deanna completely. It was an â€œa-ha!â€ moment for me. The next part of this story gets a little sad, but it is important in understanding my passion for photography.
October of that same year came and I received some terrible news about my friend Deanna. A drunk driver had killed her on her way home from work. I was pretty devastated and I wanted to do something nice for her mom, Catherine and her family. I knew I couldnâ€™t do a whole lot to make a situation like that better but I knew I had this awesome photo of her daughter that she and her family probably hadnâ€™t seen. I sent the picture to Wal-Mart to be blown up to 8x10 and printed, along with another picture I had of her.
I had never met Deannaâ€™s mom and was nervous to see her at the wake. When I finally got to meet her after waiting in the large line of people who came to give their support, I introduced myself. I told her I had a couple of pictures that I thought she might like to have. When I showed her the photos I saw her give a genuine smile and she thanked me. It was as big of a smile as any mother who had just gone through this could give. She told me that she hadnâ€™t had any recent photos of Deanna except her sophomore school picture. She said â€œThatâ€™s Deanna!!â€
Two weeks later Deannaâ€™s mom found my number and called me to tell me the pictures that I gave her meant so much to her. She said I had captured her daughterâ€™s personality, completely, in one image. She said that the picture had helped her family deal with their loss and that it and cheered them up greatly.
A few days after that Deannaâ€™s grandma called me. I had never met her but she got my phone number through Catherine. She also called to thank me and tell me how much the image meant and asked me if I would be able to email the image to the cemetery. Her family had decided that they wanted the image of Deanna that captured her personality, on her headstone. I couldnâ€™t think of any better way to honor a friend. I was completely humbled. The image is now in a round frame on top of her headstone and will always be there with her.
When I realized how much one image of one little moment in a personâ€™s life could affect and help so many people, I fell in love with portraiture. I started taking photographs of all of my friends. I always tried to bring my camera to every family function. The thought that I can possibly get a picture of someone that had their ENTIRE personality in one image still makes me excited and inspired. Photographs are important. At the end of the day, sometimes thatâ€™s all we have left.
I love people and I love getting to know them. I love watching them interact with the people they love. I love capturing lives and moments and especially what happens in between big moments.
This is why I am a photographer and this is why I LOVE my job.