“In 2010 I articulated a goal,” Bussi commented. “I wanted someone to pay me to photograph alpine ski racing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.” Bussi then set out to make that goal a reality.
As a skier, instructor and photographer, Houghton alumnus Paul Bussi ‘85 is constantly focusing in on an objective; whether in his own skiing, in teaching others, or in taking photos of those racing down a mountain.
Bussi’s love of skiing goes back to his time at Houghton. “This may sound silly, but the reason I chose Houghton is because it had a ski hill,” Bussi said.
At Houghton, Bussi was a philosophy major with a Christian education minor. He originally thought he was going to go into ministry, but then changed his focus to social work.
After graduating, Bussi was a missionary for Youth with a Mission for two years in New York City working with the homeless population. He then pursued a master’s degree in social work with the plan of working within the church, but after a year with Volunteers of America he burned out.
During this time, Bussi returned to an older love – skiing. He moved west and became a skiing instructor, a position that he held for 17 years, and owned a small outdoor painting business to keep him busy during the summers. Then in 2008, after years of making photography a hobby, Bussi started to take the art more seriously.
“Skiing is my real passion,” Bussi said. “I’m drawn to ski racing and I want to make great ski racing pictures. That’s why going to the Winter Olympics was my goal.”
So how does one become a photographer at the Winter Olympics? That’s the million dollar question Bussi asked himself which set his course to figure out the answer.
“I first contacted the US Ski Team and shot [photographed] some for them, but I knew that wasn’t going to get me to the Olympics,” said Bussi. He quickly realized that photojournalism was the pathway to his goal, and he started working on a portfolio.
“As a ski racer and a ski instructor, I had knowledge of good places on the route to photograph,” Bussi said. He submitted some photographs to The Associated Press, but that too was a dead end despite the high quality of the photos he was able to produce.
In 2012, Bussi went to a portfolio review in New York City and spoke with a representative from Sports Illustrated who suggested that he start at small organizations. Bussi took that advice and got a position with US Press Wire where, in November 2012, he was able to shoot the Men’s and Women’s World Cup and the X Games.
During this time, USA Today Sports was acquiring US Press Wire – and that was Bussi’s ticket to the Olympics. “By July 2013, I knew I was going, they had my ticket and my credentials all lined up, and I was set to go.” Bussi’s goal was becoming a reality.
Bussi said that Houghton was a great training program for how to live life and that there is nothing more valuable than a liberal arts education. “It allowed me to think clearly,” he said. “I can’t imagine a better education.” Bussi grew up in Christian home, but a broken one. “Going to Houghton and being in a Christian community helped shaped me.” The Christian community coupled with the academic rigor at Houghton presented the opportunity for Bussi to challenge himself.
“I got to go to the Olympics and I couldn’t have done that without learning how to learn at Houghton.”
Bussi resides in Bozeman, Montana with his wife Pamela and their dog Berta. He owns a small photography studio called Ideal Photography. You can view some of Bussi’s work at www.paulbussiphotography.com.