Bruce Mondschain, 72, is all for experiencing “firsts” at any time in life. He picked up the cello at 45 and became an entrepreneur, starting his own health consulting firm after 35 years in the non-profit sector and five years in a corporation. But his proudest moments in artistic expression began even later.
Growing up in the Great Depression era, Bruce and his sister didn’t have money to attend formal classes in the arts. But the lack of formal training left their minds open: now she’s a weaver and writer, and he takes up music and the visual arts. They’re both passionate about photography.
Travelling overseas, Bruce began taking journalistic photos of the people and places he encountered as a young man. The hobby always stuck with him but got pushed to the back burner, until his wife gifted him a Hasselblad camera for his 50th birthday. That’s when he became “full-fledged” and got into studio work and figure study. Bruce learned how to create looks with light and fabric draping, and how to “have a vision and then create it.”
When he was 64, Bruce wrote his first-ever fan letter, and it ended up changing his creative life. He attended a camp reunion, and an old friend asked him who he’d most like to photograph. He immediately thought of folk-legend Pete Seeger, and the friend encourage Bruce to write to him. The letter worked, and after their photo shoot, Bruce and Pete became fast friends. Bruce was then invited to photograph Seeger’s high profile birthday party, where 85 of his images were picked up by the Smithsonian.
From there, Bruce had the opportunity to take portraits of other celebrities he admired, and is well-known in the photography community. Still, he shows his work to other artists he admires to get new ideas and honest critiques.
Bruce attributes his many successes in the most recent half of his life to the principles of the Third Age philosophy. He tries to divide his focus among five areas: family & friend relationships, work, lifelong learning, civic engagement, and health. Though he acknowledges that the proportions of these may shift as the need arises, he says, “If you’re always paying attention to these five spheres, your life will be full.”
Overall, he thinks we just forget how we learn sometimes, but says there’s always time to redefine what we want to be when we grow up. And in regards to creative hobbies, just “Get out and do whatever it takes to legitimize your dream.”