Meet Berwyn’s Creatives: Joel Gonzalez

Name: Joel Gonzalez

Hometown: Chicago

Current Residence: Berwyn

About Joel

My parents are from El Salvador although I was born in raised in the streets of Chicago in the Humboldt Park Area. From an early age, I’ve had an inclination towards all things creative. My curiosity with creativity began with music. All the sounds that could come from instruments fascinated me. From drums, the guitar to piano and keys, I found such joy when surrounded by music!

For a time, I thought music would be my life. I produced, performed and was fortunate enough tour with bands for a season in my life. And although I didn’t continue on the musical path, it did teach me a lot about creating unique things and telling stories through music and songs. Story telling became the context of all things creative—even life for me. I became enamored with listening to stories, creating mine and telling them. About 3 years ago, I picked up a camera and fell in love with the creative medium. I can’t say I necessarily became passionate about the camera, but rather, capturing and telling stories with it. This is what sets my heart on fire—finding stories, and telling them through photography and film.

The Business Side: WEOURSTORY emerged out of my admiration of the human experience. I’ve met so many people with incredible stories they’ve shared. More often than not, I found myself mentally revisiting these stories and finding such joy in them. I decided to begin a passion project to collect and tell some of these stories. Initially, it was a labor of love, finding people who’d be willing to tell their stories through the platform of my lens. I would drive out to people’s homes, businesses, parties, celebrations and capture their story through my camera. I then would post it on my social media platforms (@weourstory). This began to pick up and people were actually willing to commission me to collect and tell their story! It’s been life ever since then. I also began an instagram account for Berwyn (@storiesofberwyn), solely to capture stories of the wonderful community I live in.

It’s been incredible, having my livelihood be capturing the stories of people, places and faces and actually making a living through it. Now, I get to do photo and video sessions for people looking to tell their story through photography and film. Everything tells a story. I just look for ways to tell it.

Describe yourself using 3 words.

Creative: I believe we were designed to create and that we are at our best when we are making things. Creativity isn’t a calling reserved for some but a gift given to all. Creativity can be seen through paintings and sculptures as it can be seen through cooking, serving and even raising children. I try to live with a creative posture and inspire others to do the same.

Compassionate: I believe the best message consists of 2 words: “me too.” Compassion allows us to not only see the world through others eyes, but actually feel the world through experience. Harper Lee so rightly said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” The best story tellers are those who have the courage to connect their stories to the story of humanity.

Consistent: I try to live my life with a consistent flow and rhythm. Sometimes life moves fast, other times, slow—consistency offers me a cadence to stay in rhythm, regardless of life’s tempo. I also believe one of the greatest contributions we can make in other people’s lives is consistency. It helps me be able to find a good pace in my life and all those around me.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by people who live with confidence, conviction and creativity. When I see people given to whatever their craft is, I get super inspired and want to do the same. I’m also inspired by stories—the different ways we tell our stories. Outdoors—I also LOVE the outdoors and find such inspiration by the masterpiece that is our world!

Tell us something that people might not know about you.

Prior to a film maker and photographer, I was a music/piano instructor and teacher. One of my most prominent students was former Cubs pitcher, Carlos Zambrano. Also, I was an ordained minister and pastored a church for 5 years 🙂

Why Berwyn?

I really appreciate the spirit in Berwyn. It’s close enough to the city while far enough away. It has a city feel within a suburban context. Yet, it’s the people that make Berwyn so refreshing. I love the diversity and the inclusive nature of the people. I really appreciate the movement towards the arts and all the amazing artist who live in Berwyn. Berwyn has so many stories to tell and I’m excited to continue to tell them.

What are you most passionate about?

I’m passionate about finding and telling good stories through the different platforms of creativity I’m skilled in.

What gets you through a rough day?

Gratitude gets me through rough days and enhances good days. It helps me to focus on all I have while I work through the things I don’t have.

What’s something you do the old-fashioned way?

Although I greatly appreciate the digital age we live in, I tend to write analogue—the old school way. From journaling to letters, I appreciate paper and pen. And though I do a lot of reading with digital books, nothing beats the feel, touch and smell of a good old fashioned book.

What book impacted you the most?

The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. It helped me to understand why and how things “stick” and catch on. It’s a book I refer to and go back to a lot when it comes to ideas and work that can “stick.”

What do you bring with you everywhere you go?

I never leave my home without my camera. It’s an obvious one but I never want to miss opportunities to capture moments and of course, tell a story.