Eat, Sleep, Photograph!

Cape Cod Life  /  November/December 2020 / ,

Writer: Allyson Plessner / Photographer: John Tunney 

Chatham Beach Shack

Photography is a way of life for John Tunney who is always striving to capture what many would deem the uncapturable: a distinctive sentiment or idea immortalized in a picture.

When asked which of his photographs is his favorite, John Tunney says, “It’s usually the latest one.” For a photographer, that drive to always capture something new and different is an almost innate quality, one that Tunney has in spades. From his first camera—a plastic Kodak—Tunney has always viewed the world with an intensity and eye for detail that lends itself well to his career, and with each new photograph Tunney creates something simply, inimitable. 

“I think the thing that makes any artist’s style unique is who they are as a person and what they are trying to express,” shares Tunney. “I often look for images that create a feeling or an experience, that invite you into a different place or state of mind. The objects in the picture aren’t necessarily the subject; it is the overall feeling that is most important.”

Comet Neowise at Short Wharf

When asked what makes a successful photographer, and subsequently a successful photograph, Tunney echoes that same sentiment, commenting that a photograph should communicate something—an idea or a feeling—and that, by virtue of that, a photographer should feel happy with what they are doing. As technology has rapidly advanced, the avenues by which a photographer might achieve that special, thought-provoking shot have increased tenfold. As Tunney explains it, “Software for the digital darkroom—Lightroom and Photoshop primarily—give photographers much more control over the final image than we had with the chemical darkroom.” He also notes that people’s perceptions and consumption of photography have evolved with the rise of social media and smart phones. “Artistically,” he continues, “my understanding of the medium and technique has evolved, but I’m still me, and my work reflects that regardless of technology.”

Photography is something that has permeated itself into almost every aspect of Tunney’s life. When he’s not snapping photos on the beaches of the Lower and Outer Cape, he teaches photography classes at the Cape Cod Art Center (CCAC), where he also served on the board for nine years and completed one term as president. He is additionally the chairman of the CCAC annual CLICK! Photography Conference and a member of the steering committee of CCAC’s camera club. He is a frequent exhibitor at art shows and festivals across the region and has even further immortalized his work within his book, “The Four Seasons of Cape Cod.”

Monolith and Milky Way

“Cape Cod is so visually rich: the beaches, harbors, marshes, dunes, and even the people provide great material for a visual artist,” says Tunney. As a young photography enthusiast, Tunney enjoyed comparing what he saw through the viewfinder of his plastic kodak to what actually showed up in print. “Sometimes, the difference was quite surprising,” he remarks. “I always liked pondering more than just a pretty flower—seeing the way the light, lines, shapes, and colors interact. I guess it’s a way of viewing things abstractly.” And, as Tunney points out, the rich landscape of the Cape certainly provides plenty of opportunity for abstraction.

Find John Tunney’s work online at, where you can also make an appointment to visit his studio, or find him on Instagram @johntunneyphotography.

Check out our previous photo portfolio here!

Allyson Plessner

Allyson Plessner is a former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life and now works for the publication as a staff writer and digital media coordinator. Born in Florida, Allyson has been a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. She is a recent alumna of the College of Charleston, located in Charleston, South Carolina, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in both English and Spanish. In her free time, Allyson is an avid sailor, beach-goer, and—like her fellow Cape Cod Life colleagues—a dog-lover.