Thursday, June 4, 2009

Focus On: Schugirl


Self-Discovery Through Photography.

Imagine the pathway you create as you live your life. It follows a straight course for awhile, and then you find it making switchbacks as you head up a hilly stretch before you head down a slope and make more zigzags to keep from descending too quickly. Now think about the pattern all our combined trails would make if we'd put them on some kind of a map!

Here's the story of Susan Schumann of Schugirl Photography. She's a new member of the POE and fairly new to Etsy. Sue's path is most definitely an interesting one --

Ann: Your Etsy shop profile tells us you went to Rhode Island School of Design (way cool!). Tell us your path to art and photography.

Sue: I'm pretty new to photography -- about 8 years, but I think I've photographed for my whole life, just without the equipment. I can remember sitting in the back seat on long rides and just watching as the composition outside my window changed as the car moved. I still do this today. I also remember watching the neighborhood change as the lighting changed. As a child, my favorite time of day was 7 p.m. in the summertime. The sun casts such beautiful shadows of the trees onto the streets where I played. I'm actually sort of glad I didn't have a camera back then. I think it helped to develop my eye before I could rely on the camera to frame shots.

I was always interested in art, too. After teaching four years of elementary education in southern California, I became disillusioned that my expectations for my career and success were drastically different from reality. So my husband, a graphic designer, and I decided to move back East to be closer to family. I took a job teaching 7th and 8th graders English as a second language in an urban setting. I enjoyed the older kids more, but something was still missing. My husband has always been supportive of my exploring the arts. So I enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design for advertising and print design, in an 18-class program I finished in three years. One of the classes was a black & white photography class with a darkroom lab. I was hooked. I especially loved the darkroom.

My friends and family started asking me to shoot special occasions, and I also began doing freelance graphic design. I like to shoot anything. I especially look for interesting patterns and textures, dramatic lighting situations and strange angles. I think my portraiture is my strongest subject, and you can see some of my portraits in my shop at 1000markets.

A: What's it like to go out taking photographs with you?

S: When I shoot, I like to go to a location and explore. Sometimes I spend hours photographing the strangest things and people look at me weirdly, especially when I shoot macro. I haven't quite gotten over that. I do like to shoot with other photographers -- the energy is really great. There's something about having a few creatives in close proximity that makes for awesomeness (or at least a Zen-like experience when shooting)!

A: Have you gone 100% digital in your photographic work, or do you still manage to get into the darkroom from time to time?

S: I have made the transition to all digital, but it took me awhile. I bought a digital camera in 2003 (I still use it and have only upgraded lenses). I shot with both my digital and film camera for several years. I felt my film camera was much more intuitive than the digital, and to some degree, I still feel that way. Eventually, I made the transfer for a few reasons. First, my film camera needed repair! And, second, I was always horrible about bringing film to be developed. It wasn't easy to set up a darkroom in my house and to properly dispose of the chemicals. [Digital] post production freed me up to shoot as much as I wanted without worrying about cost.

A: When you describe how you take photographs, and when I see the product of your labors in your Etsy shop, I detect a sense of patience, especially with your beach images. What's that like for you?

S: Hmmm, patience is not really a strong quality of mine. I'm sometimes impetuous when shooting, and I have to stop and remind myself to think about what I'm doing. As far as the beach scenes, they have forced me to realize something: I have always hated winter. Since I've moved back from California, I've always cursed myself for leaving the amazing weather. Since I've started on Etsy, I've dragged myself out into the cold to shoot. One of the places I've ended up is the beach, and it's the most peaceful place on earth in the winter. That's saying something, since I'm not really a beach person. It was so great to get out in the cold and walk around feeling the sun on my face (and get a runny nose, too!). So, maybe that feeling I convey isn't necessarily patience but my reverence to Mother Nature!

A: What post-editing programs to you use to edit your digital photography?

S: I mostly use Photoshop CS3, but because I view my older photographs on Picasa. Since shooting TTV, I've started to mess around with different applications on Picasa for the final product. I can do the same thing in Photoshop, but it's quicker in Picasa. No one needs five different ways to do the same thing, which is my biggest complaint with Photoshop.

A: What are your photographic plans for the summer?

S: This summer, I plan to go to as many different places, and to revisit some of my favorite ones as the seasons change to shoot as much as possible. I hope to list photographs daily, to actually start that blog I've set up an account for and to take creative breaks with knitting to clear my head! I've been accepted at Trunkt, so I'm hoping to upgrade there and see where that takes me. I also plan to reach out to the community to do some marketing and nonprofit/fundraising events.

A: Your portraits of Peruvians are very beautiful and very intimate. What was it like taking their portraits? What's your back story?

S: I volunteered with a friend in 2005 through Cross Cultural Solutions. Since I have a teaching background, I spent most of my time in an orphanage. I also have an interest in medical care, so I went to a clinic one day and a nursing home on another day. When I went to the nursing home, I went with a girl who was studying reflexology. I had taken a class in reflexology, so I thought it would be a great experience. It was the best day of my two weeks. To hold someone's hand and touch someone is truly a magical connection you only get with someone you are intimate with already. These women were so beautiful, and even though they spoke only Quechua, we communicated through touch. It was awesome! I can't wait to go back. I love Peru, and I would have stayed if I could have.

Thanks, Sue, we'll be watching your shop fill up with images of summer. Check out her website to see some of her graphic design work, and some beautiful maternity and wedding portraits. You can also see more of Sue's portraits of Peru at her 1000markets shop.

A world traveler and self-taught photographer, look for Ann wandering around city streets and tromping through woods and hiking trails with her camera. After owning an international transportation business for many years, Ann has found her creative spirit again through the lens. See more at Ann's shop and her website, and say hello to her on her blog too.


readingsully2 said...

Great work.

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Wonderful interview. Nice to learn more about Sue and her work.
Peace, Judi

Urban Design said...

Beautiful photos! I love Real Time!

UrbanJunkies/zuppaartista said...

fabulous interview as always ann!
what gorgeous photos! Susan you are so talented, i love that girl in blue shot!