Today’s showcase presents the artwork of a professional photographer, called Mandy Schoch, with a history in the fashion industry. She will share with us a few thoughts about her life, along with tips and tricks that for sure will come in handy to a lot of photographers.
Read her interview to find out more on how to achieve the effects she creates in her photography shots!
Let’s see what she has to say…
Q: Hello and welcome to the Pxleyes community. Please tell us a few words about who Mandy is.
A: Hi, and thanks, Giulia. I’m Mandy Schoch and I am a freelance photographer, originally from the United States and now living in Andalucia in the very south of Spain. I was a fashion product photographer in New York City — I photographed jewelry, perfume, handbags, cosmetics, those sorts of things — for advertisements, catalogs and magazine editorials. After moving to Spain in 2007 I completely changed my direction in photography and now I spend my days in the countryside shooting landscapes, animals and tiny objects in nature that catch my eye.
I grew up in a relatively small town in North Carolina.
I loved to draw throughout my childhood, I knocked around with cameras in high school and found they were excellent substitutes for drawing, and at some point I had my future all planned out—I was going to be a fashion designer. But my plan went off the rails from the outset, I changed course, and I graduated in 1991 with a BA from The School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. My focus there was photojournalism.
After college I was certain of two things: I disliked photojournalism and I loved fashion photography. So I assisted fashion photographers in Atlanta and NYC, and eventually I branched out on my own. Funny thing is, I was convinced that I wanted to be a fashion photographer until I assisted them. I had (and still do have) tremendous respect for fashion photographers and for the massively creative and talented people on the sets of fashion shoots. But for me, there were way too many egos in one room and I could never figure out how the photographers juggled fifteen or so wildly different personalities in the course of a day and produced such incredible work at the same time.
Truly an amazing ability those photographers have.
“Where the River Bends”
Fashion product photography suited me to a T though. I could still be involved with the fashion clients and my subjects never moved or breathed or talked back— perfect! Half the time the clients didn’t even want to be on set— too boring for them— so my golden retriever and I would hang out and shoot cosmetics or handbags in a huge studio while all the top photographers and models were shooting in studios that flanked us on all sides. Those were some fun years.
Q: When have you discovered your passion for photography and how has it all started?
A: That’s an easy question to answer. I already knew I loved photography when I discovered I was pretty good at shooting product. Still life require loads of patience— something I fortunately have— so shooting stills came naturally to me. I got a big kick out of solving problems such as technical lighting issues or styling a piece of jewelry until it sparkled perfectly.
But my real passion for photography originated in an entirely different place. I had a lovely garden in Brooklyn where I spent most of my off-hours nurturing my flowers. My garden really was my refuge from the frenzied pace of the fashion industry as well as the big city. Gardeners will understand how it hurt to see my flowers wither away, so I started cutting them and hauling them back to my apartment in Manhattan to shoot a few frames and preserve their beauty. These photographs attracted not only my fashion clients, but also went on exhibition in Europe and the US.
That same passion was revived some years later when I traveled to Spain with my good friends in 2007.
“The House That Robin Built”
Q: Do you have any favourite subjects when you take your camera out?
A: I am definitely drawn to subjects or scenes that are unique, a bit offbeat and unexpected — that applies to animals, landscapes, insects and everything in between. I like to spend my time walking through fields, hiking up hills, wading in rivers, and even riding on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle in search of that special something that no one has ever seen.
Yes, it is almost impossible to shoot something unique these days, but it is my constant aspiration. I especially love humor in photography. Obviously landscapes are not that funny, but when I capture an animal, insect or even a flower doing something that makes me laugh, I’m ecstatic.
If my photo then makes someone else laugh, well… I get a rush that must be similar to winning the lottery. It doesn’t get any better than that for me.
My favorite models at the moment are my goats. They make me laugh every day.
“La Cuesta Tree”
Q: Is there something that inspired you in a particular manner?
A: I find it interesting that this is the most difficult question for me to answer. If I am honest, my inspiration does not come from the master photographers we have all read about and studied. I believe inspiration lies deep seated in one’s mind.
It is one’s entire life experience bound into a fraction of a thought. It is difficult to tap into, and as an artist you are grateful when you get a glimpse of it. If you think about it, I mean really think about it, it is not easy to describe. I just know that it exists in me and that it fuels my passion for photography… and that leads me straight into the next question.
“The Sepia Tree”
Q: Which do you consider the most important: talent, passion or professional gear?
A: Passion. That’s all you need, other than some sort of camera of course. If you are passionate about something, drive and determination are built-in features, kind of like the operating system that comes with your computer. Your OS will accomplish any task you give it— you just have to tell it what to do. Talent is a wonderful gift if you are lucky enough to have it, but because it’s a natural-born skill, some people are just not fortunate enough in the gene pool department to inherit talent. That’s where passion steps in. Everyone on the planet can have passion. Professional gear?.… sigh. There is much too much discussion these days about investing in better equipment. Here’s the way I see it: your camera, no matter how much it cost, will never take pictures of its own volition.
You are the one with the passion and drive and determination and maybe even talent if you’re genetically lucky.
That’s more than enough to succeed as a photographer. Forget the gear — just shoot.
I could load up this page with links to photographers who use very little and/or very basic equipment. Their work is stellar. Plain and simple— it’s not the gear that makes you a photographer.
“A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”
Q: Which is the first advice that comes in your mind when thinking at beginner photographers?
A: I have tons of advice for beginner photographers, but the first thing I always suggest, and I cannot stress this enough, is to assist a professional photographer. As in any field, you can study and practice until you are blue in the face, but when you are actually working in a professional environment and the pressure is on, the lessons you learn sink in fast and sink in deep. I made countless mistakes while assisting, like blowing up an entire set of lights in the studio— a brilliant firework display for the clients during their breakfast!
But I also learned how to quickly set up lights (without blowing them up), how to load film into many different types of cameras, how to talk to clients, how to anticipate the photographer’s next move, and I even learned what I personally would never do simply by watching the photographer do that very thing.
I learned a plethora of tricks and shortcuts from photographers and other photo assistants, and I benefited tremendously from observing the stylists on set with great fascination. Man, they know some stuff! Over time I learned how to truly be a photographer. I could not possibly put a value on the time I spent assisting. Those years are priceless because they made me the photographer I am today.