Perhaps you’ve seen his work for L.L.Bean, Wal-Mart, AARP, or AllState, but how much do you really know about Eric Schmidt? The Bozeman, Montana based photographer sat down with Wonderful Machine to talk about his challenges, successes, and greatest inspirations as a photographer.
I grew up in California, where my roots run five generations deep. During my career, I’ve seen most of America, and a handful of other countries too. And you know what? My favorite place to spend time has always been Montana. It started out when I was 18– I piled into an old camper with a couple of friends and a drift boat in tow. I made amazing memories on these trips, and then I’d spend the next 50+ weeks thinking about the place, until we did it again. No exaggeration. I remember telling my wife more than once that we may end up there. Fast forward 15+ years… three children… and here we are! Our new roots have taken hold in a place that I find inspiring… and it feels pretty damn good. My best friend used to tell me that I was a fish out of water in California and I suspect he was right.
My first inspiration came from pouring over a collection of my father’s coffee table books by Ansel Adams. His work in the Eastern Sierra was the draw– that’s really what lit the fire. I ended up going to Art Center, assisted several well known shooters in the world of advertising… and before you know it, here I am.
I had a Kodak 110 Instamatic when I was 9 or 10… but my official answer is a Pentax K1000.
In my mind, ‘idol’ refers to more than somebody’s body of work. It refers to the person behind the lens too. Kurt Marcus is a class act – and I admire his work.
I am usually commissioned to capture images of people and the spirit of places.
There have been many wonderful assignments during my career. The favorites always carry two common denominators: 1) they take place in an amazing location and 2) I am surrounded by fantastic individuals. That being said, shooting for Sea Island Resort is top of the list for me. I was there for a variety of assignments and made some very special images.
So here’s the deal: I have two. A favorite landscape and a favorite portrait. The first was made outside of Wisdom, Montana. I was using my favorite camera at the time (a 4×5 Wisner made out of cherrywood). There was an Old Testament kind of sky brewing, and I was fighting the elements and cursing at my dark cloth throughout the whole ordeal. Great times!
My other favorite image was made on the Isle of Skye with my Pentax 6×7. Oh how I loved that camera! With the cherrywood handle, you couldn’t take a bad picture! I was shooting up in the Highlands of Scotland for a couple of weeks and I had pre-visualized this particular image of a bagpiper doing his thing. The perfect talent was arranged and the perfect location secured– it all fell together. If you ever come to my home in Montana, a large framed print of “Dancing on The Isle of Skye” will be the first thing you see when you walk through the front door. It still makes me smile today.
One thing is for sure, it’s evolving now more than ever – in both a creative and technical sense.
My work involving people is much more about spontaneity than it used to be. I shoot with a Sony a7Rii and a7riii and it’s amazing what comes of it! It has truly opened up a whole new world of photographic possibilities.
Getting noticed is always a challenge… it doesn’t matter who you are. I see work all the time on Instagram, truly amazing collections, and I wonder why I’ve never heard of this person. There is an immense amount of talent out there. That, and the fluctuation & inconsistency in fees and budgets are the two biggest challenges.
Have you seen the work coming out of Filson? The creative minds behind it have done a superb job. It’s exactly what I love to shoot… so go ahead and put them at the top of the list. Period. End of story.
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