Monday, November 26, 2007
Jeff Schewe - Master Of The Impossible
Jeff Schewe has forgotten more about Photoshop than most photographers have ever known. His images aren't overloaded with special effects; they're seamless and perfect in their use of technology.
He looks a little bit like a mountain man or maybe a Hell's Angel—the kind of guy who bites the tops off beer bottles and yells at old ladies. If you met him in a dark alley, you might be tempted to run. But Jeff Schewe isn't nearly as dangerous as he appears. He's really a meticulous craftsman, a digital genius with a delicate touch for creating amazing avant-garde photographs.
“Everything I do is an experiment,” Schewe says. “I rarely, if ever, do exactly the same thing over and over. Fluency in the craft has to be a given. Past that, I tend to do only things that interest me—things that are fun or challenging or different. I used to have a professor who said if you're not on a regular basis pushing yourself—getting into situations where you get sweaty palms and the outcome isn't a foregone conclusion—then you're just coasting. I try not to coast.”
Schewe not only has a talent for creating thought-provoking advertising photographs, but he has a passion for teaching the medium as well. An honors graduate from one of the finest photography schools in the world, the Rochester Institute of Technology, Schewe obviously believes in the importance of studying to become a better photographer. To that end, he regularly lectures (at venues like PhotoPlus Expo), consults (in the creation of digital-imaging products like Adobe Photoshop, where he's credited by name), writes (in various books, magazines and online resources) and teaches (at workshops in Santa Fe and via the APA). In fact, at this point in his career, Schewe doesn't even seek jobs, preferring instead to devote his time to making the photographs he wants to.
“I actually call myself a reformed advertising photographer because I rarely accept commercial assignments anymore,” he says. “I tell people I just play with photography now. Money has never been a strong driving motivator, and truth be told, I'm pretty much doing exactly what I want to be doing right now, which basically boils down to whatever I feel like doing.”
When he feels like it, what Schewe does is seamlessly blend the real world with fantasy through laborious digital imaging. He hasn't been doing it since the very beginning: only for about 25 years.
“I started as a food shooter,” Schewe explains, “because my rep at the time, Max Pride—I hired him because of his name—said he could get me work if I shot food. And he did, and I did, but commercial food soon got boring. I then branched out and shot studio still life and products until that, too, got boring. I ended up specializing in ‘special problems,' which basically translates to art directors coming up with impossible layouts and finding somebody brave—or foolish—enough to try to do them. That led to doing multi-image combinations, which led to digital manipulations.”