Photographer of the Month Interview: Cody Schultz | Aperture Academy

Featured Photographer, February 2022:   Cody Schultz

We are happy to have Cody Schultz as our featured guest photographer this month. We appreciate that he gave us some of his time and generously shared his beautiful photography with us! Please visit his links to see more of his work, and to let him know you enjoyed this interview.

:: I've listened to your podcast...but for some who might not, why did you choose photography as a creative medium? Is there any part of this medium that makes you reconsider that choice?

Photography was a rather natural choice for me, creatively speaking, as it was something I had dabbled in prior to picking it up more seriously. My parents had gotten me a Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot camera which I remember having played around with when I was in middle school, and in seventh grade, I was lucky enough to take a photography class taught by a professional wedding photographer from the area. So when I decided I needed a creative outlet, a way to express myself, it wasn't a difficult decision to pick up a basic DSLR and get to work.

There was a time not too long ago whereas I felt a different expressive medium would have been better. Photography is a very easy artistic medium to get involved in – there are so many online tutorials for free, it almost makes it difficult to not learn. Because of that ease, I sometimes found myself feeling I should have gotten into a more challenging medium, such as painting or woodworking. After giving it more pronounced thought, however, I no longer agree with my past sentiments. If you wish it to be, photography can be quite challenging. Going out and creating a truly creative, novel photograph is not an easy task. Sure, the technical side of photography is easy to learn. But the artistic? That's what makes the craft so much fun.

:: You shoot film...How does that process work for you? What aspects of film do you like, what is a challenge?

Beginning in December of 2021, I actually decided to put my beautiful Chamonix 4x5 camera aside and pick up a Nikon D800e. The choice was, in a way, made for me, rather than by me. I had gone out on a hike back in November and made what would have been a rather interesting detail shot of the bark on a tree. A few days later, we were graced with fog, and I drove down the road to a river birch tree I had been eyeing up, waiting for this very opportunity. It wasn't until I had exposed the scene that I realized the film holder I had grabbed was previously exposed. My photograph, The Catalyst, is the result of that. Rather than see the photograph as a mistake, I fell in love with it. And then I got to thinking about the possibilities of creating more abstract photographs through methods such as Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) and double exposures.

The problem with doing such methods on large format film comes down to the cost. Film isn't getting any cheaper and neither is anything else in the world right now. When I sat down and figured out how much I had spent on film photography the past two years, it just made more sense to make the switch back to digital, at least for the time being.

Don't get me wrong: there is absolutely nothing like using a large format camera. Some people love it, some hate it. I was the former. The entire process helped me to slow down and really think about what it was I am doing while in the field. Add to that my learning to prioritize being in nature and enjoying the solitude, rather than always wishing to come home with a photograph – I couldn't be more thankful to film photography for that.

:: What's one piece of non-photographic gear you can't live without, and why?

My kindle, for sure. Although it has only been in recent times that I have begun reading more often again, it has always been an enjoyable way to not only pass the time but to absorb new information and grow as an individual. I must thank my mother for instilling within me that love of reading.

:: Who inspires you creatively? Why?

Though there are a number of photographers who have had various amounts of influence on me – often both as an artist and an individual – I have found most of my inspiration coming from nature, rather than much else. It is whilst out in the woodlands that I am most at peace, most creative – not while looking at the work of another individual.

:: Was there any piece of photographic advice you've received over your time in the medium that has resonated with you? How would you modify that for a newer photographer you were giving advice to?

A photographer once told me to sit back and wait for things to happen. Just do your own thing, keep creating, and opportunities will come to you. It's honestly one of the worst pieces of advice I have ever received, which I suppose is why it has continued to resonate with me over the years.

Instead, I encourage others to do the opposite. Chase after whatever it is you are desiring. If you have always wanted to be interviewed about your photography, contact an online publication or podcast, and simply ask. If you want to teach a photography class or present a lecture, contact a local photography club and pitch them your ideas. The worst they can say is no – then, you just move on to the next one and try again.

:: What's the scariest thing that has happened to you while shooting?

Thinking back, there haven't been many times whereas I have been scared while out in the woods with my camera. Many times I have found myself on edges of cliffs, precariously positioning myself and my camera so as to photograph a waterfall closer than otherwise possible, but at no point have I been scared while doing it. I'm on such a high while in nature that I don't really think much of the consequences, to a certain degree, as I know my capabilities rather well – or at least I would like to think I do. My girlfriend, on the other hand, gets rather nervous when I do such things, as she's usually with me while hiking. There was one time when I was setting up my camera to photograph a dead tree alongside the trail and she heard rustling, slight murmurings, from in the woods behind us. Thinking the worst, she kept wandering back and forth, trying to figure out what was going on. After I finished making the photograph, we continued down the trail, somewhat following the noise, only to find a couple setting up camp.

:: What are your thoughts on NFT's and that whole swing?

Until the environmental impacts are more easily understood – and mitigated – I have no interest in NFT's. And regarding those who declare NFT's as a manner in which they can "finally" support artists, there have been, for hundreds of years, ways in which people can support an artist they enjoy the work of. If someone wishes to support me, they are more than welcome to contact me about purchasing a print or joining my Patreon page.

:: Where do you see photography going with social media in the coming years? As someone who doesn't really do a lot of shooting of "iconic" does it help or hurt you?

In 2021, I made the conscious decision to begin straying away from social media. I had found myself spending far too much time mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, though nothing ever really changed. There was no benefit for me being on the platform. The photographs I make are contemplative, quiet. They require more time to take in than the few seconds people allow for while on social media. People want to see something beautiful, double-tap it quick, and move on to the next beautiful thing. On top of that, all that time I was spending scrolling was doing two main things: it was taking away time that could have been used to learn and grow, and it was doing a number to my mental health, as I compared myself to others quite often.

Though I did join Twitter in August or so of 2021, I found myself deleting my profile by December. Initially I had figured that platform would allow me to better engage in meaningful conversation with other photographers - talking about creativity, different techniques, various stories made while out in the wild. But I joined at the wrong time, as those conversations seemed to die off, taking a turn for the worse as the NFT boom hit.

Going into 2022, I have no plans to get back into the social media "game." Instead, I'll spend my time reading, writing, and creating meaningful photographs and experiences.

:: If you could change one aspect of photography, what would it be?

I don't believe there is any aspect of photography which I would change. Perhaps I would change the way it is thought of – particularly whether it is art – although that has been happening on a continuous basis since the inception of the craft.

:: If photography is a large portion of your income, is there any pressure to maybe take more iconic style landscapes, or maybe a different genre entirely?

Thankfully, as it currently stands, photography plays no part in my income. I had tried to make it so in the summer of 2019, in the form of selling prints at art shows. For one reason or another – whether my prices were too high, my work not marketable enough, etc. – things didn't work out as I had hoped. I actually ended up receiving more money from the awards some shows gave out than I did through any sales. Past that, I had thought about trying my hand at architectural photography so as to make a sustainable income. At the end of the day, the pressure of making a living off print sales is not something I find enjoyment in. The stress of figuring out how to price my work, what mediums to offer, open versus limited editions, etc. – it all is too much and takes away from my enjoyment of the craft. I would much rather make money off my writings and future teachings and talks.

:: What is one misconception of your photography that you deal with and how do you handle it?

Since I'm not active on social media, I don't often receive any sort of interaction with my photography, negative or positive. The last time I can remember someone mentioning anything negative about it was while I was attempting to sell my work at a convention in a mall. Two men came walking past, saw a photograph I had taken of the Grand Teton mountains, and the one commented that he could easily go and take the same photograph. Rather than take offense to it, I laughed it off and told him to "go ahead and try."

Other than that one instance, I can't recall any misconceptions about my photography which were had, or at least expressed to me. Even if there were, at the end of the day, my photography holds within it meaning for myself. If others don't understand it, it's no sweat off my back.

:: As someone who has also dealt with some mental health has photography helped you? Are there any aspects of the profession you've found that doesn't benefit you when it comes to your wellbeing...and when the thing that has helped you is causing added do you keep it fun and important?

When I picked up my own DSLR for the first time in 2014, I was at the lowest point in my life. At only 15 years old, I was facing heavy bouts of depression and anxiety, paired with feelings of absolute despair and helplessness. Pair this with my being in a new school district for my first year in high school. Things weren't looking the best for me. But through photography, I have learned to express myself, to show the world how I see and what I feel. As the years have gone on, photography has primarily been a blessing. However, there have been instances whereas it has not been the most beneficial. For instance, I had mentioned the art shows in 2019. During that time, I placed myself under a lot of pressure to make things work, though such things were out of my control. I wanted little more than to make money off my photography and, when it didn't work out, the stress really began to get to me, bringing me back into the darkness I had (mostly) gotten away from. While I managed to push away those feelings after a few months of contemplation and reevaluation of self, they came back – albeit for less time – when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I was left unemployed for a bit of time.

These days, it is the pairing of photography and nature that help my mental health maintain some sort of stabilization. The greatest joy in my life is spending time walking through the woods, my girlfriend aside me and my camera in my backpack, as I work to find meaning in life through art.

Cody Schultz

Chase after whatever it is you are desiring. If you have always wanted to be interviewed about your photography, contact an online publication or podcast, and simply ask. If you want to teach a photography class or present a lecture, contact a local photography club and pitch them your ideas. The worst they can say is no – then, you just move on to the next one and try again.

Cody Schultz's Link

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