Camera cowboy shoots from hip

Brett Adkins

WHEN it comes to taking pictures, you might liken Port Elizabeth- based professional photographer Karl Schoemaker as a bit of a cowboy.

Schoemaker – who has an exhibition opening at the Athenaeum on Friday – says he likes to work fast, capturing his images quickly and in turn capturing the moment unposed and “mid action”.

“My international assignments, which span all continents, are focused on mining – predominantly gold mining. In doing this, I get to go to places one would not normally go to – hard to reach and remote,” he explained.

“On the personal side, I take time to capture people and places, in a shoot-from-the-hip style.”

On what makes a shot art, he said if one ignored the creativity, angst and hard work that made a piece of art, art should also evoke an emotive response from the viewer which is created from emotions that existed within an image.

“Therefore the image should emanate an emotion, whether it is anger, sadness, shock, or simply peace. For me, it could be a landscape, a street scene, a person, interaction between people, even a simple detail of hands and so forth. If an image does not create an emotional response, then why bother?”

Schoemaker said it was an absolute privilege to have been taught by acclaimed lensman Obie Oberholzer when he was completing an honours degree at Rhodes University.

“He was not skaam [shy] to share everything with us – from his home, his knowledge, his stories, and his Tassies.

“He was involved and would always help when we were stuck – sometimes you did not always like the answers, or response to your work, but hey, that was part of learning from such a great talent.

“We had good times with Obie – lots of fun and late nights, lots of words and red wine, lots of creativity.”

On his belief in keeping images true to what a photographer saw and his thoughts on digital manipulation, Schoemaker said: “Different strokes, hey. Using a mix of photography and digital manipulation can be very effective, but it is mixed medium and not photography anymore.

“Photography has become only an element of the artwork.”

However, Schoemaker said using digital manipulation to fix an already bad photo was wrong.

“You need a good base to start off with, good composition, the right in-camera crop, lighting and exposure, before hitting the image with digital manipulation.

“While digital photography has made photography more accessible to everybody, it does not make everybody a photographer.”

Of his new exhibition, he said he was looking forward to experiencing people’s reaction to his work “good or bad”.

“I have gone fairly big on some of the images – up to two metres across – which I have not done before.

“I also hope people will be able to interact with my images on an emotive level, and find them interesting enough to come back and look again and hopefully discover something new.”

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