I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Austin J Schofield, an extraordinarily talented and self-taught photographer who resides in the state of Massachusetts. Austin finds that photography serves as an outlet for his creativity and has consequently developed his very own style. Due to his many interests, Austin excels at capturing unique subjects for creating exceptional images. Currently, the city of Boston serves as his muse for his most recent and engaging collection of work. From his point of view, Austin explores parts of the city that would otherwise be hidden or unknown to observers. As you browse through Austin’s images below, I think you’ll agree that his thought-provoking work not only tells stories visually, but effectively evokes mood and emotion in viewers as well.
Thank you, Austin, for spending the time to share your experiences with us and thank you so much for all your thoughtful responses. Your body of work is truly inspiring.
Can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?
My name is Austin J Schofield, and I am a self-taught photographer & student of biology at UMass Boston.
Where is home?
Currently, I call Whitman, Massachusetts home. I grew up and went to grade school here, though now I find myself in and around Boston almost every day.
What inspired you to be a photographer?
I have always had a camera since I used to shoot video of my friends and I skateboarding since childhood and well into my late teens. I always thought photography was cool, but I didn’t develop a true interest in pursuing it until college. I remember seeing an image from National Geographic and thinking, “I really need to learn how to shoot like this.” From there, it really just took off for me and became all I wanted to do.
Are you formally taught or self-taught?
I am self-taught. I learned almost everything I know about photography and working with cameras from watching YouTube videos and reading articles on the internet. That being said, I am considering a few art-school options for post-bacc opportunities following my bio degree; I would love to learn photography from an academic perspective at some point.
From looking through your portfolio on your site, I can see that you are interested in a variety of photography styles. Of the styles you have explored, which has been your favorite and why?
I would say that my favorite niche of photography changes based on a lot of things. Right now, my favorite thing to photograph is the city of Boston, broadly. Whether I am searching for interesting moments on the streets, or I have a telephoto on and I am photographing the skyline from miles away, my current muse is definitely the city.
In regard to marketing, how much of your time do you dedicate to social media? Do you use any special programs or services?
I don’t let social media get in the way of my life; though I certainly do consider it a useful tool for finding work and clients as a creative. It’s pretty touch and go for me; I sometimes put it a lot of effort into growing my presence and sometimes don’t. I don’t use any marketing programs or tools. I do have a website that I frequently show around, though!
What drives you to create; does it satisfy a need or passion?
I have a lot of energy, particularly, a lot of creative energy, and I have found that my work in Biology as a student/researcher does not really offer the outlet that I require to express and use this creative energy. That being said, I am really glad I found a medium to express this through.
How did you develop your style?
I started off trying to emulate other artists that I liked if I am being honest. I don’t think there is really a set-in-stone route one can take to develop a style. I pretty much just tried to make my work look “cool” until I found certain tendencies that I went for (ex: colors, compositions I typically approached w/, etc.) and really tried to home in and expand those. Eventually, my own style just started coming out.
What is your favorite part of heading out to a new location?
Overcoming fear is a big one. Particularly with exploring or travel, I find that new locations actually bring me a lot of anxiety (I suppose this is rooted in the idea of the “unknown”), and so overcoming that and coming away with something I like is definitely my favorite part.
What has been the best source of information along your photography journey (workshop, online forums, classroom, mentor, etc)?
YouTube. You can learn absolutely anything from watching YouTube videos. Photography, painting, astrophysics, molecular biology… entire course-loads of material are on that site. Take advantage!
What is your best photography tip?
Ask people questions whenever you get a chance. Watch a ton of videos. Don’t be afraid to revisit the basic concepts.
What do you hope viewers take away from your images?
Overall, I hope to either provide a new way of looking at things or evoke emotion. I wouldn’t say I am consistently or confidently doing either of these things yet, however. I still have a lot of work to do.
Share with us your favorite image and why.
I could never pick a “favorite” just because my taste is so fluid and changes so frequently. Sometimes I look at my work and love it and other days I don’t. This one is definitely high up on the list, though.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens?
I currently shoot with a Canon 6D. Right now, my favorite lens is the 24-70 2.8L.
What is in your camera bag?
-canon 24-70 2.8L
-canon 16-35 f4L
-canon 100-400 f5.6L
-canon 100 f2.8L macro
I definitely don’t carry all of this on a daily basis. These are just my go-tos, and they vary based on assignment or project.
What is your favorite photography accessory?
Definitely my wrist strap. Having a neck strap always hurts. The wrist strap is a game-changer.
What piece of equipment would you most like to get but don’t have yet?
I’d like to get a tilt-shift lens at some point. I am really interested in the style of photos you can produce with one. Maybe I will have a budget for that someday.
How important is Photoshop or other image editing software in your final images?
Most of the commercial/professional work that I shoot could probably be produced without much reliance on these programs, but all of my fine-art work is arguably reliant on post-processing. It is definitely part of my style, and my work would certainly not be the same without it.
Do you have any projects that make you look back and shake your head? What made the experience so unpleasant?
Just overall, my editing was really cringy for a long time. I used to crank up those lightroom sliders like crazy. Now, I am pretty cautious using any setting tweaks. Tasteful is always better.
Specifically, I have had a few uncomfortable experiences shooting portraiture for people, but I look back and realize now that those moments made me both a better photographer and a better people-person. I now am much more confident that I can keep my clients comfortable and produce work they like.
Was there a point in your journey when you started to feel really good about your work? If so, what did it feel like to get past that “tipping point?”
I don’t think it was ever at one specific point, but rather, my tipping point was gradual. Eventually, I produced a couple of photos I really liked a lot, and over time, the number of images I produced that I liked became more and more consistent. Now, I pretty much bounce back and forth between producing a lot and a little work I like at a time.
What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Since I am a biology major, I still have to decide whether or not I want to pursue a career in research, or perhaps go into communications within the sciences and bring in my ability to shoot photographs. Either way, I definitely have plans to continue doing what I am doing now, whether it becomes my main job or stays a side thing.