We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanna Schaus and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joanna, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
Choosing a favorite quote is difficult for most people but especially for me. I am the girl who writes down things people say that I find fascinating on post-it notes and then stick them to my mirror. When I first started my photography business, I began reading, “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon. He is one of my favorite authors, and I frequently re-visit many quotes by him. In his book, he encourages artists to do good work and share it as a gift with others. Austin once said, “draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done. If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.” I value this quote because when it comes to my photography style, I have tried to make it something that inspires me personally. Even though it is easy to want to be like someone else, and to create different artistic styles, I believe that one of the best ways to inspire others, is to make sure you are inspired as an artist first. I’ve found that for me, creativity flows when I begin doing the work. Normally, I find myself inspired by watching fellow creatives and seeing what they are pursuing. Some of the best ideas have come to me in the mundane acts of life. When I’m stirring my morning coffee, I’m thinking to myself, “maybe I should start selling my photos as prints” or “I wonder if I should update the font of my website headline.” It’s the little moments, not the dramatic ones that we begin to discover ourselves and engage in the act of actually making things. I love Austin’s statement, “If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.” I wonder how many artists feel like they are taking up that space in the room. It’s the best feeling to know that you’re good at something, other people call it out in you, and better yet people PAY you to create for them. However, I know that one of the best and fastest ways to grow creatively is to get out of the room that is filled with praise and approval from others and switch to the room mingling with people who have been more successful in the field. My advice to the fellow artist is to ask yourself, “what room am I in? Is it time to move on to the next one?”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Something I get excited about is editing my photographs. I’ve heard photographers complain about adjusting the hues or trying to find their editing style, but to me, editing a photo is more fun than the act of capturing it in the first place. I love learning new features, playing around with photoshop, and perfecting the colors of an image. To me, that’s where the magic truly happens. Anyone can take a photo, but it takes effort and practice to understand what colors might look good together and what the result could be. In creating my editing style, I wasn’t always confident in my abilities. It’s SO easy as creatives, to struggle with imposture syndrome when seeing the work of an artist they admire. One lesson I’ve applied to my work is to continue questioning my style and passions. Whenever I feel like I’m not being true to myself, I try to re-focus and ask myself what I want to communicate through my work. As a humanitarian photographer, Something that I want to stand out about my brand is the ethics behind my photographs. I’ve noticed that in the photography field especially, the conversation on ethics isn’t always a popular one. I truly value seeing the dignity and humanity in people, and I believe that is a responsibility every photographer has, regardless if they recognize it or not. I’m convinced that the best photographs are obtained by having a positive interaction with the person captured beforehand. One goal that I’m currently focusing on is trying to get better on interacting with the individuals I document and making them feel more at ease in front of my lens.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Minnesota is one of the coldest places I’ve ever lived in! Because of this, I’d say the best time for someone to visit would be in the spring or summer. The Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) is my go-to location for taking pictures and seeing sites. When friends come and visit, I love taking them to Midtown Global Market which is filled with food options and shopping from all around the world. Karmel Mall is another amazing spot to browse colorful textiles and try amazing Somali cuisine! It’s almost impossible for me to show someone around without giving them a taste of the coffee culture in Minnesota. One of my favorite locations is Cafe Astoria. They have the BEST latte art and it’s the cutest little cafe. I also love showing friends around the suburbs and other random gems I’ve found in the State outside of the Twin Cities.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Someone who deserves recognition in my journey to becoming a humanitarian photographer is my mentor, Emily Frazier. A few years ago, I reached out to Emily and asked to get coffee. Over the first initial conversation with Emily, it felt like I’d known her my whole life. As Anne of Green Gables puts it, we were “kindred spirits.” Throughout transitioning into the niche of humanitarian work, Emily has not only become a mentor, but one of my closest friends.