Born in Detroit, Michigan, Deb Schwedhelm was originally trained as a Registered Nurse and subsequently spent 10 years employed as an Air Force Nurse. Although she has been passionate about photography since her early 20s, it wasn't until Deb left the military that she was able to pursue the medium as a full-time career.
Deb's photographs have been exhibited widely and featured in numerous publications throughout the world. She has received awards from Photolucida, Portland, OR; PhotoNOLA, New Orleans, LA; MPLS Photo Center, Minneapolis, MN; The Perfect Exposures Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; A. Smith Gallery, Johnson City, TX; Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, Santa Fe, NM; and The Art of Photography Show, San Diego, CA. Her photographs have also been selected for the permanent collection of The Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO.
Deb is married to a Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer and she is the mother to three children, who are often the subjects of her photographs. Deb is currently based in Tampa, Florida and will be moving to Yokosuka, Japan summer 2014.
AAP: Where did you study photography? I purchased a DSLR and began teaching myself photography in 2006. Prior to that, I was a Registered Nurse in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years.
AAP: Do you have a mentor or role model? Jock Sturges has been mentoring me for the past few years and I'm so grateful for all that he has shared with me.
AAP: Do you remember your first shot? What was it? While I don't remember my first shot (because I was too busy trying to learn photography at that time), I do remember my first commissioned portrait session. It was with a family that lived down the street. One of the photographs (boxer boy) still remains one of my favorites, especially remembering back to how new I was to photography.
AAP: What or who inspires you? As cliche as it may sound, I truly draw so much inspiration from my children. My middle child (10 yo) very much gets me. When I take her out to photograph, I leave with a vision and a plan, but based on her actions, I typically end up dumping any plan that I had and we just mesh with one another. She'll tell you that I often say to her, "just keep doing what you're doing." I also am very much inspired by dance and music.
AAP: How could you describe your style? Raw, real and emotive.
AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film? Above water: Nikon D3S, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 In the water: SPL housing,Nikon D700 and a 35mm f/2.0.
AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? For what purpose? No, I don't really spend a lot of time editing my digital images. I do my best to get it right in camera, which makes the editing process very simple. I work mostly in Lightroom but I do bring my black and white images into Photoshop for a bit of fine-tuning. Basically, I want my editing to look pure, while gently enhancing the overall essence and feeling of the photograph.
AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)? Sally Mann, Jock Sturges and Mary Ellen Mark have been my favorites from the very beginning.
AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer? Work to master your technique -- and your artistry. Work really hard. Be dedicated, committed and determined. Never stop exploring, reflecting, learning and growing. Have patience. Know that the journey of photography is not always an easy one, but it is an absolutely amazing one. Be authentic and make genuine connections. Remember to be grateful, kind and giving. Do your best and don't ever give up!
AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid? The greatest gifts a photographer could give themselves is allowing time and being patient.
AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share? I would love to share a couple of photography projects that I recently learned about and am inspired by...
I had the opportunity to take a workshop from Mary Ellen Mark and I'm greatly inspired by her work and authenticity (both professionally and personally). She and her husband recently launched a kickstarter campaign, which I am thrilled to support: STREETWISE: Tiny Revisited
And 'The Return' kickstarter is another project I am happy to support. It is so incredibly beautiful and heartfelt: The return: Book Project Love these words shared in the project video: "State the intention for spirit to be present in your finished object, it will be. My soul need these images."
AAP: What are your projects? For the past few years, I have been working on my 'From the Sea' series. This summer, I am planning to travel the US for a few months and will not only be photographing in various bodies of water across the US, I am also planning to launch a new project. While I'm not quite ready to release details of my new project, I hope you'll stay tuned.
AAP: Your best memory as a photographer? Wow, that's a tough question. Receiving that first message from Jock Sturges was pretty darn amazing and winning photoNOLA was such an incredible gift. I never saw either coming.
AAP: The compliment that touched you most? Every compliment greatly touches me. I truly am so appreciative for all that others share with me.
AAP: If you were someone else who would it be? I'm quite happy being me and can't imagine being anyone else.
AAP: Your favorite photo book? Oh how I love photography books. I have so many that proudly grace my bookshelves -- books which I've collected over the years. Sally Mann's Immediate Family was the first photography book I owned so it's pretty special. I also had the opportunity to have Sally Mann sign my books last summer, while attending her talk at the University of Michigan.
AAP: Anything else you would like to share? No matter what your personal journey, don't be afraid to dream and dream big -- you just never know what's possible with a little dreaming and a lot of hard work. Don't forget the importance of authenticity and don't ever forget to share your gratitude with those who have assisted you.
Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to share. This has been the most amazing journey and I'm beyond grateful.