“Honestly, it scares me, lol,” says photographer Joe Schmelzer to the Phoblographer in an interview when asked about AI Imagery. “But at the same time, I am thinking it could evolve into just another tool. When something NEW emerges as a way of ‘image making’ there always seems to be a rush, and then a fear that everything we used to know is going to go out the window.” He continues to state that this may or may not be true, but the same thoughts on how to create a successful visual will always apply. Of course, Joe, who has been shooting for many years now, hasn’t used AI before. And those images are currently being shown at Sunset House in LA.
Famed photographer Joe Schmelzer will be exhibiting five stunning new images from his personal project Life With Nick, in the exhibition In That Moment: Photographs From Then & Now at Sunset House, Los Angeles.
All images used with permission by Joe Schmelzer. Follow him on Instagram: @treasurbite & @joeschmelzer. Also, be sure to check out his website, Twitter, and Facebook page.
How Joe Schmelzer Started in Photography
“I have been interested in photography from a very young age,” Joe tells us. “I think I got my first camera at 10 years old. I went on to be photo editor of my high school yearbook, earn my BFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology.” After this, he moved to NYC to work for Mary Ellen Mark (among others), before moving to Los Angeles to earn an MFA at California Institute of the Arts.
His work would’ve been completely different has it not been for Mohammad Ali. In his childhood bedroom was a black and white portrait of Ali shot by photographer Yousuf Karsh. Joe’s father bought it as a “solid investment,” apparently. Staring at the photo in his room, Joe eventually got into photography. He shoots editorial, commercial, travel, and hospitality work amongst celebrity portraits. And now, his work is in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Vogue UK, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, amongst others.
“I’m not a huge gear and tech guy,” Joe tells us. “I don’t think the camera system is what makes a great photograph. You can make a wonderful image with an iPhone. It shouldn’t matter the gear to remember the composition and the moments that need to be captured.” He believes that the choices all depend on the job. And for those, Joe shoots on the Canon 5Ds, the Fujifilm GFX 100S, and the Fujifilm X100v.
The Creative Side
Lots of photography is about visuals. But with Joe, the work also involves things like hospitality and travel. That typically needs to be all-encompassing. Folks need to be able to smell the photos, so to speak. “I want people to not only know what something LOOKS like, but the image should give you a sense of what the moment FEELS like,” he tells us. In fact, when he’s out enjoying food or looking at this, he often thinks about conveying the experience of the food, the space, the people and the moment, to be able to tell the right story.
I think the question I get a lot, kind of sums this up:
How do you take the perfect sunset picture?
My answer is always the same. You don’t. You take the moment to enjoy the experience. You will never be able to capture it the way you remember it. But you can use the experience you gained by watching to tell the story you want to tell at some other point. You have to experience something to be able to tell the story.Joe Schmelzer
On AI Imagery
Joe already shared a bit about his thoughts on AI earlier in this interview. He also loves the idea of maintaining humanity throughout the imagery. He likes to think about how someone uses a space, feels in a space, and the photographer themselves draws from the energy of the space to make their vision. “I hope we do not lose the idea of actually experiencing something,” he states. “These experiences give us the tools to create.”