Photographer Michael Schoenfeld considers himself a lucky man, making a life out of his greatest passion. Originally an aspiring musician, Schoenfeld decided he wanted a more grounded life after spending a little over a year on the road non-stop. When he attended university, he met his mentor John Shupe, the campus photographer who was a sociology graduate and instilled passion and dedication into Schoenfeld’s work. After much hard work, Schoenfeld opened his own studio. Other than Best of Show at the Utah State Fair, he has also won awards from PDN, APA, New York Art Director’s Club, One Eyeland, and, of course, Graphis.
Much of Schoenfeld’s work involves education, healthcare, and humanitarian subjects, one of which being “Moran Eye Center, Global Outreach” (above). He traveled to Tanzania to document the work of the Moran Eye Center’s global outreach there as they provide cataract eye surgery for no cost to third world countries around the globe. He took many portraits during his time there, including one of these sisters. Three other portraits were featured from this particular trip along with many other of Schoenfeld’s pieces to show the diversity within his work.
Here’s some of Schoenfeld’s interview:
What is it about photography that you are most passionate about?
While I believe the craft and technology of image-making are the essential language you must speak to achieve intentional results, once I could speak it with fluency, I started relying on my emotions. That’s brought me the greatest joy.
What is the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome to reach your current position?
At the beginning of my career, balancing the work/life paradigm (being a father, friend, paying the mortgage) was daunting. It left precious little time to ponder the bigger artistic questions that are necessary to create maturity in an artist’s work. Now I have time, and few excuses.
What’s your favorite type of photography? What’s your favorite thing to photograph?
I have always loved photographing faces; it’s not quite right to just refer to my images as “portraits” because I want to discover everything behind the face, especially a sense of intimacy. But because of my chosen life constraints, I decided to base my career in Salt Lake City, and it was virtually impossible to build a viable/financially successful business around one type of work. As such, I adore still lives almost as much as people.
Much of your work involves education, healthcare, and humanitarian subjects. What drew you to these subject matters?
As I began to understand my affinity for “intimacy” as a core component of my work, it dove-tailed perfectly into those three areas. In 2015, I was invited to document the work of an NGO which did medical work in equatorial agrarian countries suffering from a high incidence of cataracts. I fell deeply in love with that organization and the people of those countries. Guatemala, Micronesia, the Navajo reservation, and five trips to Tanzania confirmed that love. Can’t wait to get back into the field. Educational institutions (mostly involving children) and healthcare organizations are rich visual subject areas, and I am indebted to the clients who give me opportunities to work for them. Thank you.
To learn more about Schoenfeld’s life and work, purchase Graphis Journal 370 at graphis.com.