As a self-taught artist, it is quite fitting that Patrick Schmidt should take his influence and inspiration from other unconventional, independent artists. The Sheaf sat down with Schmidt for our recurring series of interviews on artistic influence.
Thanks to his commitment to the photo-sharing network flickr.com, Schmidt discovered Xiao Shan, a photographer from Japan with a knack for using traditional methods to capture modern subjects.
The Sheaf: How did you come across the photography of Xiao Shan?
Patrick Schmidt: I found it in one of Flickr’s many online photo pools. There is a pool for any possible photography technique you can imagine. It’s a place for photographers to communicate and share ideas.
Sheaf: Who is Xiao Shan?
PS: That is a really tough question. He is a photographer from Japan but he could be anybody. By that, I mean you don’t need mainstream media exposure to influence others. With technology and Flickr in particular, typical media exposure isn’t always necessary to show your work or to be noticed. Xiao Shan has only 78 contacts on Flickr, which is hardly any, so it just goes to show; it’s like having 78 friends on MySpace.
Sheaf: But his work is still influential?
PS: Yes. It has influenced me.
Sheaf: In what ways has it influenced your work?
PS: I’m quite interested in low-tech photography, utilizing older or less used techniques and film. Shan’s photography is pinhole photography, so that is pretty much as low-tech as you can go. The fact that he uses 35mm film for large format pinhole photographs speaks to the hybridization of old and new technologies.
Sheaf: Do you use similar techniques?
PS: I do. I don’t do pin-hole photography yet, but I use 35mm film in medium format cameras, resulting in similar effects in appearance.
Sheaf: When did you come across his work?
PS: About a year ago in one of the Flickr pools.
Sheaf: Have you found a lot of interesting photographers that way?
PS: I would say that the majority of my influences come from the world of Flickr. People shouldn’t associate online photo groups like Flickr as being lesser, or lesser in quality than established magazines. I’m self-taught; I have never had the typical exposure to formal training.
Sheaf: What kind of photographs are you currently taking?
PS: In general, my photographs are dominated by city scenes removed from their environment. By that, I mean I zero-in on a particular pattern or scene and do not provide much context as to its existence, then combine the subject with my techniques, which could be described as faux vintage.
I try to invoke nostalgia in my work. Nostalgia is an interesting concept. A lot of people value the vintage over the current. I am trying to figure out why people like that. I’m trying to figure out why people like something old over something new. By exploring that in photography, you gain that kind of warmth.
I had my beginnings in the country taking pastoral-type photographs of abandoned artifacts of civilization. I had the same kind of attraction to the subject matter, because the old is somehow more meaningful than the new.
Sheaf: Does Shan’s work also have this quality?
PS: No; it is a little different. Whereas I use mostly colour, he uses mostly black and white. And though he also primarily shoots city and industrial scenes, his work has more of a modern feel. Because his subjects are generally current architecture and those sorts of things, I find his work to be a real marriage of the old and the new.
Sheaf: Where has your work been shown and where can people see it now?
PS: It is in the current issue of Blackflash Magazine, the spring/summer issue. I have had past exhibitions in Prince Albert and Saskatoon.
photo Patrick Schmidt