JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you want to be growing up?
ERIK SCHUBERT: When I was a kid I really wanted to be a professional athlete. I especially wanted to be a baseball player or racecar driver, ideally both. I suppose that was a pretty common career choice for a young lad back in the ‘80s so my other thought was to be a tribal leader. Besides looking at Sports Illustrated, I was also a fan of National Geographic. Those NG photos of tribes looked pretty great. Nice weather, no need to worry about fashion, or money and my thinking was that once your basic needs are meet, you live pretty stress free.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
ES: The “what” is black and white photography. I’ve always seen myself as a color photographer, but recently I’ve brought B+W back into my art practice. The “who” is a pretty long list that shifts every now and then, but a few from the list are Jitka Hanzlova (I particularly love her older work, but the new work is pretty great too), Jochen Lempert, Bertrand Fleuret and Tobjørn Rødland books. I’d say I thought about how Rødland communicates through images, among other things, while working on the project and book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Also, Luis Gispert videos, and the band Beirut, who I can’t stop listing to especially when I’m editing photos.
JC: What are you up to right now?
ES: I just released my first artist book, How to Win Friends and Influence People with Lavalette, so I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor so to speak. Besides this, I’m always photographing for the pure joy of it, so I’m working on several different projects at the moment. One of which is a follow up to my recent publication. And besides those photo based projects, I’m working on some textile pieces as well that relate to How to Win Friends and Influence People.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
ES: Oh yes, I’d say that all the teachers I had in undergrad at Columbia College Chicago and grad school at MassArt made an impression on me, were mentors to me at various levels, and I always learned something from them. In grad school, Frank Gohlke and David Hilliard were great mentors and pretty important to me during that time. Particularly when I was going down this new trajectory with my art practice and at times felt vulnerable about it.
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
ES: I’m based outside the Denver area. It’s been a great change from living in the city. It’s much closer in proximity to nature, which has been fruitful to my current work, but also much better for my psyche. I don’t feel or hear the constant noise of the art world, but if I’m in need of it, I can always drive up to Denver or hit up the Internet. So maybe a better summation would be that it allows me to feel more balanced.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
ES: Well, some general advice that couldn’t hurt any recent grads would be: Invest in your self by saving money. When applying to shows, grants, etc. employ the shotgun method. By this I mean, apply to as much stuff as possible, particularly if there are no entry fees. Really look for the no entry fee opportunities because some of these entry fees are just way too high. Invest in some nice, well-made, simple frames that you can reuse for group shows. And last but not least, have fun. I should really follow this advice to heart as well!
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
ES: Yes, I think it’s important to have a creative community, but also a community in general. I think we have different levels of community and some become more important than others during different times of our lives. During undergrad and grad school, participating primarily in a creative community was important to learn my practice and medium. Now it seems less important, even though I’m still part of communities. Now I’m learning new, maybe more complex, things from them, particularly about teaching. But this could change down the road.
JC: If all else fails, what is your plan B?
ES: There is no plan, I’m making it up as I go along—it’s social practice.