An Interview with Deb Schwedhelm

Deb Schwedhelm was originally trained as 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 finally able to pursue the medium as a full time career.

1. Why photography?

I think photography has always been a part of me – kind of like a flickering spark that was just waiting to burn. I also had a 10-year career in nursing, which I didn’t love and it helped me quickly recognize how much I loved and was passionate about photography. Once I got started, it was full-on, learning as much as I possibly could. That was 10 years ago; this month is my 10-year photography anniversary. I really am so grateful to have a ‘job’ doing something I so love.

2. Where do you do your work? 

We are a military family currently stationed in Yokosuka, Japan (about an hour from Tokyo). We live in a town called Zushi and our house is tiny. We’ve made our tatami room a kind of catch-all room, which includes my desk and computer, along with storage and home school items. So this is where I mostly work and how it basically  looks every day, as I didn’t clean anything up for this photo. Keepin’ it real. I also sometimes work on my laptop on the couch.

3. What is your favorite image right now? (not yours)

So hard to pick one favorite image from another photographer, so I’m going to kind of cheat. This photo of my family is so special right now. First, we as photographers often don’t have our own families photographed enough. Second, I just love that this photograph is so ‘Japan’. It’s a photographer that we will forever treasure (copyright Oeil Photograph).

4. What is your favorite image right now? (yours)

This is a huge favorite of mine — a photograph that I’m pretty certain I could never re-create. It’s going to take a lot to trump this photograph.

5. What is the worst photo you’ve ever taken?

I’m not sure about the worst I’ve ever taken but I’ve taken plenty of bad photographs in the past 10 years that I’ve been a photographer. Haven’t we all? With that said, I believe that there’s something to be learned in taking bad photographs and even with our worst. 

6. Who is your favorite photographer?

Can I share three — Sally Mann, Jock Sturges and Mary Ellen Mark. They have been my long-time favorites and huge inspirations throughout my photography journey.

7. Who is your least favorite photographer?

My least favorite photographer is the one who is self-absorbed, ungrateful and unkind. 

8. What is your most regretted missed photo opportunity?

Years ago, I had attended a workshop in Venice Beach, taught by Mary Ellen Mark. Since then, I had longed to attend one of her week-long workshops in Mexico. It’s so heartbreaking that she passed away last year, but I’m grateful to have spent some time with her, that’s for sure (we did breakfasts and dinners together). Such a brilliant photographer and incredible woman, in general.

9. Please describe your work in 5 words.

Raw, authentic, emotive, rich, moody.

10. Please describe your work in 3 images.

11. What image do you feel represents yourself (either your own image or not)?

Deb Schwedhelm