Jason Schmidt's Collaboration with Creatives Goes Wild for T Magazine
This weekend the entertainment world will direct their gaze to the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards, but even as the highest awards in entertainment are doled out creativity continues percolating throughout the industry. This month, T Magazine ran a story about the renewed interest of artistic companies and their effect on the current creative climate. Jason Schmidt was brought on to photograph three of the more impactful groups working today: Oskar Eustis’ troupe working out of the Public Theater in New York, Noah Baumbach and his collaborators, and the ever-evolving cast and creative crew behind Ryan Murphy’s shows that include American Horror Story and American Crime Story. Each of the three images is unique in its own way, but since Jason was working with creatives he left room for collaboration. “Each one had a pretty good plan going in and I would say the pictures are figured out at least 50% before we go in,” Jason explains. “That allows for enough things to happen on the shoot that we’re sort of covered, we know what we’re going to get but then we allow for certain things to happen.”
Jason is known for photographing groups and photographing visual artists, but it’s not as often that both of the worlds collide. And in this case, the artists he was directing were well-known performers (some of who are nominated for Oscars, and some who have won them in the past) and directors in their own right. That adds to the pressure. “I love the adrenaline on these shoots, particularly because a lot of these people are directors. So, to direct directors is kind of intimidating,” says Jason. “The pictures would look very different if they were shot for a different magazine. T Magazine, they wanted the pictures to feel a little bit off, or a little bit different.” Jason finds that the interest for off-kilter options ends up freeing him and his subjects to create something different.
Jason sees it as a goal to create images that are unique. He wants to make sure that his photographs are different from what we’re used to seeing. There are plenty of photographers who take gorgeous photos of groups of famous people. Jason wants to come at it from a different angle, and the way he does that is allowing moments to unfold in real time and not plan everything. When he was photographing Baumbach and company at the Mandarin Hotel, he noticed that one of his actors was itching to move and it changed the entire image. “Once we started to take the pictures, after a few minutes Adam Driver - he’s really pretty much like the kind of guy you would think he is - I was like, ‘Adam, you want to get up and move around?’ and he’s like “YES!” and he stood up started climbing on the table and put a chair on the table. In any of these group shots you have to go in with a pretty good plan but at the same time it’s important to allow for things to happen.”
Jason Schmidt Gets Extreme with Kaws for Architectural Digest
An artists’ studio is a hallowed space: they go there to commune and create, to communicate with the world and express the fruits of that communication, and those thoughts. They build and destroy in those spaces, but once the work is over they head home. The creation continues, it never stops, inside their minds that float inside their heads that lay on their own pillows, or rest against their couches, or bob through the kitchen while grabbing pasta to pour into the boiling water for dinner. The space is always creative, but one is relatively public – or is at least for the creation of the public act – while the other is private. Kaws is arguably one of the most famous and successful living artists, with new work and collaborations dropping all the time and being shared with the world, but his Brooklyn home is shared only with his wife and two children. Until now. Jason Schmidt was let into the home to photograph for the cover of Architectural Digest. And as photographers go, Jason was the perfect choice. “I thought I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid,” says Jason. “I’m super interested in architecture and design and then, I’m also obviously interested in and committed to artists. So, not surprisingly, I’ve been assigned to shoot artists homes because it’s a melding of my two main interests.”
Jason has photographed more than 600 artists over the course of his career so far: mostly photographing studio spaces, creative spaces. But every now and then he gets into a private home space, like he did with Kaws, and it’s a little bit of a different energy. Kaws’ fame and success has afforded him to amass an incredible private collection that spans decades of work from artists of a dizzying amount of disciplines, mediums, and movements. There’s a lot to see at Kaws’ house and sometimes it’s too much. “Some things I wanted to be overwhelming,” Jason explains. “Often if you have a complicated room that’s filled with stuff, it can resolve itself a little bit. Most rooms have something of a sweet spot in terms of the orientation of the room and maybe that’s sort of when you walk into a room – most well-designed rooms – so the room sort of lays out for you just before your eyes when you enter that space.” These spaces are complicated, and Jason shows us the artistry of those complications. But not all of them are, some are simpler and it’s the lack of balance that appeals to Jason.
“I like a room that’s really minimal and I also like a room that’s really maximal,” Jason explains. “And those two extremes, the way all extremes meet in a way, have a lot in common. It’s the stuff in between that I’m less interested in. Kaws’ house is sort of a combination of maximalist and minimalism.” Photographing the hundreds of creative spaces that Jason has, there’s little he hasn’t seen – and that’s kind of the point. As we all search for balance, as much as that balance is alluring for a lifestyle it’s less fun to watch. We want to see it all – or nothing. And Jason’s ready to photograph it for us.