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Getting To Know Photographer Karl Schoemaker

 Getting To Know Photographer Karl Schoemaker

Who is Karl Schoemaker and what do you do?

I was born in Dublin, Ireland and lived in Hong Kong as a child before moving to South Africa, and although the rest of my family eventually moved all over the world; I stayed! Funny thing is that they are slowly moving back! I read a degree in Fine Arts at Rhodes, majoring in photography, under the tutelage of the great bard, and photographer; Obie Oberholzer.

After varsity I did my National Service (as we had to way back when) in the Air Force at Waterkloof airbase in Pretoria, where I was part of the photographic unit. I learnt a wealth about aerial photography, which was not covered at varsity.

I then worked in a photographic studio where I was hired to be the assistant for a few years before I set up and ran a mini advertising agency within an IT company.

However, I missed doing photography, dammit, and so applied for, and got, the job of in-house photographer at Gold Fields of South Africa. I quickly learnt all about underground mining. But then I discovered the Internet and it sucked me in, threw me around a bit, drugged me, brainwashed me and spat me out a glazed-eyed convert. I was then head-hunted by Anglo American to join their Corporate Communications Department.     Not long afterwards I moved across to AngloGold Ashanti where I worked for for over 10 years, ending up heading their Knowledge Systems / Management portfolio for the globe.

At the end of 2008 I moved away from Johannesburg to PE in search of a better quality of life, and to return to my passion of photography. I now run a commercial studio in Port Elizabeth, specialising in commercial and industrial photography, while still travelling globally on assignments in the mining industry. It is on these assignments, mostly, that I get to shoot my personal stuff.


How would you define your style or art?

I have always liked to work fast and on my feet. In other words ‘shoot from the hip’; don’t think, just do

What inspires your work?

Other artists inspire me, especially interacting with them. Since moving to PE I have made friends with extraordinary people; street artists, tattoo artists, rap artists, B Boyz, DJ’s, restauranteurs, traditional artists, musicians, and more.  Their work has added a new grittiness to mine, in the way I light, edit and see…..hmmmm….I guess then, that means people inspire me, those I meet, see, talk to and befriend.

What are you currently working on?

On my mining assignments, I have been collecting quick portraits of miners all over the world (four continents worth), but taking the time to get their names (and permission of course), and sometimes a little story/anecdote where possible. I am now wading my way through almost six years of these images to put together a show, and a book on these hard working people.

What advice would you give young creatives looking to do what you do?

On a personal side; play with your camera, experiment a lot; sometimes the best image you get is when you stop thinking to hard about getting it. As you get more experienced, you don’t have to think too much, it becomes second nature.

On the professional side……listen to your client, understand the brief (understand before being understood), and ‘get’ what and why the image is important for the campaign. However, never forget they came to you because they believe you can deliver, so don’t be shy to speak up and make suggestions and how you think it could be better. Be confident in yourself and your work.


Where can our readers follow your work?

You can find me on Facebook:

On BeHance:

And my website, although the two links above are more current (blush):



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