"I first started taking pictures seriously when I was 20 years old and a lot of my friends were fledgling artists—it seemed far more interesting to shoot them than the typical things young photographers take pictures of, like family, girlfriends, whatever," says Jason Schmidt. The art photographer shoots artists in their personal spaces and is about to release Artists II, a follow-up to his 2007 book of the same name. His portraits eschew the typical close-up format and instead situate the artists in their natural environments, often with their own work.
"You can understand something about an artist from their face, but not as much as seeing all the clutter and materials and half-made artworks you find in a studio," Schmidt says. "I like to take the photos with the artists as much as of the artists, meaning figuring out the best way to depict the studio and the practice of each person in a singular image."
The new book includes shots of Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Miranda July, Cai Guo-Qiang, and Olafur Eliasson, to name a few, but, even after two books, Schmidt still has some artists on his list to cross off. "Anselm Kiefer, David Hammons, Robert Gober," he says, unequivocally. "Three artists who rarely—never, really—sit for photographs. Plus I am a great fan of each of them."
The only solution, of course, is another book, and Artists III is very much in progress. "I had no idea I would still be doing this some 20 years after I started, but I still very much enjoy it, specifically going to an artist's studio, seeing what that's like, talking to them for a few minutes or a few hours," Schmidt says. The project, he admits, "is, in certain ways, an excuse to meet the artists. The photos are just a document of that studio visit."
Here Schmidt takes us behind the scenes of five of his favorite photographs from the new book.