Interview with Debra Schoenberger, author/photographer of India

Please share a bit about your journey from childhood to embracing a career as a professional photographer. What led you from a dad who always had a camera ready to becoming a professional?

Growing up in northern Canada with no access to outside books apart from the small school library, I would pore over the National Geographic magazines that we would receive every month via subscription. My dad renewed that subscription for years. It was quite an education.

I observed that every photo my father took, preserved a bit of history. As a history lover myself, I thought this was the most practical way to continue doing just that. We both have a pretty crazy sense of humour, so there have been some “unusual” shots over the years.

I was dealing with PTSD for several years and one of the therapies I experimented with was photography. I had been working for a photography business for many years but was rarely behind a camera. This all changed when I bought a second-hand professional camera and started walking for hours on end just shooting things that would catch my eye. Although familiar with the technical aspects of photography, I studied photojournalism almost every day and practiced improving my composition and lighting techniques. A series of very strict mentors also motivated me to improve my craft.

You have a focus on nature and lifestyle that highlights how people move through their day and the world we move through. Has this always been the focus of your passion? What is it about this direction that speaks to you?

I did a lot of formal portraiture, weddings and family sessions for several years. It was work, but I didn’t want to be labelled as a “photographer who had to work”.

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“I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living.” - Robert Henri

Any artist goes through phases of experimentation until they ultimately do what they enjoy most. Capturing the unexpected is what fuels my imagination. I love to explore new cultures and places and this has become a large part of my photography.

While your photography is quite diverse - even weddings - your books seem to grow from a love of travel. India, Montreal and To Be a Child (images of kids from 10 countries) - and you offer long bucket list on your website (Russia, Iceland, Peru, Galapagos, Tanzania, South Africa, Antarctica, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Brazil, Czech Republic, Costa Rica). What is it about travel that inspires you to now only take images, but share them in books?

I guess you could say that I’m curious about the world around me.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Photographers always takes hundreds, if not thousands of pictures, now that they work with digital cameras. Of all the images you took on your trip to India, how did you choose which ones to feature in your book? Was there a theme or time frame to their choice and order in the book?
As a rule, I don’t just shoot everything I see. I wait for something intriguing to catch my attention. I used a film camera (SLR) for over 25 years so composition and timing became second nature to me. I do take images that I like to keep in my photo bank but they aren’t necessarily for general publication.

The images in INDIA are laid out side-by-side for a reason. There is a strong connection between the two, they weren’t put there randomly. It takes time to study and uncover that connection, like a link in a storyline.

While I know your artistic focus is images, I really loved the well chosen quotes at the front of the book. They added a deeper dimension. Would you ever consider including more throughout the pages - echoes of thought to add to your powerful images?

Yes, I probably would. There are so many beautiful quotes that I could have used. This would be a bit time-consuming as there are about 200 images in the book.

Other Books by the author: Left - Montreal, Right - To Be A Child

What would you like those that buy your book to know about you as a photographer and the photographic books you offer?

That I’m just a regular person with a quirky sense of humour and a camera. I want others to feel the emotional tug my images evoked in me.

What can we expect next? Do you already have a new book in the works or another trip in the planning stages?
I will be going to Iceland in the fall with National Geographic Journeys and then on to Europe to study art for a couple of weeks. With respect to a new book, I have a few ideas rolling around in my head. I’ll keep you posted!

​Connect with the author: Website ~ Facebook ​~ Instagram ~ Pinterest