Think + Do » an exploration of mission-driven marketing and design
Since I assemble project teams depending on a client’s unique needs, I have the good fortune of working with a wide variety of talented people. This is the second in a series of interviews with collaborators I have enjoyed working with over the years.
Scott Streble is a Minneapolis-based location photographer who is best known for his documentary photographs of people. He portrays his subjects with beautiful realism, honesty, and utmost dignity. Regardless of budget, Scott believes that all nonprofit groups deserve good photography that accurately portrays their mission
Scott travels light, adapts to any location, and quickly gets his subjects to feel at ease. Those are among the reasons why he always delivers more great photos than I can ever use.
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What are your earliest memories of being interested in photography?
In sixth grade, the librarian of my middle school had an extra-curricular class in photography. Seeing the print “appear” in the developer in the darkroom was magical. I learned the darkroom side before the photography.
In high school, I became the yearbook photographer and took the school’s camera everywhere. I shot at least one roll of film per day, which I am sure far exceeded the yearbook’s budget, but the advisor saw my enthusiasm and let me go. I think he may even have paid for some of the film himself.
While in high school, I worked at a portrait studio in their darkroom making black-and-white prints. I also worked in the public library in the department that housed all the photo books, a constant source of inspiration. My co-workers at both jobs were very encouraging and supportive.
Do you remember your first camera? What was it that interested you about shooting photos?
It was a Canon TX, an all manual base-level camera. I carried it everywhere. I bought it used, and added a telephoto lens about a year later. Being a photographer put you in the front row of life, which was exciting.
Was the idea of being a photographer (as a career) something you imagined early on? Or did you consider it more of a hobby or a pipe dream?
I knew in high school I wanted to be a photographer, although I was concerned about the viability of it as a career choice. My parents encouraged me to do what I wanted, which was a big help. I kept at it and didn’t waiver.
How did you get started? What was your first paid photo shoot?
I studied photography at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. I was there two years, got an associate’s degree, ran out of money, and wanted to work.
I got a job as an assistant at a large commercial photography studio in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was a great first job as I was exposed to all sorts of photography (fashion, still life, corporate, food, architecture) as well as many different photographers and their individual styles.
My first paid photo shoot was for a local tattoo salon. It was a shot of a girl, covered in tattoos, of course. They put the image on their business card.
When did you begin working independently?
About two years later, I moved to Los Angeles as I wanted to live in a large city in a warm climate. I thought I wanted to be a fashion photographer (haha) and began assisting fashion shooters. I quickly learned that I didn’t want to do that. Being in LA, I also did a lot of work with photographers who were shooting album covers and movie posters. I learned a lot and it was really fun.
At the same time, I was shooting weddings, which I really loved. I shot them in a documentary style, using mostly black and white, which was a new thing back then. I got very busy, shooting about 60 weddings/year. Shooting weddings required a sense of calm and the ability to work quickly within a wide range of lighting situations. You also had to work with a wide range of personalities and family dynamics, which can be extreme on a wedding day. I use all of these skills with my current work.
The focus of your work today is shooting for nonprofits and good causes. Why is that important to you?
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When I realized that photography could be used to help people, I felt like I found my purpose. By showing both the need for help, and the benefit of the services that my clients provide, I can shine a light on the situation. People need to see. I feel fortunate to have a career and a skill set where I can do this work. It’s an honor to have clients who trust me to show the good work that they are doing.
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You are always working on one or more personal projects. How does that work shape what you do professionally? What are you working on now?
The personal projects are a nice departure from my assignment work. I still meet interesting people doing interesting things. I can stretch out my technique and try new stuff, then use these things with my assignment work.
I am working with family farms and taking portraits of drag queens. I’ve also covered the civil unrest and protests after George Floyd and Daunte Wright were killed by police.
During the earlier stages of the pandemic, I embarked on a series of portraits of families and individuals on their front porches, which culminated in a self-published book – Front Porch Portraits.