5 With: Craig VanDerSchaegen

January 28, 2015

These words from Craig VanDerSchaegen are so inspiring (and full of good resources) that I think we should all read them at least three times for good measure. I recently read this post from Austin Kleon about the trickiness of making a living doing what you love, which I find really accurate. It reminds me of what Craig does so well-- making a living from his creative skills, but still finding plenty of ways to make his art for himself and to stay continually open and curious. Thanks, Craig!


Describe your current creative work and how you came to make this work:
My current work is all over the map, which keeps me from getting bored and burnt out on any one thing. I have a photography studio where I do headshots; I travel for personal/documentary photography; I do web development/consulting and have recently started making music again. 

I was a drummer for most of my life and took up photography while I was a software engineer in my thirties. About 8 years ago my younger brother died of a brain tumor and that plunged me into a deep depression. I did a lot of work to dig my way out because I saw life taken in a blink and knew I had to make the most of mine. From then on I’ve worked for myself and try hard to only do things that energize me.

What's your biggest creative challenge?
My biggest challenge is focus. Having lots of creative outlets is sometimes hard because I feel like I never dive deep enough into any one thing. Because of that, I suffer a little from imposter syndrome, which keeps me from sharing a lot of my work. That’s something I’m working on.

How do you balance making money and time for passion projects?
I’m very fortunate to have a few steady web development clients, and I’ve worked part-time with Minnesota Fringe since I quit my day job. It’s been a wonderful part of my life that got me through the first several years of running a photography business, which were very lean. 

I’m also fortunate that I love headshot photography. It pays and makes me feel good. I love working one-on-one with clients who are as motivated as I am to end the session with a great photo. It’s a nice compliment to my personal photography and web work, which is very solitary.

When I make time to travel, I book shoots to offset the cost of the trip. This works best in Los Angeles, so I go there the most.

Give some advice-- what resources have been helpful to your work and growth?
I’m very into self-care. Three of the consistent things that work for me are exercise, meditation (using the Headspace app) and a mindful diet. That combo really helps with anxiety/stress and I think of it as an investment in my future. Also, going to the gym gives me an excuse to listen to rap music every day, which I’ve been doing since I was 10 and find really inspiring.

I’m also obsessed with podcasts. I subscribe to nearly 30 of them, mostly conversational shows with comedians and photographers. I find lots of value in hearing about how other creatives work and live. I’ll share a list of them in a blog post soon.

Yearly planning is also important. Each January, one of my best friends and I have a “Masterminds” day where we recap the previous year and set out intentions for the coming one. I was resistant the first time, but now look forward to it. It helps so much.

Books: Brené Brown (Daring Greatly) and David DuChemin (A Beautiful Anarchy & How to Feed a Starving Artist). And the first book that flipped a switch in me was The Four Agreements. It might not be for everyone, but it was exactly what I needed several years ago when I was stuck in an anxiety loop.

What’s inspiring you?
I’m working on vulnerability this year, both in sharing my work and in personal relationships. 

There are two big things I’m excited/scared about this year:

1. I’m going through all of my archives and trying to make sense of my personal work and who I am as a photographer, with the goal of creating a new website.

2. I’m starting a personal project working with cancer patients. It will be something long form in a documentary style to help share these patients' stories and inner lives. That’s something that I wished I could have done for my brother, but didn’t have the strength for at the time. I can’t talk about this without noting how much Jim Mortram’s Small Town Inertia project has inspired me to dig in and do meaningful work, even if it’s tough. 

Also, I’ve started taking photos of my dad in a more serious way and have been experimenting with in-camera double exposure. It’s challenging and fun.


[Find more of Craig on his website and tumblr, or on instagram and twitter. Find more 5 With interviews here.]

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