Artist of the Week: Mike Schatz

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Mike Schatz ‘19: the massively tall, incredibly talented, seemingly intimidating man traversing the campus of Muhlenberg every day. While his gigantic presence might seem daunting to some, especially the vertically-challenged, he is truly Muhlenberg’s own Big Friendly Giant. While the junior is an active theatre major, most recently seen in the Mainstage production of Sunday in the Park with George, he is also a talented bassist and vocal percussionist for the Muhlenberg Dynamics a capella group. However, in light of all his achievements, his skills in digital photography often go unnoticed.

Schatz is a studio art minor with a concentration in photography who grew up playing with cameras as a child. He recalled a particular interest in playing with angles and moving furniture around his house as a kid to capture the perfect shot with his shiny digital camera. While his mother took a casual interest in photography and making home videos, his real interest in photography first began when he was just five years old. Schatz remembered his brother getting a digital camera as a gift, and, being attracted to its metallic lustre, Schatz proceeded to steal the camera. Much to his family’s annoyance, he decided to place it on a shelf in the house after a week of keeping it captive and pretend like he found it there.

His interest in photography continued to evolve throughout his adolescence, specifically as he took a graphic design class in high school. However, in the rush of the college applications and the adjustment process, Schatz’s love of photography fell to the wayside as his passion for theatrical arts principally consumed his time and energy. During the second semester of his freshman year, he took a digital photography course with Professor Greta Bergstresser, where he learned the basics of photography, such as the rule of thirds and basic Photoshop editing skills. This rekindled his love for taking pictures. The next semester, he continued to develop his talent, enrolling in intermediate digital photography, which eventually lead him to choose studio art as a minor.

Depending on what he’s photographing, Schatz shows up thirty minutes to an hour prior to a shoot to set up his shots and make sure all of the equipment is in order and working. When asked about facing artistic blocks, Schatz said, “I don’t think there is a shortage of things to photograph- there is a shortage or deficit of ways to produce an image through the editing process.”

Schatz also discussed his anxieties over whether to edit an image or not, saying that he sometimes has a difficult time deciding when a picture should be considered finished. However, Schatz often drives, walks or bikes to familiar locations and attempts to look at the area from a new perspective, angle or outlook to take pictures to clear his mind. He said that when he returns to the image giving him difficulty, he often has come across new ideas that help him make the proper artistic decisions to make his work the best it can be.

When looking for subjects to capture with his camera, Schatz stated that he “looks for idiosyncratic things that would capture an audience – things that are high up or low to the ground are good to photograph because they’re out of the regular line of sight.” He also loves outdoor lighting that isn’t typical because nature contrasts so much differently and allows for more unique pictures. As for continuing this talent post-college, Schatz says that he loves photography, but hopes his passion for theatre will dictate his career path.

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