The Society of Bluffton Artists

Pete Schramm – Meet the Artist

I was born and raised in a small row house on a busy city street in Philadelphia, PA. As a child with a bike, I was able to explore as many parts of the city as my legs would propel me to. To this day memories of those experiences have influenced my art, in that, I am often drawn to gritty urban settings for my images.

As a child, I began snapping photos with a Kodak Brownie camera gifted to me one Christmas. Back then, much to my family’s amusement, I often captured street scenes instead of typical family pictures. By the late 90s, I showcased my photos at an Asbury Park, NJ art gallery near our home, marking the onset of photography becoming a serious art form in my life.

Moving to the Lowcountry in 2001, I discovered creative inspiration along the pristine waters of Beaufort County. The untouched natural landscapes, including wading bird rookeries, small islands, and isolated salt marsh hammocks, serve as a reminder of a bygone era slowly succumbing to the encroaching sea. These islands, barely above water and surrounded by wetlands, embody ancient geological and natural history spanning hundreds of thousands of years.

Consequently, my artistic focus remains tethered to these waterscapes, whether it’s a beach, salt marsh, or moist pine forest. Additionally, I’ve forged a deep connection with the region’s history, reflected in the surviving Lowcountry homes and the heritage of the Gullah people who were once enslaved to toil in their masters’ fields. Living among their descendants, I’ve found a profound link to the past that also influences my work.

Fine art history significantly inspires my photography. As a Master Docent at the Telfair Museums, I’ve delved into various art movements, learning from paintings and drawings. Photography, a relatively new art form, draws immense inspiration from other mediums. You don’t need an art degree to appreciate and learn from it. I supplement my knowledge through museum visits, exhibitions, books, and online archives.

My favorite time to create is during the ‘golden hour’—the hour before sunset or after sunrise. This period offers optimal lighting for captivating photos, and as an early riser, I prefer sunrise.

Photography holds the ability to preserve moments and scenes in timeless images, capturing a record of the past that remains eternally unchanged. It’s a pursuit akin to civilized hunting, but non-destructive, leaving only footprints while allowing the subject to endure.
Crafting a compelling photograph involves an artist’s skill in framing elements within the composition. The success or failure of a photo often hinges on this aspect, requiring conscious decisions on what to include or exclude in the frame and how to arrange the elements present.

Staying motivated as a photographer is linked to passion. Finding purpose in exploration drives my work, allowing me to shift styles and subjects. This purpose shapes my vision and creativity, keeping my motivation and passion alive.

In the realm of photography, mastering technical skills and processes is crucial. I’ve encountered setbacks with different vendors’ offerings in the past. Currently, I rely on a Canon camera connected to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Printing is integral, and I use a Canon printer for smaller images and various commercial vendors for larger prints, often on canvas or metal.

To succeed as a self-artist and enhance your craft, consistent practice is essential. Nobody is born with innate expertise; even renowned artists like Garry Winogrand started with no skills. Winogrand took around 5,850,000 photos in his life—roughly 445 daily in the film era.

Photographers face creative blocks too. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve captured everything or lack the motivation to shoot. To overcome this, I resort to certain methods:

  • Set a photo project: Creating themes like monochromatic shots or using a single lens (e.g., 50mm) pushes me to explore and experiment.
  • Explore diverse perspectives: Similar to how Monet painted the Rouen Cathedral multiple times, shooting a subject in various ways – different times, lighting, angles – offers a therapeutic and rewarding challenge.
  • Exercise patience: Creative blocks aren’t catastrophic. They’re just hurdles on the path to evolving as a photographer. They prompt me to explore new techniques through learning, practice, and continual production, turning obstacles into opportunities on my creative journey.

While I might be the only photographer without a public website, I do maintain a private site to share my photos with invited guests. I also exhibit at various places like the Art League of Hilton Head Island, the Telfair Museums shop, and several national galleries.

The best part about being an artist is the satisfaction of creating something extraordinary. The joy comes from the moment when a piece is finished, capturing a unique vision. Unlike others, I get to immerse myself in beauty constantly, enabling me to share my art with the world. Ultimately, I aim to make a difference by sharing my perspective, sparking change, and offering new ways for people to perceive and feel about a subject. Being an artist isn’t about the camera gear, technical knowledge, or how long one has been shooting. It’s entirely about the mindset during creation and what comes from it. It’s about perceiving the world differently, breaking free from routines, and transcending the usual ‘to-do list’ mentality.