Krystle Schofield Photographer

Q&A: Documentary Photography and Motherhood with Krystle Schofield (Victoria, B.C.)

Whether she’s photographing a family in their home or a yoga group in their studio, Victoria based Krystle Schofield connects with her clients and their space in a unique way. With her documentary-style approach to photography, Krystle captures those candid, authentic moments of connection.

“I really want to get to know the people I’m going to be photographing. I want to be able to see through their lens.”

We talked to Krystle about her background in design, her journey through motherhood, and the importance of being seen.

Tell me about how you started in photography.

KS: Basically, since entering the high school darkroom at age thirteen I’ve had a camera in my hand.  The darkroom was sort of my first love, you know, taking a picture and watching as it appeared in the emulsion. I’d spend hours in there.

After that, I kind of grew into exploring different subjects. I did a lot of street photography when I was out and about. I ended up travelling to Australia and Asia, and while studying design, I spent time in Poland and Europe. It was an amazing experience, and while traveling I began to really pay attention to how people live in different cities around the world.

During my travels, I saw that there are all these different lives happening at the same time, but so differently, and, I started documenting the details, like, what waste receptacles looked like in a city. And then, I would start wondering, “why are they designed that way?” or “what’s the parking system and how do people actually get around?” I really wanted to understand the planning and functionality of a city, how design actually shifts culture and influences how we interact.

I ended up taking a job with this corporate company and living a life where I was travelling a lot, for a while my focus wasn’t really on photography, and when I had a child suddenly my life was very different

Photo: Krystle Schofield Photography

What was the path that led you to documentary photography?

KS: You know, there’s this story that resonates with a lot of family photographers—when they have children, their life sort of shifts. Children make you pick the camera back up. But for me was a little different. It wasn’t so much my children shifting me into photography, it was more the experience I was having at home, being a mom. Our house looked different, what I did during the day and what I could wear was different, even my friends were different. It was a whole new learning curve.

Then in about 2014, I had an aha! moment. I was running into the kitchen because one pot was boiling over and another pot was almost burning, I only had one slipper on – no idea where the other one was – and the house was in complete chaos. And in that moment, I thought, like, no one’s taking pictures of this!

So I called up a friend who had two kids and asked, “Hey, can I come over and just hang out and take pictures? I want to see what comes of this.” We captured all these little moments, real images of un-curated moments in time. It was amazing, and I’ve learned to appreciate and nurture that style.

And after a decade in the design industry, I finally picked the camera back up and decided to take it seriously. I made it my full-time business and started my journey into documentary family photography.

How did motherhood impact your photography?

KS: That’s a big question.

I have two daughters, and the first was easy breezy in a lot of ways. I bought my first professional camera body after she was born and played around a lot, documenting sort of this more traditional maternity experience. I’d dress her up, we’d hang out at home, and I’d take photos.

My second daughter was very different.

She was born with a rare disease, and we spent her first three months in the hospital. She had four surgeries in the first two years of her life, there were a lot of big decisions to make. And so I documented, I documented each day of that experience because I couldn’t bring her home with me.

But what I could bring home was pictures.

At home, I had a huge white canvas a friend had given us, and I started to tape one or two pictures to it after each hospital visit, so I could see the journey we were going through, day by day. With everything being so minute-by-minute at the hospital, the canvas allowed me to reflect on where we had been and where we were going. I think that’s when I started to appreciate documentary photography as a means for healing and processing experiences.

Through the experience, I learned that when you have a medical kiddo you get used to a new normal. A lot of people feel sad that you’re having this experience, but it’s really about resilience and connection. I got to know a whole community of caregivers that I wouldn’t have met without this experience, and it also connected me with a group of photographers who are also working within this storytelling realm for the medical community.

My daughter’s doing really well, and now part of my work is to help other families in the rare disease community with their healing process by allowing them to be seen.

I wouldn’t change anything.

Photo: Krystle Schofield Photography

How has your background in interior design affected your work?

KS: You know, if you look back at photographs from when you were a child, you’ll see that the crib you slept in and the high chair you sat in look very different from how cribs and highchairs look today; all these objects are really telling a story of time.

I believe that we curate a life for ourselves. We choose a space to live in and we fill it, new parents being especially detailed about what they’re bringing into their homes and why.

When I’m photographing people in their homes I get to observe the space they’ve created. So I think that my design background has really helped me to see beyond the people and their connections into their space, and the story it has to tell.

Photo: Krystle Schofield Photography

On that note, tell me more about your documentary photo sessions.

KS: I want everyone to be as comfortable as possible. When we connect initially, we’ll have a conversation, chatting about what’s going on in their life, their daily routines and what their journey through parenthood has been like. I really want to get to know the people I’m going to be photographing. I want to be able to see through their lens.

Once we’ve gotten to know each other, we set a time and date for the session. Typically, we meet in their homes, but because of COVID, I’ve had to shift to more outside locations. Once we’re together, I like to hang out and chat for a few minutes and get to know the whole family before I put the camera in their face.

I like to plan my sessions a bit longer than average because it takes a few minutes for people to warm up to me and let their guard down. It also takes a little time for the kids to stop working for the camera. They want to give you blank stares or silly faces or those perfect smiles – kids will be kids, you know, and those aren’t the pictures I’m looking for.

I want to capture their personalities and character, those moments of connection between the family. What’s most important is that when I give my clients a gallery, they can see a connection—they’re able to see themselves as parents and as a couple, the personalities and energy of their kids in whatever stage of life they’re in.  

I want them to be able to look back and say, “Oh yeah, that was us.”

Photo: Krystle Schofield Photography

Your commercial shoots have such an authentic look to them, tell me about your approach.

KS: My goal with my commercial shoots is to observe with my camera the connection that a business has made with the community, I want to show real human emotion. I approach the session with goals and intent, but it’s still about documenting what’s happening and what the experiences are for the people coming to that organization. Like, I was shooting a yoga studio and one of the things that stuck out for me about them was the community they had created – the strength of the relationships and the support system they had built - being able to capture that was really powerful.

Tell me about your favourite part of a shoot, what do you like? What do you love?

KS: One of my favourite parts of a shoot is just sitting down and listening.

I love hearing people’s stories. Doesn’t matter if it’s a family or a business-everyone has a story, and its not often that people create space for you to tell yours.

I also really love delivering the images. I sit together with my clients over Zoom and we go through the pictures for the first time together. Because my sessions are in their everyday structure they often think that we really didn’t do much, but then they see so many interactions and little bubbles of personality that come out in so many different ways!

I think being seen and being acknowledged is really important, you know? In a family your children see you, your partner sees you, you see each other, my job is to let you see yourself.

And I love doing that.

Photo: Krystle Schofield Photography

What would you say to photographers looking to capture more authentic moments?

KS: Shoot through the moment. Don’t put your camera down once the smiles have stopped, the best pictures always happen after those posed moments. Keep shooting and you’ll capture some of the most authentic moments and connections you’ll see.

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