Bossy Babe: Meet Yuli Scheidt

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When I created the Bossy List I wanted it to be a directory for folks looking to support feminist/queer women-identified, gender queer, and trans folks. But I also wanted to get to know more about this boss babes and hear their stories. Each month I’ll be sharing a Q&A that I had with one of the bossy babes on the list. This month I got to hear from photographer Yuli Scheidt, who helped make my photo shoot dreams come alive in my blog post “The Importance of Home.” So inspired by all of the thoughtful things she said in this interview. Hope you enjoy! 

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Floral Manifesto: Tell me a bit about how you got into photography. On your Bossy List profile it says that you began shooting almost daily at the age of 8. What inspired you to pick up a camera?

Yuli Scheidt: My grandafther was an amaeture landscape photographer. When I was in the third grade a classmate’s dad, who was also an ameture photographer — he was more into portraits than landscapes — set up a darkroom in our school’s basement and started teach whoever wanted to learn how to process film, develop photos, and build pinhole cameras.

FM: So at what point did you decide that you wanted to turn your passion for photography into a career? How did you go about making that a reality? And what were some challenges that you faced along the way?

YS: I’d always been an art kid, took art class more seriously than any other subject. And I found that I got a lot of positive reinforcement from teachers and peers. I can’t now remember why in high school I choose not to take art. What I took instead were some law classes and while I had an affinity for the law, I started slipping out of class and hung out in the art room a lot. Eventually I won over the art teachers enough that they let me into the abandoned darkroom and I overhauled it, made it my own clubhouse. When I graduated they asked me to come back and teach a weekly elective, which I called Film & Darkroom Appreciation Studies. I made lesson plans and created quizzes, led fieldtrips. Some of my “students” were older than I was.

I really wanted to pursue art and photography after graduation. The plan was to take a year off and build a portfolio to apply to Alberta College of Artist and Design. In that year off I worked at a museum in a small town of about 200 people so deep in the Rockies that radio signals barely penetrated the valley. After my time there I decided that there was nothing for me in Alberta and I wanted out.

I moved to Ottawa to take photography at the technical college there, but halfway through my two-year program they — without notice — ripped out the wet darkroom and put in an iMac lab. I wasn’t ready to give up on film and I wasn’t getting the best grades so I dropped out and didn’t pick up a camera for a few years. But before I dropped out I met with my darkroom prof (who went on to open School of the Photographic Arts the following year) and he said some encouraging things that still stick with me to this day.

“I wasn’t ready to give up on film…”

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FM: When and why did you decide to start Kindred Studio? Can you talk more about the role of collaboration in the work that you do?

YS: I think I’ve known for a long time that the traditional boss-employee model wasn’t working for me. But I’d also tried to strike out and freelance when I first moved to Toronto and soon had to go back to a day job, even a cafe job. Two years ago my close friend, Janine, who has been freelancing since she got out of school, told me about an idea she had for a studio she wanted to start. I tend to jump head first into things, but we sat on the idea and domain for a year, until a point in my career as a product designer I’d hit a wall and wasn’t happy.

Collaboration his hugely important to me. Especially when it comes to design. I don’t place myself as a particularly strong designer when working on my own. But given the chance to springboard ideas off someone, I’m much stronger.

The structure of Kindred is such that there’s no bosses really since we are a collective partnership. Think of it like a law firm with partners. We each bring in our own clients and we can bring on other people to work on a project. Doing this means we as a studio or as an individual never have to work on a project we’re not passionate about. We’re currently three people and we are in continuous contact. We’re family, we have Studio Sunday Suppers weekly to check in with each other, make good food for each other, have a few drinks and play some cards.

FM: On your website, say that you “specialize in working with folks who might be anxious in front of the lens — I am one of those people!” Can you elaborate on this statement? What sorts of things make people feel anxious and how do you work to make them feel more comfortable? And how have you – if at all – become more comfortable in front of the camera?

YS: It’s astonishing sometimes how much a person’s face can change once you bring the camera up to your face. It’s sometimes unconscious and involuntary. I feel like I do therapy in sessions sometimes. I’ve gotten much better at talking to people and making them feel at ease. In doing this the last few years I’ve met all sorts of folks and realized that I’m actually good at talking to people and bringing a necessary amount of chill. I’ve most definitely become more comfortable behind the camera, I don’t know about in front.  

“I feel like I do therapy in sessions sometimes… I’m actually good at talking to people and bringing a necessary amount of chill.”

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FM: Why do you feel like photography is your most natural form of communication?

YS: Art to me is about showing people things. When I paint or draw it takes a lot out of me emotionally to get what I picture in my mind onto the page. With photography I just have to look at the world and what I want to convey is right in front of me, I just need to capture it. It’s instantaneous.

FM: What projects are you currently working on? Would love to hear more about your Fat Babe project! 

YS: With Kindred we’re moving away from doing predominantly digital projects. We design and build a lot of websites at the moment but want to start doing more tangible things, like print. We have a book project we’re working on as a studio and I’m hoping to turn Fat Babe into a book as well. I would love nothing more than to see a beautifully and thoughtfully designed book full of images of bigger bodies that expressed and explores the Female Gaze and kinship. Very soon I’ll be mounting images from Fat Babe into two gallery shows. I can’t wait to take those images offline and have them almost life sized on a gallery wall!

“I’m vocal and a killjoy in every room I find it safe to be in.”

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FM: These two questions might be related: what role does feminism play in your photography practice? What made you decide to focus on “women, non-binary and trans flox, and bigger bodies”?

YS: I wouldn’t be able to live if my work was divergent from who I am as a person. I’m vocal and a killjoy in every room I find it safe to be in. I’m thankful that the people I work with know this about me, and that people might be drawn to work with me because of it. I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t do what I could to focus on the communities I find myself in and those that intersect with them.

FM: Have you encountered any conflicts between the work that you do and your feminist politics? Have you been able to overcome those challenges and if so, how?

YS: Going freelance full time and having studiomates who hold the same things dear has meant that I don’t have to work in a situation that would conflict. I can turn down work and be supported in that choice.

FM: Because this is also a fashion blog, are there any outfits that make you feel in your bossy power?

YS: I strive for a look I call “Cowgirl Witch.” Black denim, boots, some leather and Southwestern patterns and jewellry. In the summer I like to go in a 70’s Swedish summer camp direction.

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FM: What does being a boss/bossy mean to you? How do you define being a boss?

YS: Getting shit done. Being as whip smart and resourceful as you can be and bringing as many people as you can along with you.

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This post was written by Margeaux

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