Instructors enter the Digital Photo Academy from all walks of life and represent a fascinating cross-section of professional and personal experiences. But it’s safe to say that one of the more arresting resumes belongs to Tony Schreck. An editorial and advertising photographer based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Tony used his visual acuity and knowledge of lighting to work as an investigator and alarm-system specialist for a leading department store chain before launching his full-time photographic career.
Tony began his detective work to help put himself through Bethel College as a Theater Arts major. ‘The store gave us photo-books of people arrested for shoplifting,’ he says, ‘and I’ve always had a pretty good memory for faces. I’d walk around the floor and think: ‘Oh, there goes so and so.’ While not studying mug-shots, Tony was earning additional income by taking head-shots of fellow drama students who needed portraits for their professional portfolios.
Although it was the urge to act and direct that drew Tony into the drama department, he also loved the technical aspects of theater– scene painting, set-building and lighting design. After graduation, those skills got him hired to develop alarm systems for all Marshall Fields department stores. ‘To me, it was like set design or lighting design,’ he says. ‘It was basically a lighting setup where you also work with cameras, motion detectors and sensors.’
The best part of the job was that it let him set his own schedule and gradually build his photography career. “I had to visit each store at least twice a year, but beyond that I could come and go as I wanted,’ he says. ‘I’d get assignments from newspapers and local magazines, shoot on my lunch hour, print and process film in the evenings, then deliver photos the next morning to art directors at publications like The Twin Cities Reader and Skyway News.’
After five years with the department store chain, Tony had built his photography business to the point where he could leave his ‘real job’ and focus on his passion. Since going pro in 1994, he has worked for clients including: Twin Cities Business Monthly (voted by Folio Magazine as “Americas Best Regional Business Magazine”), Barbara Koster Design, Best Buy, Con Agra, Edelman Public Relations, Land O’ Lakes, Lands End, Minnesota Technology Inc., Skyway Publications, University of Minnesota Alumni Magazine and USbancorp. Tony now lives in the Minneapolis area with his wife and two daughters. His favorite photographic subjects are people, landscapes, sports and adventure. An avid climber since the age of 12, Tony is a certified rock- and ice-climbing guide who has taught his own daughters to scale the heights.
Tony’s interest in photography started way back in the fifth grade when he took his first photo class. By high school, he was shooting photos of the track team, when not racing himself. His parents always encouraged his creativity and bought him his first camera in high school.
‘Music and art were pretty important in our household,’ he says. ‘My mother was always able to draw very well. My dad did a lot of drawing and painting. My father, brother and I all play guitar. My brother was the most artistic in terms of drawing. He owns a tattoo shop in La Crosse. He’s into the ‘skin’ visual arts versus the graphic visual arts.’
In high school, Tony was a versatile athlete who competed in football, basketball and track, and was good enough to be recruited by Bethel College. ‘When I was a senior,’ he says, ‘the coach at Bethel could never get hold of me because I was always doing something for student council, or choir, or was in a show, or had basketball or track. Finally, he got hold of me and said, ‘Every time I call you, you’re out doing this or that.’ I told him I was trying to be a true renaissance man.’
Asked how he can cram so many activities into his day, Tony credits athletic competition. ‘The stress factor of having to do things at last minute just doesn’t get to me,’ he says. ‘Sports have a lot to do with that. I’m able to figure out how to problem-solve very quickly. Stress doesn’t bump me off course.’
Teaching a ‘gifted and talented class’ in photography at his daughters’ school has given Tony plenty of ideas for stimulating students at the Digital Photo Academy. ‘A lot of what I did was just show the kids what was possible and then let them run wild and discover their own sense of what we were working on that day,’ he says. ‘And some of the stuff they came back with was just amazing. It might be the first day we’d talked about composition, or exposure but they’d come back with some really good shots. It’s always fun to see somebody’s face light up when they really get it.’
Call Digital Photo Academy at 1 877 372 2231. Lots of people seem to hang up if our welcome recording comes on instead of a live voice, but we promise to return your message within a day or two if you leave one with your name and number. It would be even better if you included your e mail address as well as the date and city of the class you are considering. If leaving a voice mail message is not your thing, please email us at DPAbooking@digitalphotoacademy.com or Richard@digitalphotoacademy.com.