Photographer Profile: Yuli Scheidt - Toronto
Hi Yuli! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a freelance photographer, art director and designer living and working in Parkdale, Toronto.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I’ve been taking photos every day and building things since I was a kid. My family is an even mix of computer nerds and artist. I got both of those implanted pretty young. I designed my first logo (a real one for a bird sanctuary in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, that was used until as recently as 2013!) and picked a camera for the first time at 8 years old and haven’t really stopped since. Before quitting my day job to go freelance I was an industrial designer.
What led you to become a photographer?
My grandfather was an ametuer landscape photographer. I grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, so there was plenty to take pictures of. He gave me my first film camera and I still use it to this day. In the 3rd grade a classmate’s dad set up a darkroom in our school’s basement as an after school activity for us. That is where I learned to process and develop b&w film. I loved my grandpa very much but I always found landscape photography to be boring. Now my landscape photos from my travels are some of my best selling prints.
In your bio, we love that you wrote "I work hard to create a safe and fun environment for my subjects; body positivity, diversity, and sexuality are at the core of my photographic works." Why was this important for you to state up front and what inspires you about these different aspects of humans?
I have had the great fortune and privilege of curating my client list since going freelance. There has been a lot of overlap when it comes to personal projects and client work. When that happens I am able to push for representation in the photos and projects I work on. I can share and display photos of people who look like me, other fat folks. And I can work with folks who don’t look like me and are under represented in art and advertising.
How has your work evolved over time?- In addition to photography, you're also a designer and art director. Is there something that ties these three aspects of creation together for you?
Photography has given me a good eye for details and things like composition. I also just love making things, fix things, giving a second eye on projects. I often say that photography is like my mother tongue; I speak a lot of other languages but it is the easiest for me to communicate using photography. I’m also an archivalist at heart so being able to capture the feeling, tone, and mood of a given moment and memory is extraordinary to me. I often art direct my own shoots for budgetary reasons or just because I am so passionate about the project I want to do it myself.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
The biggest segment of my paid and personal work is portraiture. Nothing makes me more happy than seeing a subject come out of themselves in a session. I have been told that I smile behind the camera and that particular smile is infectious. I don’t even know I am doing it. Similarly, I find this from working with other photographers, we all have this small noise not unlike a grunt that we make when a subject just gives us a perfect pose. The pleasure from capturing that split second of time is so intense you need to gutturally knowledge it. The next best feeling in the world to me is when people share snapshots of my prints hanging in their spaces.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your work?
My number one frustration has always been valuing my work. I mean, the literal dollar amount that my time and skills are worth. Everyone struggles with setting their services and price lists, but I think it took me far too long to even begin to have an idea of what that should look like.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Community is really important to me and nothing I have ever experienced feels as good, pure and true as being in the company of women and non-binary folks working together. Entering those spaces is so life affirming and grounding. I have always worked in male dominated fields and have often been the only women in the room and even in the whole building. So it’s important to me to remind myself there are other women out there working in tech, design, and photography. I make sure I am active in women and non-binary centered groups. And since going freelance the majority of my clientele has been women and non-binary folks, which I am so thankful for.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Grace Bonney - Creator of Design*Sponge, one of what I call the old school, original bloggers. I’ve loved watching how the site has adapted and survived so long. At one point, D*S had a podcast called After the Jump hosted by Grace. Most of the episodes were recorded at the booth actually in Roberta’s Pizza in Brooklyn (which you should try) and were interviews with creatives and is absolutely worth going into the archive to listen to.
Julia Turshen - Julia hosted the first two seasons of Radio Cherry Bombe, the podcast component of Cherry Bombe, a biannual publication that celebrates women and food. She’s the author of Feed the Resistance all about literally nurturing activism. She is the founder of Equity At The Table (EATT), an inclusive digital directory of women and non-binary individuals in food. Julia just so happens to be married to Grace (what a power couple).
Jen Gotch - Jen is the founder and CCO of Ban.do, an online retailer with fun products that looks like the best place to work on the planet. I love Jen for how open and real she is about her mental health on Instagram. I watch her stories every day for a good laugh and cry and sometimes even a laugh-cry.
Helen Rosen - Helen is a food writer and editor, but she is maybe my favourite writer on any subject.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
The Lawtog - a lawyer answering questions about pricing, contracts, and copyright etc. This stuff can be tricky and nuanced.
Any photo/small business facebook groups - search your area with the key works, look to see if a big blog has a facebook group. These are places you can find resources right down to templates for promo material, and where you can ask questions.
How do you manage your time?
I use technology to manage my time which goes a long way in helping me manage my anxiety. I live by my calendar and to-do app, it is project management on a very small scale for a team of one. I don’t look at my phone until after I’ve gotten up, dressed and walked my dog at the park, and then maybe also sat in my favourite cafe for an hour to read a non-work related book. I highly recommend starting your day not having seen a single email, tweet or text. For years I haven’t had service on my phone and it only works on wifi, which means I am entirely discounted whether I like it or not. I’ve learned to not worry about other people pushing their urgency on me. Which is a privilege that comes from having spent years building a freelance practice.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
The photos I was taking as a kid and into my teens were often at night, when I would sneak out to ride my bike around downtown Calgary. I still do this as I’m moving well into my 30s. I find it very grounding, and will self-direct myself to get on my bike and go take photos if I find myself feeling uneasy.
Is there something that has really resonated with you recently?
I am just happy it is finally spring in Toronto to be honest. We had a rough winter and nothing has made me feel alive again like seeing the sun and trees blossom. Nature has been resonating with me recently.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I have been trying to learn German my whole life. Language really interests me but my dyslexia makes it hard to pick up some things. I just want to be able to find my way around Berlin one day. My partner is Japanese and we want to visit soon, so maybe I should also try to learn some of that before we go.
What are some of your favorite places in Toronto?
Artist in Toronto are swiftly being priced out of studio spaces. Since I’m primarily an ambient and natural light photographer it didn’t seem reasonable to keep a studio space, so I gave it up last year. I’ve been working from home which means I hardly leave my neighbourhood of Parkdale. All my favourite places are within walking or biking distance.
Capital Espresso is a place I go every day to have my morning coffee and read for an hour at the top of my day. I try to avoid being a laptoper there, because it does get busy. Last year I was able to hang some of my prints from my Fat Babe series there and I’ve been asked back to hang new works for the month of June.
Harry’s is a dive bar down the street from my house that I love to grab breakfast at. Either a greasy plate or slice of sourdough with avocado and pickled jalapeños. There burgers are stuff of legend and I like to grab a beer or whiskey sour (the freshest in the city) there after a long day of work.
I don’t like making Top Five lists because I’m so indecisive, but Electric Mud BBQ is my no. 1 favourite place to eat in the city. My order is always a Porch Crawler off the cocktail menu, the Buffalo cauliflower, and the fried chicken. It has never let me down.
After walking my dog at the park I like to run errands along Roncesvalles. Popping into the fruit stalls, bakeries, culinary stores, cheese shops and places like Likely General (very welcoming space selling local and handmade things), Imelda (the best stocked shoe store in the city). Some places I can bring my dog in with me, which brings me small joy.
A bike ride away there is Burdock on Bloor. A small brewery, music venue and restaurant which such an intimate vibe, and smart, thoughtful beer creations.