Chris Schneberger

Digital Photography

The Illinois Institute of Art — Schaumburg

Chris Schneberger

Real-world situations are constantly collaborative. Chris Schneberger , Faculty , The Illinois Institute of Art — Schaumburg
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

When I was in my second course of photography in undergraduate studies, I was very inspired by one of my professors who was a very creative artist, but also an inspiring teacher with a job at a university where every day was spent engaged in the act of learning and making artwork. That seemed to me to be a pretty great way to spend my life—sharing knowledge and being visually creative.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

My true profession has always been teaching. That said, I also have experience in more commercial aspects of photography and try to connect what the students are doing and learning to the real world they will enter and make a living in. I relate critiques to client meetings and speak about deadlines, expectations, and the real-world consequences of not meeting those. I teach them to find solutions rather than excuses.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

In my Color Management course, I task the students with making photographs of specific products which are both colorful and marketable, utilizing lighting and settings to convey the appeal of the product. This challenges both their artistic creativity, but also practical analytical skills needed for real-world commercial applications.

What role does collaboration play in students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

Real-world situations are constantly collaborative, and students need to understand the give and take of the collaborative process. Hopefully, they also derive inspiration from others’ ideas and input. Currently, my lighting students are engaged in a collaboration with a fashion styling class to create the photographs for the fashion students’ lookbook project. This may also lead to further collaboration and networking by introducing them to each other and to others, like models who they may work with in the future.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world?

Work ethic and planning. They need to learn how much effort, attention to detail, and time is required to produce excellent work. They need to learn how to plan ahead and budget their time to accomplish their projects. They also need to learn to find solutions to the problems which come up and not rely on excuses for why they weren’t able to complete their work as intended. The technical skills are important, but those can be acquired in due course. That said, I always advise photography students to learn as much as they can about studio lighting while they have access to a high quality studio with excellent equipment, which they may not have access to after school. These are highly sought after skills. They also need to have a strong portfolio and marketable skill set.

What is the inspiration for your artwork?

The Midwestern farmlands of Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa are vast spaces. The land, ground flat by glaciers, allows one to gaze for miles and miles just a few feet above the ground. People and homes are separated by great distances, both physical and emotional. I have been investigating these farmscapes in the winter, with their crops gone, the soil bared, and with a ceiling of sullen cloud-drift above.

My work, whether staged tableaus or urban landscapes, embraces loneliness and isolation. These farmscapes are the latest extension of this overarching theme. In this new work, I'm embracing the flat expansive farmscapes of the Midwest and introducing a hint of personal narrative. I'm juxtaposing the extremes of impersonal bleakness and personal introspection; the vastness of snow laced plains and the tiny individual within that space; coldness and warmth. There is a mystery in the work. But I hope to raise questions, beyond the reasons for the figure's presence, about what it means to be leaving one place for another.

Is there anything else you'd us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at the Art Institutes?

I’ve taught at several schools in my time in higher education. I enjoy Ai because of the small class sizes and the chance to work with students over a number of quarters. This allows us to build relationships that aren’t merely student/teacher for one course, one quarter, but are more of a mentorship.

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