But life hasn’t always been this smooth.
Growing up, photography was nowhere on
Schoonover’s radar. He fudged his way into
art school, and the decision to go full-time
as a photographer four years ago was not
exactly one he made for himself.
Growing up in southern New Jersey, a
teenage Schoonover played music and
made videos with his brother Jonathan, a
photographer. He knew he wanted to do
something creative, but not photography.
At Rowan University, he took a black-and-white photography course on a
whim—aware of his love for color now, his
disinterest retrospectively makes sense.
After a stint in advertising, he chose
graphic design, but he had to get into
Rowan’s art school first. “I sort of faked my
way,” Schoonover says. Without a portfolio
to show, he hurriedly drew ten objects the
was like, ‘Man,
these are rough.
If you really
want to get into
this school you
can… It’s going to be really tough for you,’”
Schoonover recalls with a laugh.
He came out the other side with two feet
on the ground and landed an interactive
design job at Philadelphia Magazine where
he worked for a year before moving to a
small design agency in Princeton, New
Jersey. He also got married and divorced
within a year and a half. “I was looking for
anything to keep my mind off of things,”
Schoonover says, so he took snapshots
with his phone and posted them to a very
nascent Instagram and VSCO grid.
He challenged himself to get better and
better, and by trial and error he came to
realize he was more interested in shooting
people. He remembers trying street
portraits around New York. “I’d be thinking,
Well, these people are interesting-looking,
but I’d really like them to be wearing this
other thing and standing in this other place.”
Pursuing test shoots with models and other
personal work, Schoonover continually
refined his direction based on what he liked
and what he didn’t like.
A JOB JUGGLE
With a solid social media presence, a pop
of extra exposure came from an interview
with the people at VSCO in 2013. “I was one
of their first users, I used VSCO heavily,”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: A
still from Dave Monks’
“The Rules” music video;
Refinery29 lingerie shoot;
Hallie Hutchinson for
“Run 21 Superstars.” He
likes subjects centered.
PYSK: CHRIS SCHOONOVER