Striking a pose

It was a playful fox cub that inspired Michael Schmidt to think about photography seriously as a career option.

Back in 2007, he was in Montana on a fishing trip with a friend. “We saw this cute little fox cub running across the road towards this den,” he says.

“I focused my camera on one end of the den, and then he popped out on the other side of it. So I refocused to the other side of the den, and then all of a sudden on the first side again I saw two fox cubs. I quickly realized that this could go on forever, so I just focused on one side of their little house and waited. The first cub popped off one last time — and I got one great shot.”

At the time, Michael’s photography equipment consisted of a higher end ‘point and shoot’ camera. When he saw the results of his fox shoot and recalled how much fun he had taking the picture, he decided to pursue photography more professionally, starting with better equipment. A month later he purchased his first DSLR camera.

“I always had an interest in photography and over the years I dabbled in taking a few shots here and there but I wasn’t something that I wasn’t very serious about. The fox cub shot changed that.”

Not too long after that Michael was on EI and needed some employment options. With Work BC Employment Services Centre-Vancouver City Centre’s assistance, he got his Class 2 license and secured a seasonal position as a tour bus driver, with the eventual plan of applying to Translink to become a bus driver for the city.

Work BC Employment Services Centre-Vancouver City Centre provided Michael with a great deal of employment assistance including several courses like resume writing and interview skills. “Essentially everything you could ever need to help yourself find employment was made available to me.”

“A lot of the things that they offered really kind of surprised me. If I needed new clothes for an interview, money was available for that. It’s just a fantastic resource and I remember mentioning it to a lot of people and they had no idea it even existed.”

When his first bus driving contract season was nearing its end, his counsellor called him. She knew of his interest in photography and let him know of a government sponsored position creating an image database for Stanley Park Ecology Society. He got the job.

When the contract ended and Michael was just a couple of weeks away from going back to driving a bus he was in a serious car accident; one that left his arm broken in four places. Today, he is unable to rotate his arm properly making driving a bus impossible and performing certain tasks more of a challenge— including photography.

During the first year of his recovery, he again used the services of Work BC, using the resources designed to determine the extent of his injuries and to help him with future job placement or retraining.

“With their help I was able to once again find full-time work,” he says. “I’ve also received other photography contract work largely in part due to the “stepping stone” position (at the Stanley Park Ecology Society) that they had helped me secure about 18 months before.”

Today, Michael balances his time as a technician with a pest control company and continues his photography. His ‘day job’ gives him the flexibility to pursue outside photography contracts. “My boss knows that pest control is probably not my lifelong dream,” he says smiling. “But he really encourages me as far as my photography and he’s a really good boss.”

He exhibits his photography at venues across Vancouver. He recently completed two shows at the West End Community Centre and participated in the Lab Art Show at The Roundhouse in Vancouver’s Yaletown.

“In the end, it really is the staff that makes all the difference. They truly care. My counsellor was phenomenal,” says Michael.

“She really made a positive difference in my life, and I’m very thankful. I hope she knows that.”

To see more of Michael Schmidt’s photography, visit his website at www.michaelschmidtphotography.com