Sarah Rollerblading. Venice Boardwalk. Los Angeles, California. April 2016. © Anthony Reese Schneider 2016
Our subject today is Anthony Reese Schneider, a creator and curator of visual media, specifically within the realms of film/video and photography. After graduating from the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Over-The-Rhine, he received a B.A. in Film/Video from Columbia College Chicago in May of 2012. The first four years of his career were spent working in the broadcast commercial and music video industries in Nashville, TN, and Cincinnati, OH, which brings our story to his current freelance career in the Los Angeles market working with industry heavyweights like Glen Luchford on Gucci’s fall campaign and a holiday campaign for Hugo Boss. Not too shabby.
Specializing in post production, Schneider was fortunate enough to work for Cincinnati’s most innovative digital film and motion graphics boutique, LEAPframe, as the lead editor for nearly a year before heading out to pursue opportunities on the West Coast. His fine eye to detail and industry expertise has also garnered him recent project wins with Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time (2018), a GQ Style piece with Kendrick Lamar, on-location editing services for Entertainment Weekly, and branded content for Hyundai.
But fueling his own creative juices means taking time to explore the voices that lie within. That's where his photography project Pretty Girls Normal Things comes into play, which is atypical from the ones that photo lovers too often stumble upon.
Rather than capturing the enviably picturesque yet unrealistic women that envelop the media today, Schneider opts to capture a more natural essence. As the title suggests, his photographs display pretty, but normal girls carrying out mundane tasks such as pumping gas and surfing through channels on TV. But the project does more than follow the social media circuit of endless pretty photographs, rather, it turns everyday, intimate acts of solitary reflection, chores, and hobbies into radiant moments worth exploring.
“I want to inspire confidence in the everyday,” commented Schneider, “The media does a good job of reminding people that they’re not quite good enough -- I want to counter that notion.”
Anthony Reese Schneider on Pretty Girls Normal Things
How did your experience in shooting motion translate into the way you captured your model’s emotions and what were the biggest challenges for you in making this transition?
I am primarily an editor, so my work always happens once the footage has already been shot. I had some experience behind the camera, but very little. At some point in 2014, I realized that I actually couldn’t tell you the specifics of how to properly expose an image and it really started to bother me. I felt like if I really wanted to call myself a filmmaker then I absolutely needed to have a critical understanding of how to manipulate a camera’s settings to achieve a desired result. My solution to this problem was to buy a stills camera and start shooting. PGNT really started as a way for me to learn and explore the technical execution of still photography, which in turn would ultimately add to my understanding of the post production workflow.
I wouldn’t look at it so much as a transition. I’m still very much an editor and I only consider my stills work a hobby, but it provided me with a new and essential outlet. Really, the biggest challenge was figuring out which camera to buy. It became about telling stories and about capturing the raw beauty of women during any particular situation that they may be in.
What has been some of the most memorable feedback you’ve received?
I think the most surprising feedback I’ve received probably comes from the girls themselves. They have all had a super positive reaction to the project and I think they all immediately understood what I was trying to do which makes my job a lot easier. I guess I anticipated it being a lot harder to actually get people to agree to do something like this.
Is there any particular shoot that you found to be the most defining for you in your photography career or that really helped set the tone for future shoots?
I would have to say the very first shoot I did for PGNT. I shot a set with Mia Carruthers at Collective Espresso in Over-the-Rhine. I think the hardest part of any project is starting it, so for me this shoot was a proof of concept and gave me the confidence that I needed to turn my vision into a reality. We got some really great photos out of it. I definitely have to give Mia some credit for being open to creating with me. We knew each other from high school but weren’t super close, so for her to take the time out of her day to let me experiment really meant a lot. She’s such a brilliant artist in her own right that I think that just added to the ease of that situation.
How do you feel about the current definition of “beauty” or being “pretty,” as you word it, and in what ways does your project rethink those standards?
Well, I think there’s many different types of beauty. Most people in the world, especially in the western world, have been conditioned to believe that physical beauty looks and feels a very specific way. We’re constantly bombarded by images of women with “perfect” hair, “perfect” bodies, “perfect” skin, etc. There’s obviously so much missing from that narrow-minded definition of beauty. I would love to believe that my project has attempted to showcase more of the girl’s personalities, hobbies, characters… I also wanted it to feel as natural and real as possible. Very little, if any makeup- but this is totally a decision that is left up to them. If they want to wear makeup to feel pretty then I’d prefer them to do so. I feel like there’s no right or wrong way to define beauty. So in terms of “rethinking those standards”, no, I don’t think I’m doing anything that hasn’t already been done. This conversation has been happening for centuries. I think what I really wanted to do was to take these soulless types of photos and put the soul back into them. I wanted to try and answer the question, “Why am I taking a picture of this girl?"
Anthony is no stranger to the encouragement of self-expression, and PGNT is not the only route he has taken to exhibit that. He also founded Reese Arden, an independent apparel and accessories brand. Its goal is to create products aimed toward progressive thinkers as well as the health and wellness community. This target demographic is not unlike those who might appreciate the enlightened mindset of PGNT.
Anthony Reese Schneider on Reese Arden
It is safe to assume that half of the title of your clothing line derives from your middle name, but what are the origins of other half, “Arden”?
Arden is the name of the street I grew up on. I wish there was a deeper meaning. It also worked well with my desire to take some inspiration from high fashion houses - Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, and Michael Kors. You never know when inspiration will strike!
The clothing line embodies ideals such as being earth friendly and even pushes vegetarian/veganism. Are these practices you abide by in your own life?
The short answer to your question is that yes, these are ideals that I either try to abide by in my life or am in the process of learning how to abide by. The long answer to your question is that this is more about promoting a lifestyle shift that allows for personal growth and wellness on all levels. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for about a year and a half and almost immediately fell right into the center of the new age/hippie/spiritual/wellness (whatever you want to call it) scene.
I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the people, the interactions, the situations I was finding myself in, the creative expression, the curiosity, the diversity of ideas and concepts, and the community. But as much as I feel like these people are really pushing the boundaries of non-conformity, self expression, etc, I also feel like at the same time there is a lot of conformity happening within the scene. So I really wanted to figure out how to offer people an alternative (an alternative to the alternative if you will). How do we take some of these more esoteric concepts and make them approachable to a broader audience? How do we stay true to our roots, feel free to explore these ideas, and not feel pressured to conform to what people within this scene are expecting of us?
For me, the answer was to create my own clothing company that would allow me to promote these messages in a way that I felt comfortable doing. I think t-shirts and hats are a really interesting way to spark conversations with people. Even people who are just curious are going to feel safe asking you about a hat. It’s almost a type of infiltration in a sense. Like, if you’re not paying attention you might not even notice the message, which is something else that is super appealing to me. I want to be low-key and smart, while at the same time, targeted.
I see that you plan to team up with influencers and have already done so with vegan YouTuber Kate Fruit Flowers. Are there any cool people you plan on collaborating with in the future that you’d like to share?
Yes! My next collab will be with a young artist by the name of Richard Vagner. He’s an incredible musician and activist based in LA and is about to release his debut album. We’re planning to develop a couple of different shirts together and I’m going to help him rebrand a bit. There are also lots of other collaborations in the works, but I’m anticipating a slow growth for sure. I don’t want to rush into things. I want to let it breathe and evolve on its own.
Who have been your biggest fashion inspirations for this line?
There isn’t one person or brand that has been a huge inspiration to me. I’m much more inspired by the situations I find myself in. I will say that I definitely found some inspiration in Floyd Johnson’s OATW line, if only for the fact that he took something he was passionate about, put it on a shirt, and turned it into a trend.
I really hate to even consider myself a “designer”. The designs right now are basic, urban inspired, to the point. I think as time goes on I’d love to work with a variety of designers to take the clothing to the next level, but for now I’m fine with it being simple. I’m not really designing so much as conceptualizing. In that sense I would say I’m inspired by the influencer movement- people who are utilizing social media as a means to foster a lifestyle or state of mind. I love the ambition and vulnerability that some of these people share with the world.
Can you tell us about other products in the works that might suit the lifestyle of a forward-thinking Reese Arden shopper?
We’re definitely going to be pushing out a larger variety of accessories. I want to get a beach towel out there (must get that Vitamin D), and obviously a yoga mat. I’m also interested in potentially adding supplements or healthcare products somewhere down the line. I really want to round out the brand and sort of make it a one-stop-shop for all things health and wellness. There may also be third-party items joining the lineup in the future as well.
Anthony Reese Schneider on Current and Future Projects
You have been involved with building brand experiences for awesome companies such as Gucci, Bounty, and Hugo Boss. What are some of the takeaways from this branding process and how perhaps you implement these techniques in your own brands?
Most recently I got the opportunity to work with director Glen Luchford on Gucci’s fall campaign and a Hugo Boss holiday campaign. To say that these were high-points in my career would be an understatement. The productions were much larger than I was expecting, and Glen’s vision was much clearer than anyone else I have ever worked with. I think what I learned the most from working with Glen is to be open to where your inspiration comes from. I can’t talk about details of either production, but it was clear that Glen was so rooted in his inspiration that his vision came to life almost effortlessly. He trusted himself so deeply that there was never any doubt about what we were doing. I think that quality is super admirable and I hope one day to get there myself. For me, having my own outlets that I fully control allows me to explore my confidence in my craft, so that’s definitely what I want to try and bring to Reese Arden.
What can consumers expect to come soon from both your photography projects and your fashion line?
I’m pretty sure that we can all create our own reality, so I’m really focused on aligning my intention with my lifestyle and my work. From there, I hope to be able to serve as a role model/educator for people that might not have access to the resources to learn about health/wellness. It might sound strange, but I’d really love to inspire people to live happier, healthier, more productive lives- and in my mind I’m setting up Reese Arden to be able to do that. I also just recently started playing music again with a brother of mine, Samuel J, who is an incredible artist, musician, person, teacher- whatever you want to call him. So that’s a really exciting outlet for me as well. On top of that I'm working with a production company that I’ve been interested in collaborating with for quite awhile, so there are many doors opening in that regard. All in all, I’m trying my best to maintain a positive outlook on life, learn how to heal myself and others, and pursue/explore the most productive ways to spend my time and energy. There really couldn’t be a better place in the world for me to do all three of those things than here in California, so for now I’m pretty content with where I am.