My life in photography so far.


Years ago, my parents gave me my first camera. It was a $200 Canon Elph. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing... I just went around everywhere and took pictures of every single thing I could . People, flowers, cats, houses, parks... You name it.

I did this for a long time until I was working at a restaurant in St. Louis and met someone namedKara Proehl. She was an incredible wedding photographer and I'll never forget her passion for photography and people. She inspired me to get my first professional camera - which was a Nikon d7000. (It was the most expensive thing I had ever bought - $1,000). She really believed in me and even invited me to a shoot with her in Castlewood where she would be the model and I would be the photographer - and she would help critique the pictures after.

It was after this shoot where I really started to become obsessed. I kept taking pictures of everything and trying to figure out what I liked the best... But it was all just a hobby.

Then, one day, I booked my own shoot. Someone actually offered to pay me to do something I already loved doing so much. And, for the first time, I realized it was actually possible to make somewhat of a living with this hobby I was so passionate about. 

And I started to see it from a different perspective.


Over the years after that, I refined my craft. I still took pictures of everything, all the time, and was known to always have my camera on me. Through hundreds of thousands of photographs, I started to fine tune 'mistakes'. No matter how beautiful I thought the pictures were becoming, year after year, I would look back at them from the previous year and see things I could improve on. (This process is still very much going on to this day)

While doing this, I was networking all the time and meeting people that helped me learn a lifetime of skills. I did this with no agenda - I truly just wanted to learn more and talk about what I was so passionate about. It was really during this time that I saw my photography improving - and I began obsessing over knowing everything I could about it. I was learning by just doing - by taking photographs and going through them - rather than taking classes or reading books. 

Another important part of this process was that I changed whatever I was photographing whenever I lost inspiration in it. My passion for photography itself never diminished but, when I wasn’t excited about a certain form of it anymore, I would just let it go and try something new. 


Then I started projects with this and started just trying new things. 

By doing this, I quickly saw I was very passionate about photography ideas that had some sort of social impact. I started to see my camera as a tool for much more than just taking pictures... I saw it as a way to help people, to connect people and to bring awareness to situations that needed it. Social media was starting to take off and this really helped with this also.

Still, none of the projects ever amounted to anything (in a physical sense). They never really got noticed, I never made any money with them and they just disappeared as soon as I stopped them. They all could have seemed like a silly idea, or even a failure, but in those experiences, I learned how to separate two different perspectives: trying to create art that drew a big audience and just trying to do things that I cared about so much that I really wasn’t worried what anyone else thought about it. 

Regardless, I kept starting new projects. I would notice myself getting in a creative rut and getting depressed when I wasn't inspired so I had to keep trying new things. I tried to focus on the small successes of these projects (like words of encouragement or people telling me it made an impact on their life) rather than on a large scale. I think this is crucial for artists to do.

This year, The World I See (my 4th project), was my first project to become something. It has been published twice now by National Geographic, was a TED talk in October and will be a published book next month.

But I promise you this: Those things would mean nothing to me, if it wasn't for the hardship and difficult moments that led up to them. In fact, these results wouldn't mean a single thing if it wasn't for the relationships that are around me today, that I learned to trust and love during the times before. 


I couldn’t begin to tell you how many moments of self doubt have accompanied me up until this point. It’s a very important part of the process and those are essential times to learn. In the endless moments of uncertainty, I grew as a person in ways I never could have without them. I developed a healthy relationship with rejection. I learned humility. I learned confidence. I learned psychology and how to use that to better understand how to make a living with this. I learned to grow close to the relationships that were truly there for me. I learned how to balance life outside of photography and travel. 

And today, and even prouder moment, I bought my first house. With nothing but money I made through photography. Something that, just a few years ago, I never thought I’d be able to make a penny at. Dreams I couldn’t have even fathomed just a short time ago. 


The reason I write this all is to say: 

To the artist with passion but is full of self doubt and uncertainty. To the artist that is in a creative rut (or even worse, it starting to give up). To the artist who thinks that people who make a living with art just got lucky. Or are better at their craft than them.

That’s not how it works. 

Art can only get to a level where it’s possible to make a living with when you have given your life to it just to get there. Where you somehow found the strength to take just one more photograph, or paint one more painting, or sing one more song, at your lowest times. When you somehow found the strength to keep trying when it seems like no one else notices what you're creating. When you persevere out of pure passion - not out of a desire to be rich or accepted. 

That is the only way you find who you are and what you can create. 

And when you 'make it' - and I promise you will if you obsess and have passion - you will feel like you made it at even the smallest of successes. Even at just reading the words that people write about your work. When you see your art making a tiny impact on the people around you. That ends up becoming more important to you than any amount of money ever can. 

When you allow that the be the goal, making a living doing that makes a lot more sense. You’re humble enough to keep learning but your work is good enough to support you now. 

And when you make a life in that way, I promise you will feel joy every day of your life. Joy that no one else could ever take from you.

All my love.

Adam C. Schlüter

(I tagged just a few of the people who had a tremendous impact on me during this journey so far. Thank you all for making me who I am today.)