Mike Roemer Spotlighted on Franciscanized World
Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity spotlight Mike Roemer, Green Bay photographer. See more of his photos here.
Story starts here. In those early days, I took any job that came my way and even helped my dad with his team picture business. If you were eight years old and played soccer in the ’90’s, chances are either my dad or I took your team picture.
In the mid 90s, you could still make a living as an editorial photographer. I picked up assignments from newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, but the majority of my editorial work came from the Milwaukee Journal and the Associated Press. Since that time however, the editorial market has greatly changed and opportunities have dried up for the most part. Many of the papers that I worked for back in those days have since drastically cut back their budgets for freelancers and their news holes just drastically shrunk. I still do work for the Associated Press today with the majority of that work being related to the Green Bay Packers. I think I’ve only missed two or three games as a photographer for them at Packers home games since 1996.
My life today…
Today my main focus and the majority of my work comes from commercial clients. My biggest client for the past 12 years has been a healthcare advertising agency in the Milwaukee area that hires me for various projects in Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. Another big client is Schreiber Foods. I’ve traveled to many of their plants from small towns in Missouri, to dusty cowboy towns in Texas to the Austrian Alps. One memorable shoot in my career was a shoot for Schneider National, a trucking company based in Green Bay. We tried to take a glamour photo of a 53 ft Schneider trailer in the city center of Mexico City just after sunrise on a Sunday morning. It would have gone better if it hadn’t been the morning the city’s independent cab drivers decided to stage a huge protest.
If someone asks me what I photograph, I say people in their natural environment. That natural environment may be an operating room at a hospital, the field of a NFL stadium or the production floor of a manufacturing facility. A few years ago I was hired by Marriott to photograph 25 hotels for them in California, Colorado and Texas, but I couldn’t have people in the photos. That was different for me, but the challenge it presented expanded my skill set and has now become a project that I fondly look back upon.
For me to be happy as a photographer, I like to have a variety of things to shoot. A perfect week for me would be a couple of days shooting healthcare, a couple of days shooting in a casino or a production facility and then end the week shooting a pro football game or a college basketball game.
Some of my favorite photos in the past few years have been taken during my personal time. That could have been during my trip to Germany and Austria with my wife Judy the spring after we got married so I could introduce her to some of my German relatives. Or it could have been on the frozen waters of Silver Lake when Judy and I went to visit her sister, Sister Anne Turba. The shot I call the ‘flying Ice Skating Nuns’ has become one of my personal favorites. I have maybe another 15-20 years left in my career and I know things will change maybe even more than they have since I walked out of that newsroom 16 years ago. I’ll need to keep up on technology and probably will need to shoot more video and do more multimedia story telling. But the one constant throughout is having a creative eye. I think I see things differently than most. When I look at a scene, I look at what I can do with it through a real wide lens or a real long lens with a shallow depth of field. I try to add drama to my commercial work by adding color through creative lighting and I think that can be most easily seen in my casino photography. To me, lighting for photography is like a good haircut. A good haircut is when people can’t tell you got one. Good lighting to me is when it looks so natural, people can’t believe I may have had 8 or 9 or 10 strobes going off with a variety of colored gels to create the lighting effect in the shot.
What the future brings…
As I move forward I know I will have challenges running a one man show. I need to wear many hats. I need to navigate the social media waters to let current and potential clients know what I’m doing, I need to maintain a blog to talk about recent shoots that I’m proud of and a web site that displays my best work and work that will attract photo buyers. Those are all things I never thought I would need to worry about when I gave up my daily newspaper paycheck sixteen years ago. I thought it would be all about shooting pictures. But it’s much more than that. You need to market your skills, you need to keep up on technology and you need to work at maintaining a health attitude towards the craft you fell in love with back in your parents’ basement darkroom. With the help of my wife Judy, our high energy pup and a nice German pilsner on the deck of our wooded backyard, I think I’m able to keep that healthy attitude. I’m constantly trying to improve my portfolio and to expand my skills.