With a “do it yourself” ethos, Wade Schaul captures nostalgic snapshots of his friends

When Wade moved from Oceanside to New York, his interests in photography began to blossom. Here, he tells us about the importance of chance meetings, friendships and honesty.

24 August 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

When we chat to Wade Schaul, a photographer and art director based in New York, he begins to describe his typical day. “Today”, he says, “I picked up a coffee on my walk from my apartment in East Williamsburg to my studio, which I share with a few talented photographers.” He then begins work on some art direction and design from his computer – he was previously a graphic designer – before freeing up the latter half of the day for correspondence with fashion labels and designers. Each day is different for Wade, and much of his schedule revolves around his “do-it-yourself” ethos.

This attitude can be traced back right to the start of his career, where the Oceanside-raised creative decided to pack his bags for New York City around two years ago. He’s proud of his beachside hometown in California, but found himself needing a change. Resultantly, he landed on graphic design as his creative output, working in-house at a fashion brand and helping out on photoshoots every now and then. A flame was lit and Wade became intrigued by the medium of photography, which inspired him to buy a camera and occupy his evenings with learnings about lighting and techniques, and it wasn’t long until he was given the opportunity to shoot for the brand himself. “I think a big part of what I love about photography is the layered process of thinking about making an image, planning it, actually going to make it, and then working with your photograph in the darkroom or digitally,” he adds. “It encourages me to live a balanced life without spending all of my time in front of the screen.”

Alongside his commercial endeavours, Wade’s portfolio is equally full with pictures of his friends. His greatest inspiration, after all, is seeing his friends and people in his community succeed, “I love watching my friends do great things,” he says. In turn, it was inevitable that this would become his subject matter. While on a shoot, he’ll make sure that his sitter, whether an old friend or new, is comfortable by listening and engaging in conversation for at least 30 minutes. “I find that I’m most present with myself and others on a shoot day,” he adds. “It leaves me with a lot to reflect on at the end of the day, and the days following.” By actively conversing with his subjects, this paves the way for a more intimate and truthful meeting – and thus whimsical and nostalgic documentation of American youth.


Copyright © Wade Schaul, 2021

Wade talks us through a recent photograph of this friend, Pero. Taken on the first weekend they’d met, the two decided to traverse upstate with a group of mutual friends, “and those few days were the starting point for some really great friendships.” The picture depicts Pero with his back faced to the camera, the sky is dusky and a leafless tree frames the background. He’s wearing smart attire of a shirt and jumper, and the viewer begins to question what he’s thinking about as he looks into the distance. The moment was captured in February 2020, just before the US went into lockdown, so the image signifies a time of wonder, freedom and speculations on the future.

Another photograph [above] presents three best friends, Dasol Kim, Jayanna Roberts and Sophia Parker. Shot in his studio in Brooklyn, he refers to this specific shoot as being somewhat of an improvisation. “I didn’t have any plans to make any photos that day, but when I woke up, I decided that it would be a nice spur of the moment decision to do some photos, and document a very close and strong friendship.” The image speaks of this closeness and connectivity, especially through the manner in which his subjects are posing with one another; heads resting on the other’s shoulders as they softly gaze out of frame.

Wade clearly has a knack for documenting his nearest and dearest. But there’s also another common thread that runs throughout his work: butterflies. It was around three years ago when this first started. He headed out to work, “peripherally hearing about the swarms of Monarchs migrating south, passing through my hometown of Oceanside.” He wanted to see the butterflies, and decided to sneak off from work and “run an errand” to witness them in real life. “It was exactly what I needed it to be,” he recalls. “I can’t remember ever smiling so big or feeling so full because of something that was induced wholly by external circumstances.” But it’s these moments of “do-it-yourself” spontaneity that gives Wade’s life and work a sense of awe and wonder; he’s constantly in search of a feeling, and his ability to turn these events into a captivating and emotive image is inspiring.

GalleryCopyright © Wade Schaul, 2021

Become an Extra Nice Supporter

Unlock an inspiring new way to explore It’s Nice That, get your hands on exclusive perks, and help bring meaningful creative projects to life.

Sign up!

Hero Header

Copyright © Wade Schaul, 2021

Share Article

About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.