Rocky Schenck was raised on a ranch in the hill country outside of Dripping Springs, Texas. His parents were an imaginative, creative and colorful couple who enjoyed life, parties, and the occasional drink or two. They delighted in creating a fantasy world for their two children, making each and every holiday, birthday, and lost tooth a “really big deal”. Rocky and his sister Becky believed in tooth fairies, Easter bunnies, and Santa Claus just a little bit longer than other kids. He was nicknamed “Rocky” when he was three days old by his sister, who was confused by the other names his parents chose for his birth certificate: Richard Davis Botho Arthur Schenck.
At age twelve, Schenck began studying oil painting, having been greatly influenced by the romantic landscape paintings and portraiture work of his great-great grandfather Hermann Lungkwitz (1813-1891) and great-great uncle Richard Petri (1824-1857), both German immigrants and classically trained artists who moved to the Texas Hill Country in 1851. Schenck began selling his paintings professionally at age thirteen. (1)
I had the opportunity to meet with Schenck in person, and conducted my interview of him in an empty bar at the bottom of a boutique hotel in Hartford, Connecticut. He was traveling the East coast with a goal to visit the location where Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was shot, a film that inspires him to this day. "It feels like an omen," Schenck told me. "What are the chances you would ask to interview me and I would end up here?"
What, in your opinion, has been your most successful personal piece?
"All. It's like picking a favorite child; They're all special in their own way. The stories that my portraits and landscapes tell are all different."
When you left college to start anew in L.A., where did you start?
"I had two friends [in L.A.] at the time. One of them would write to me – you wrote letters at the time – telling me I needed to quit college and come to L.A.. I knew I had to do it. So I did. At the time I worked a daytime job and when I wasn't working I was taking photos and making films. I was doing what I loved."
Is there anything you regret amidst your success? Opportunities you may have missed?
"Not many opportunities missed but several regrets. Very early on in my career I was given the opportunity to photograph Bette Davis but was too afraid. I was too afraid to mess up...I wish I had just done it. If I blew it, I blew it but at least I would have had the experience...
What is the most vital part of your process?
"My dreams...Dreaming is the most unusual thing humans do. Every other aspect of our lives is in our control but our dreams are completely out of our control. We never know where we will be taken at night."
Do you prefer hunting for a photo or building?
"It depends on what I'm taking photos of. My commercial work is premeditated, especially with portraits....When I take my camera with me on a walk, I like being on my toes and not knowing what to expect. I love preconceiving but I love the accidents.
What has been your favorite photoshoot experience?
"I was able to photograph Nicole Kidman at 20th Century Studios for Vogue Australia, for an entire week. It was one of the greatest assignments I've ever had. She adores being photographed and you could see it in the photos. It was a dream shoot."
David Fahey, the owner of Fahey Klein gallery, recommended Schenck to Baz Lurhman, the guest art director of the magazine. The project was a history of fashion throughout the different eras of movies.
"This was before I was even in David Fahey's gallery."
Do you feel you affect your photos more than they affect you or vice versa?
"It's who I am. I'm in a marriage with my photography; If I wasn't with them I would be committed. It's intermingled. I would have no life if I couldn't take pictures."
Any advice that you would give an aspiring photographer?
"Keep shooting. Create a lot. Don't compare yourself to the other photographers on social media. Just keep creating.
"It's that simple."
To learn more about Rocky Schenck and his work, visit his website at rockyschenck.com.
Sources (1) “Rocky Schenck » Bio.” Rocky Schenck, rockyschenck.com/story/. (2) Vincere Noel. “Rocky Schenck.” 5 Mar. 2018.