Meet Our Experts:
An Interview with Jill Schneider
While working toward her MFA at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Jill spent nine months documenting Himalayan life in Nepal, Northern India, Kashmir, Bhutan, and Tibet for her master’s thesis. Jill later attended the prestigious Missouri Photo Workshop and was a freelance photojournalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. She is now a freelance photographer and photography instructor, and is a contributing photographer for National Geographic Traveler guidebooks. In her free time, Jill works on independent stories profiling unique characters, from families living in Manila’s cemeteries due to overcrowding to the last remaining matchmaker in Ireland. Jill is excited to join photography students in Barcelona this summer! Learn more about Jill, her travels and work below.
What do you do when you’re not leading trips for NGSE?
First and foremost I am a photographer. When I am not leading for NGSE I am working on freelance assignments- events, portraits, stock photography, and photo essays. This past year, though, I got a new opportunity to work full time for National Geographic Student Expeditions as an Outreach Coordinator. I travel to schools all across the West Coast (San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver, Arizona and Baltimore) promoting our summer programs. I also helped create the new 2015 NGSE Community Service program to Nepal, which I am very excited about.
What has been your proudest achievement so far in your career?
I was invited into the National Geographic Society after winning a Your Shot Contest in 2009. Winning that contest changed the course of my career. From there, my photography received representation from National Geographic Creative, which then led to my first real assignment from National Geographic Books shooting the Sydney Traveler Guidebook. This was a dream job for me. At the end of that assignment I began working for National Geographic Student Expeditions and now I am on my fourth summer leading photography trips. Now, I also assist adult photo workshops for National Geographic in San Francisco and write for the National Geographic Intelligent Travel blog. These experiences have affirmed my choice to take a risk and become a travel photographer.
You’ll be leading our Barcelona Photo Workshop this summer. What is your connection to this part of the world?
My first time traveling, without my parents, was when I was a Junior in High School. I went on a month long language immersion trip with a high school group (I wish it would have been with National Geographic!) to Spain. It was such a positive experience for me that I returned to Spain as a Sophomore in college and traveled to Barcelona for the first time. After graduating from college I traveled around the world for seven months. I began my trip in southern Spain, this time working on a goat farm (a skill, I quickly learned, that did not come naturally to me!). There is an energy about Spain that always draws me back, and I cannot wait to be there again and introduce our students to the city of Barcelona!
What part of the Barcelona trip are you most excited for students to experience this summer?
What I love most about Barcelona is the energy, people, ambience and food! There are photographic opportunities everywhere you look. Barcelona has a very laid back vibe and there are many areas to explore. The great thing about National Geographic photo workshops is that you have the opportunity to really become immersed in one place. Spending almost two weeks in Barcelona will enable you to really experience what the city is all about. The longer you spend in one location, the better your photographs become- they transform from postcard photos to photos that truly tell a story of the place.
What is your favorite local food in Barcelona?
Hands down- Tortilla Espanola (more of less like a potato, onion frittata)!
What do you think is the best part of a National Geographic photo workshop?
I love the final gallery show that the students put together. I do not know of any other program that allows students to curate their work and mount an exhibition in a local gallery. This will be my third time leading a photography workshop and this final show is always the most rewarding part. Students feel very proud that they shot, curated, printed and hung an entire gallery of photos in a matter of days. The difference in the quality of work from day one of the workshop to the gallery show always amazes me.
What do you hope students take away with them after traveling with National Geographic?
I hope that students walk away with a new perspective of their world as well as a new appreciation of their own life. I hope they gain new knowledge about photography and feel competent in their abilities to move forward with photography whether it is for school, a hobby or future career. I hope that they make lifelong friends and get bitten by the travel bug and want to keep traveling all over the world.
Where is the first place you traveled that left a lasting impression on you?
Nepal. The first time I went to Nepal, I was enthralled with how different it was than any other place I’d ever traveled. It opened my eyes to a part of the world I had no idea existed. I was not a photographer at the time and as soon as I left, I wished I had taken better photos. When I attended art school a few years later to get my Masters in Photography I decided to go back to that part of the world to complete my thesis project. I went to the Himalayas (Nepal, India, Kashmir, Bhutan and Tibet) for nine months documenting social, cultural, political and economic issues affecting the country. I worked with a variety of NGO’s and volunteer organizations as well. This trip changed my life, and my career. It was rewarding and challenging and I learned so much about my strengths and weaknesses as a person, woman and photographer.
What are your hobbies, aside from traveling and sharing your insights with National Geographic travelers?
Yoga, hiking, cooking, gardening, and wedding planning (just for this year though, I got engaged last summer!).
What item won’t you leave home without when traveling?
Is camera too obvious of an answer? I always bring along a guidebook! Also, I can never bring enough extra Ziploc bags. For some reason, I always need them.