Sam Raetz is a freelance photographer from Nebraska. He shoots commercial and editorial projects on a wide range of subjects from cattle ranching in the Western United States to the Tour de France. His photography presents a depth and meaning that goes well beyond the simple act of capturing an image.
What sparked your interest in photography?
Just before I turned 18 I was in Western Nebraska with dog and brother hunting ducks along the Platte River. We met up with one of my father’s longtime friends, Lester, after our hunt. He showed us photo albums from the 70s and 80s filled with wild haircuts and mustaches, retro camouflage, and bird dogs who have long passed away. Lester isn’t exactly the sentimental type, but it was clear as day how he felt looking at those old photos. I realized I wanted to have photo albums I could look back on later in life. That’s when I picked up my first camera.
Lester isn’t exactly the sentimental type, but it was clear as day how he felt looking at those old photos. I realized I wanted to have photo albums I could look back on later in life. That’s when I picked up my first camera.
What photograph or photographer has had the greatest influence on you?
A few —Joe Pugliese, Jered Gruber, Chris Douglas, Robert Capa, Estevan Oriol, Travis Gillett, Corey Arnold, Andre Wagner.
What do you love most about Nebraska?
How beautiful the land is. Also, how genuine the people living here are.
What do you seek to capture in the subjects you choose?
An authentic portrayal of who they are.
Is there a specific story or place that sticks with you?
When I went out to California last year for Stetson to photograph Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles Mariachi Queens of Los Angeles, in English), the first American, Grammy-nominated, all-female mariachi band. With multiple locations and three wardrobe changes for 12 band members, the shot list was expansive and the planning lasted for months. Even so, when the band walked into the studio wearing their traditional mariachi attire, I was intimidated. That feeling quickly went away and we had an amazing two-day shoot. After we wrapped things up we went to a restaurant and mariachi club the band routinely performs at to celebrate with a tequila shot. One turned to three. Three turned to six. My memory gets a little hazy after that. They were definitely one my most fun assignments.
What would you like to communicate to the people looking at your photos?
My line of thinking is more subject and client oriented. If the paying client likes the photo series and the subject believes it accurately portrays their personality, I’m satisfied. If people outside of that find my photos interesting, powerful, unique, or they feel some sort of emotion by looking at them, that’s a bonus.
What are you working on at the moment?
Coronavirus has halted all commercial oriented projects for the foreseeable future. Assignments as far away as late July are even in jeopardy right now. A lot of what I’m working on currently is local assignments in my city for small businesses. I have some personal projects revolving around sports that I’m trying to bring to life right now.
If the paying client likes the photo series and the subject believes it accurately portrays their personality, I’m satisfied.
Is there a particular cause you’d like to tell us about? An organization close to your heart?
I’m active with a non-profit here in Nebraska called RISE, which works with people who have been incarcerated to help them break the cycle of incarceration by equipping them with tools to get back on their feet. The wide range of opportunities that RISE creates, such as employment readiness training for individuals and community awareness raising, leads to lower recidivism rates. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country in the world and Nebraska has the second most overcrowded state prison system in the U.S.
What 3 Instagram accounts inspire you the most?
1- @Photodre — Andre Wagner: Omaha born, Brooklyn based. Shoots all film, primarily street photography in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx. He’s a stud.
2- @PariDukovic — Pari Dukovic: Highly technical commercial photography. Big client list. Very skilled portrait photographer.
3- @JeredGruber — Jered Gruber: In my opinion, he’s without question the best cycling photographer in the world. From what I gather he’s originally from Georgia, but lives in Europe during the cycling season. He lives and breathes cycling. I bumped into him quite a few times throughout the Tour de France last year. Covering the Tour de France was without question my hardest assignment to date, and there’s an unbelievable amount of “idle time.” Being a great cycling photographer means having an eye for the in-between moments. Jered is special for that.