Have camera, will travel

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am

Some people might not enjoy their work after doing the same job for more than three decades. However, Eric Oxendorf, a Milwaukee-based architectural photographer and licensed pilot, does. "I have truly enjoyed my work for the last 32 years, and it still seems like I just started two years ago," Oxendorf said. "I’m a very lucky guy."
Being a pilot has helped his business, Oxendorf said, because it gives him unique advantages over others in his field. He doesn’t take photographs while in the air. But, as a pilot, he is able to serve clients all over the world.
"I don’t do aerial photos, but I see being a pilot as another tool in my camera bag," Oxendorf said. "I’m able to respond quickly and cost-effectively to jobs all over North America. I’m also able to share expenses between clients. If I have client A and client B, both in the St. Louis area, I try to coordinate the jobs and make one trip so I can pass the savings along to my clients. My goal isn’t to be rich, but to have happy customers who can use my photographs to increase their businesses."
That high level of mobility helps Oxendorf better serve his customers.
"Once I flew one 8-by-10-inch picture 200 miles and delivered it to a client who needed it for a presentation the next day," he said. "Virtually all of my business comes from referrals or repeat customers, so making people happy is extremely important."
Oxendorf uses his skills behind a camera to showcase his clients’ buildings and products in the best way possible.
"I do exterior and interior shots of commercial and residential buildings, and I also shoot architectural products such as carpeting, flooring, window treatments and others. I analyze the lighting, the aesthetic quality and everything else to try to find the best view of my client’s work. Then I put that onto film," Oxendorf said.
Oxendorf does not spend a lot of money or time promoting himself. Instead, he relies on word of mouth and potential clients seeing his work in trade magazines or other venues.
"I’ve done jobs in Germany, Austria, China and lots in Canada," Oxendorf said. "Obviously, I don’t have a mailing list of Chinese architects. They’re referred to me or they see my work somewhere else and call me."
Many of the jobs he does overseas are actually for U.S. clients with foreign interests, Oxendorf said.
"The client is involved all the time, whether they are at the shoot giving me their point of view, or if they’re comfortable sending me to the site on my own," he said. "I feel very fortunate to be in my field, working with such a creative, innovative and unique group of clients. Many of them are architects or designers, very creative people. We’re both in creative fields and can relate to each other.
"When I go to a job, I work all the logistics and check out the site itself, and the environment around it. I carefully check the weather and the times the sun will be rising and setting, because it’s important to get the right moment. I’m really capturing a moment on film, and it just happens to have my clients’ work in the frame."
One of the biggest challenges Oxendorf faces is keeping up with the changing technology in his field.
"I use top-quality German lenses. My clients can choose between small- and large-format films and high-quality digital. I’m training in programs like Photoshop CS and CS2. Anybody can take a picture of a building, so I need to capture my clients’ work in the best way possible to set myself apart.
"I’m also currently remodeling my studio to be more digital friendly," Oxendorf said. "I’m installing a LAN network with high-speed Internet, so I can transfer pictures to clients quickly. I’m streamlining my work flow to keep client satisfaction high."
Oxendorf expects the upgrades to his studio to be completed by mid-August. He has a busy schedule lined up for the remainder of the summer. In the coming weeks, he will photograph the Conrad Hotel in Miami, a military complex in Florida, eight highway interchanges in northern Wisconsin and do some work in and around the U.S. Capitol.
Oxendorf has had an interest and a passion for photography for most of his life.
Photography helped to calm him after he returned "tense" from a 22-month tour of duty in Vietnam, Oxendorf said.
His portfolio enabled him to enroll in four art schools, and he graduated from Layton School of Art (now MIAD, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design) in 1974.
Oxendorf has focused solely on architecture since 1976, when a representative from Kodak suggested he specialize.
"I’ve always just felt like I was born to do this work," said Oxendorf. "I was in the photography groups at school since the third grade, and my father let me take all the pictures for the family. I burned up a lot of film at his expense, and basically learned what not to do."

Eric Oxendorf
Profession: Architectural photographer
Studio Address: 1442 N. Franklin Place, Milwaukee
Studio Phone: (414) 273-0654
Education: Graduated from the Layton School of Art (now MIAD, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design), in 1974
Web site: www.ericoxendorf.com

July 22, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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