From Germany to the Big Apple, meet Jana Schuessler renowned photographer and visual director for The House of Perez
Written by: Aida M. Toro | Photography courtesy of Jana Schuessler
New York City is the destination for all aspiring creatives and more. For Jana Schuessler, a prominent fashion editorial photographer, the quest in the Big Apple began in April 2018 when she became an au pair for a family she absolutely adored.
“That year made me fall in love with the city and I realized, this is home,” expressed Schuessler. “I started playing the green card lottery and won it 3 years later and tada…here I am now.”
Schuessler focuses on fashion and celebrities and is the Visual Director for The House of Perez. When it comes to fashion and celebrities, she finds that she is always able to create something unique that will arrest the eye and stick in the mind of the viewer. She enjoys playing around with clothing’s fabrics, colors, and shapes, finding that these elements are the most entertaining for her to shoot. Schuessler also loves clothes. They provide her with inspiration during a shoot and also arrive with a comical hardship for her: not taking any clothes home for herself once the job is done.
“At some point I wanted to become a fashion designer, but there would have been no way I could draw something that people would recognize because I’m really bad at drawing. So, I always tried to express ‘my art’ with photos, but I actually never thought about becoming a photographer till one day in art class,” she said. “We had a photography project and for the first time, my teacher was impressed by what I did and she told me I should become a photographer.”
Schuessler realized her teacher was correct in telling her she should pursue photography, which is the inspiration to why she went the professional route to pursue this dream. Once she finished school that year, Schuessler applied for a photogra[hy apprenticeship. To her excitement, she was accepted into the apprenticeship program and moved out at the age of 17 to the next big city, Cologne Germany, where she did her three year apprenticeship.
“After three years, I finished my apprenticeship and became an au pair for one year where I fell in love with New York City,” she said. “Then I worked for some other fashion photographers in Switzerland, Los Angeles and became a freelancer in Berlin.”
Prior to moving to the states, Schuessler travelled to Frankfurt, Germany and applied for a green card. She ended up obtaining her green card and decided to travel. Schuessler travelled to a plethora of cities in the states and overseas for four months, such as: Cuba, New York, San Francisco, Vietnam for two months, Australia and Italy. Once she completed her time travelling, she wanted to come back to the states and lived with the family she au paired for. To this day, they are still family to her.
“Earning money was a challenge because I spent all of it travelling those four months,” she said. “My biggest challenge was to find work, to make contacts, and find a place to live.”
With this being stated, Schuessler began working at a German restaurant and for a fashion photographer for a few months. She then became celebrity photographer Greg Swales’ assistant and retouched for other photographers as well.
“How did I overcome this challenge? I think when you’re in a ‘desperate’ state, you get way more creative about how to get a job and you put a lot of effort into it,” she stated.
Thanks to Swales, Schuessler had the opportunity to work on some of the most out of this world projects, all the way from Versace’s fashion show to assisting on shoots with major celebrities.
“He really changed my life…not talking about just being on cool shoots, but taught me so much,” she said. “He’s a genius, and for me one of the biggest photographers of this era, the best mentor I ever had, who I am more than grateful for.”
Swales helped her delve deeper into fashion photography and connected her to key players, which is important in the photography business. For Schuessler, one of her favorite shoots took place in Hawaii, as she loves shooting in incredible locations. Another project she was passionate about was an editorial shoot that was set in Wyoming.
“I loved this shoot, not only because we shot with horses all day, but this had a special and important meaning,” said Schuessler. “I photographed one of the last Native American girls who tried to get awareness and still continues to do so for women that go missing.”
Schuessler continues to grow as a person, photographer, and professional with no stop in sight. For aspiring photographers, she advises them to grab the camera and shoot away.
“Look at examples of photos you like and practice,” said Schuessler. “For me, I learn best by doing.”