Jun 10, 2005

Photoshop Widows Club – Rebecca Schewe

Once upon a time, I fell in love with an artist who couldn’t draw, Jeff Schewe. Luckily he found out that with a camera he could accomplish what he couldn’t in other mediums. We set up a studio, worked together and lived happily . . . until one day, he met Photoshop.

Hi, my name is Becky Schewe and I am an unwitting member of the Photoshop Widows Club. I guess it’s the same old story but now that it’s personal, I have a new respect for those who wait and wonder.

I should have seen it coming years ago when it was foreshadowed, back in 1992. Jeff got an assignment to photograph a huge machine sucking up garbage. In trying to figure out how to make huge amounts of waste look like it was being sucked into this machine, he came up with the idea of using this new tool he had heard of called Photoshop.

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This is the garbage shot. Smelled just like it looks.

After making the photograph of the basic setup and getting them scanned he realized that it would require a lot more computer power than we had. He rented a Mac IIci with a whopping 64MB of ram (that’s what he tells me) and set it up in his office on a Friday afternoon. For the first 15 minutes or so that he began work, I was all excited and watched to see the magic – seeing nothing much happen, I quickly lost interest and went home (luckily we lived close, above our studio).

At dinnertime, Jeff was a no show so I brought down his food and placed it next to the keyboard. The first of many a neglected meal. A few hours later I came back to say goodnight and in the glare of the monitor I saw my future – an unresponsive Jeff clicking with rapt attention and making small dotted lines.

I checked in on him from time to time on Saturday and at times he would gleefully show me what he had done. Bringing food and drink became my primary function. At some point that day he had an epiphany – he could save paths or channels! – or something like that. I’ve actually never seen him happier – not driving home a new car, not opening our first studio, not getting a free mocha (well, this is close). This was a new man I was seeing. This was a Photoshop convert.

He continued to work through that Sunday – after all, the job had to be delivered Monday morning. Late that night I told him it looked done, just like the layout – like it had that morning in my opinion – but he said “Almost, just a few more tweaks” (prophetic).

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This is the finished image. Honestly, it looked the same to me at about 11:00 a.m. Sunday. As a side note, these two garbage images are the original files. This article could have been posted two weeks ago but Jeff wanted to find the original file. He could have reproduced this image from the original film in about 10 minutes but noooo. He had to have the original. Finding the file wasn’t as hard as opening it. He worked all day hooking up old computers and drives and I don’t know what all until sometime in the wee hours, he pulled it up. Way too geeky.

Monday morning I came down to the studio to find him asleep, face down on the keyboard. Only exhaustion had stopped the incessant clicking. He had to relinquish the project to the art director or he would easily have worked on that picture for another week. It wasn’t that the picture needed anything more, he did. He needed to find out how much more was possible, how much faster, how much easier it could be done. He was hooked and our lives took another unexpected turn.

That Monday wasn’t the first time Jeff fell asleep where he sat. Here he is after a sunrise shot “having breakfast” with the art director.

Needing to know all the capabilities of this new tool, Jeff helped organize a class in Camden, Maine at the then, Center for Creative Imaging. He set off for a week-long emersion Photoshop class. This is the first time that Jeff left me for Photoshop. The class was held during the day with the lab available to students throughout the night. Jeff requires little sleep but I think even he became sleep deprived while cramming all the information into his brain.

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These are the images that Jeff brought back from Camden. Hard to see from these how Photoshop was going to change our lives. While Jeff was very proud and excited, I much preferred the work he was already doing.

When he got home, his excitement had only been fanned and he asked if we could afford a computer system capable of running Photoshop at an optimal level. I don’t remember anything about the system except that it would cost almost $30,000. I said no. I am the accountant after all. He spent the next two days explaining how the industry would change, how the computer would pay for itself, how his work would evolve. We ordered the system that week. He was right: it paid for itself before it even arrived. We had to rent another computer to work on two jobs before we got our own system installed.

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Here are the images that paid for our computer with Photoshop and made the accountant in me feel much, much better. I also think they’re kind of cool.

Obsessive and a visionary.

Unfortunately, Photoshop’s need for power meant rearranging our lives a bit. Before Photoshop, we had a lovely sunlit, plant filled, client area complete with comfy sofa oriental rug. The computer didn’t have enough room on Jeff’s original desk, so the desk moved into the client area. As the computer and Photoshop didn’t like light, the blinds were always closed and the plants started to yellow so they have been relocated as well. The clients had to sit in the kitchen (well, to be honest, they always had before). Eventually, the computer room (we don’t even call it Jeff’s office, the computer rules) wasn’t efficient enough so we had custom cabinets and counters put in. I didn’t even get this kind of custom work for my kitchen.

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This first picture (left) is of our client area at the studio, a lovely place for even family to relax (that’s me and our daughter Erica). Next is the makeshift space that the computers started to create. However, you can clearly see how uncomfortable our dog, Max, is working at the second station. Finally, Photoshop paid for its own renovations for this recent computer room setup (right).

Today, as a long time alpha and beta tester of Photoshop, he spends his time on the computer trying to break Photoshop or at trade shows or with other Photoshop gurus. Even though he is brilliant and conversant on many subjects, it is hard to escape his favorite topic (Photoshop) for even an afternoon. I tried to get him interested in a completely different activity to get him back outside – he had traded sunlight for monitor light and was starting to resemble a large white mole. He chose motorcycling. Great. From sitting hours on end in the dark in front of the Mac to sitting hours on end on the road – to Photoshop events – but that’s a story for another day.

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Here you see Jeff with his BMW R1100GS AND his laptop (with Photoshop installed of course). Don’t leave home without it.

In an effort to keep in touch with my husband, I learned how to ride a motorcycle (well, I always wanted to anyway). Now, I rather look forward to Photoshop events across country because we often ride to them together. Each year I ride (solo) down to Santa Fe to hook up with Jeff after he teaches his Photoshop class and we have a wonderful time riding back through the West (making frequent photo stops). Of course, the laptop and an assortment of digital cameras come with us. Packed on his bike, fortunately.

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Here I am after some Photoshop event on my BMW650CS in Glacier National Park. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you Photoshop.

It’s not all negative. Since I’m not needed as much in the studio, I have some free time. I have new friends and interests now. I’ve learned to enjoy watching movies on my own. Aside from motorcycling I’ve taken up singing, pottery and foreign languages. I read more. I’ve learned to adapt – and to look like I’m actually listening to the latest Photoshop news. After all, I don’t need to listen, I don’t use Photoshop. Why should I when I have my own “in-house” Photoshop expert?

To read additional stories, click on the Photoshop Widows Club editorial category.

8 Responses to “Photoshop Widows Club – Rebecca Schewe”

  1. pxlfxr Says:

    I am sure my wife can relate to your story Becky. A IIci was my downfall as well.
    First job to 40 hours and I could do it now in 2 or 3. The Gaussian blurs to about 2 hours each and when the “Beep when done” went off I would look as see that they
    were not “exactly” right and apply it again.
    Stay supportive to Jeff. We all need him and his ilk around. It could be worse. He could be infected with an illness that was not fun!
    Best wishes to the Schewe’s.

  2. Noel Says:

    Wow, Becky! Great story. Thank you for sharing!

    Unfortunately, I’m living the early days of your story with my wife right now. Working from home and my workstation is in our tiny kitchen -the only place where I can control the light! Eating dinner is often interrupted by, “Oh crap! I forgot to upload those files to my client!”


  3. Tim Wilson Says:

    Becky, I seem to remember Jeff very excited about his new Commodore 64 back in, let’s see… 1983? Maybe the writing was on the wall even then.

  4. Martin Evening Says:

    Becky, Are you sure that is a photo of your husband at the top of this article and not a picture of Russell Crowe?


  5. Paula Lerner Says:

    Hey Becky,

    Thanks for sharing your story. Great to see pix of you and Jeff from days gone by (that one at the top DOES look like Russell Crowe!). In the early days of EP (Editorial Photographers’ list serve) when I was spending waaaaaay too much time on the internet, my husband jokingly threatened to have a t-shirt made up that read “EP Widower”. Fortunately I eventually came to my senses and went back to my regularly scheduled life, which included him and our kids. :-)

    Computers can be a serious addiction, but at least Jeff is productive and positively contributes to the community with his obsession.

    All the best to you both.


  6. subdude Says:

    I can totally relate. In the late 80′s my girlfriend lost me to the desktop publishing revolution.

    haha, Microsoft is going to release a product to rival photoshop some time soon. Yeah. Right. Good luck MS. I’m still learning Photoshop almost everyday since 1990 (I started using the 0.9 version I think – it fit on a floppy, wait while I go look for it…) I’ve never been at the level of the Jeff Schewe’s of the world but I appreciate it’s subtleties that always reward those who go looking…

  7. Stephen Scharf Says:

    I think the next time you guys are coming back from Santa Fe, you need to ring me up in the Bay Area so I can take you guys out on your motorcycles through my favorite motorcycle riding grounds on Northern California…Lake Berryessa, Napa Valley, Alexander Valley, stopping in Calistoga for lunch. I’ve even gone out on the bike with the Canon digital and a buddy to shoot the Mustard in the winter and then go for a romp through the canyons….life doesn’t get any better!

    Thanks for the article!
    Stephen Scharf
    (Honda CBR600 F4i rider)

  8. Keith Rudesill Says:


    I can’t remember if I ever apologized for renting him that computer.

    I’m truly sorry.


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