The bigger picture
At Memories in Focus, Schroeder aims to make a difference
Troy Schroeder never imagined that he would end up photographing people for a living.
“I got into photography to photograph more of the art landscape side of it,” Schroeder, of Fort Dodge, said from his studio, Memories in Focus. “I wanted to sell my work.”
But when he found out more about the industry, Schroeder learned that a very small percentage of photographers profit from landscape work.
His talents were redirected when he was asked to photograph weddings and senior portraits.
“It started one way and ended up another way,” Schroeder said.
He first picked up a camera professionally in about 2006.
And by 2008 Schroeder converted half of his home into a studio and began operating under the name Memories in Focus.
“We turned two bedrooms into an office and sales space,” he said. “And the living room would have been our studio space.”
Four years later, Schroeder moved his business to the northwest corner of Central Avenue by City Square Park.
“I like it downtown,” he said. “I think of the downtown as the historical side to Fort Dodge. When you look at old, old photos of Fort Dodge you see Central Avenue. You see the buildings and the brick, the paintings — cool signs in people’s windows. I want to be part of that downtown.”
Schroeder added, “I get that it’s not what it was 40 years ago, but I want to be part of holding onto the downtown as a retail location and obviously downtown provides me with a lot of really cool places to photograph.”
Schroeder photographs high school seniors, sports teams, weddings, individual portraits and family portraits.
He snaps pictures of about 50 seniors per year.
Another special project Schroeder takes on is capturing both pictures and video during the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flights.
The flights take veterans to Washington, D.C. for free to view their war memorials.
The media that Schroeder collects throughout the trip is burned on to DVDs and sent to every single veteran, which is usually about 150.
He does that with the help of his friend, Josh Petersen.
“Out of everything I’ve ever done, it’s probably the most rewarding,” Schroeder said. “The Honor Flight is near and dear to me.”
To date, Schroeder has been on 12 of the 19 Brushy Creek Area Honor Flights.
In July of this past summer, Schroeder decided to move his studio.
He didn’t move very far — just across the street to 521 Central Ave., the former home to Lily Grace.
“Steve Daniel owns the building and he said if you want to move in, it’s yours,” Schroeder said. “It’s a really good situation. It’s cool to be right here with ShinyTop and us and Todd (McCubbin) is going to be adding to that building. Gabe Pettit (Edward Jones) will come out and chat. It’s very much like our own small community down here.”
The interior of the building got a makeover.
“We tore the building up,” Schroeder said. “We put in new walls, new floors. Cleaned. We painted the whole upstairs.”
Schoeder said he feels settled in now, but he didn’t always have that comfort zone. And he didn’t have immediate success in running a business.
Long before Schroeder became a photographer or settled into his downtown studio, he got himself into a trouble a few too many times, he said.
“My childhood is a very double-edged sword,” Schroeder said. “I certainly have a very loving family, but I was a very unloving child. I was adopted and didn’t take that real well. With my upbringing people could probably think of some Troy Schroeder stories. I was a bit of a troublemaker.”
Schroeder attended Fort Dodge public schools. He didn’t graduate from high school, but later earned his GED.
“I was expelled many times,” he said. “I was just an unhappy person and I took it out on all the wrong people.”
Sometimes the past sticks with him as he’s on assignment.
“Some days I wake up and I think how much I would love to have a high school diploma and not a GED, and not saying I’m not proud of it — I just see some kids now and see kids going down the path I was on and I see how easy just getting by would have been to just hold onto that diploma. I didn’t get to take part in that. And now we photograph graduation ceremonies and half the time I am sitting there thinking that I didn’t get to do this. It’s always a little bit tearful for me.”
Schroeder said he is happy, however, that he’s come out of those struggles a better person.
“I wouldn’t trade it,” he said. “I think all of the trouble has led me to where I am now. Certainly, I am not proud of some of the things that I did, but Fort Dodge has always been a forgiving town for me. A lot of people have been in my corner, no matter how much trouble I caused. Those instances have led me as a person and a business person to want to give back as much time to Fort Dodge as what I can.”
Schroeder said finding his wife, Lisa, whom he calls his sherpa was a big turning point in his life.
They met 22 years ago.
“I think it was her and knowing that at 19 a lot of things my parents were telling me were about to come true,” Schroeder said. “I needed to change or I was about to be held accountable for my actions.”
In 1997, Schroeder moved to Lake View for about a year-and-a-half to get away from the area.
“I got out of my head,” he said. “I wanted to be a better person.”
In terms of his wife, Schroeder said he wouldn’t be where he is without her support.
“She’s my sherpa,” Schroeder said. “Sherpas take people up Mount Everest. They are the locals. They know the route. They know what’s going on on that mountain. Lisa is not only legitimately carrying my stuff (camera equipment), but she’s guiding me, always guiding me. She carries me business wise. When I am having a low moment, she’s there to pick me up and in the greatest moments, she’s right there by my side.”
One of the things Schroeder does in addition to his work is something called Operation Warm It Forward, which is a coat rack set up in his building to both accept donations of coats and winter clothing and having them available to anybody who needs them.
He’s looking forward to continuing his work and trying to better the community.
“I don’t necessarily care what it is that I’m doing that supports my family,” Schroeder said. “What I get out of it is that I can support other things like what we do with the homeless. It’s not so much that I come here every day and enjoy every aspect of my photography career because that’s a lie. It’s still a job. The rewarding thing is the volunteering part of it and meeting other people. I love the community that I’ve met out of photography. There’s people I would have never met if not for this choice of mine to be a photographer.”