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BEST OF 2013, Scherley Busch
Miami, FL
Project: Florida Women of Achievement: Ongoing, two-decade portrait project on Florida women leaders, which transitioned from film to digital photography and most recently expanded to include multimedia, video productions and the associated formation of a non-profit organization and the initiation of a series where the FWA role models “step out of their portraits” to present empowering insights to benefit others.

© Scherley Busch

© Scherley Busch
Dr. Jean Jones Perdue, the first woman named Doctor of the Year by the Miami-Dade AMA.


Scherley Busch embarked on her ongoing odyssey with a 1992 portrait series featuring 12 women leaders from Florida. After interviewing each subject, she realized the empowering stories her images could tell. Amaranthine™/Florida Women of Achievement™ (FWA) is now a nonprofit foundation — and Busch a hybrid storyteller — enabling FWA role models to step out of their portraits and present valuable insights via a video documentary and lecture series.

“I had no idea this project would have such an impact on me,” she says. “From my first portraits to a new generation of inspiring leaders, a universal theme of triumph and accomplishment has emerged. I seek to capture the essence of subjects with portraits of ‘positivity.’”

© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Bea L. Hines, The Miami Herald’s first black woman and award-winning reporter.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, trailblazer, humanitarian and international educator; President and Chancellor Emerita of Barry University.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Adrienne Arsht, Chairman Emerita of Total Bank; philanthropy includes Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
JoAnn Bass, third-generation owner of Miami’s famed and oldest 100 year old restaurant, Joe’s Stone Crab, in Miami Beach.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Senator Gwen Margolis served for 3 decades in the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate and on the MDC Board of County Commissioners. Named President of the Florida Senate in 1990, becoming the first woman in the US to serve as president of any Senate.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
JoAnn Morgan, the first woman engineer and senior executive at NASA at the Kennedy Space Center.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Janet Reno, first woman ever to hold position of Attorney General of The United States and to serve as State Attorney in Florida.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Sue Miller, community leader, volunteer and philanthropist.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Gloria Estefan, internationally renowned, Emmy Award-winning entertainer.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Betty Mae Jumper, first woman elected tribal chief in America, who spearheaded the Seminole Tribe’s modernization of their government.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Cristina Saralegui, award-winning star of the international Spanish-language talk show Cristina.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Mary McLaughlin Spencer, international businesswoman and philanthropist, community leader.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Helen Aguirre Ferre, award winning bilingual journalist. Moderator of WPBT Public Affairs Series Issues and co-host of Spanish language Yo Cuento.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Patricia Ireland, longest serving president of the National Association of Women (NOW).


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Mary Bartlett Bunge, Ph.D., Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy and Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Carol Williamson, entrepreneur and community activist; Treasurer and Partner of Williamson Cadillac Buick GMC, recognized as one of Cadillac's top dealers in the US.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Virginia Jacko, a blind visionary. President and CEO of Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the late author, environmentalist and champion of the Everglades. Received the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award from a US President.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Tracy Wilson Mourning, founder of the Honey Shine Mentoring Program, which addresses the needs of young women in at-risk situations. She is photographed with her mother.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Chris Evert, record-breaking tennis champion.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Ellen Kempler, inductee in the National Teachers Hall of Fame. An inspiration to her students, Ellen believes each student has a genius which, when tapped, becomes a motivating force for learning.


© Scherley Busch
© Scherley Busch
Elaine Bloom, served a total of eighteen and a half years in the Florida House of Representatives and was Speaker Pro Tempore 1992–1994. Founding chairperson of Dade County's Commission on the Status of Women in 1971.


ASMP: How long have you been in business?

Scherley Busch: 33 years.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

SB: 30-plus years.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

SB: Portraiture, editorial, documentary, fine art, annual reports, architecture.

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable tool or piece of equipment?

SB: I think my most valuable tool is my vision or personal perspective.

ASMP: What is unique about your approach, or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?

SB: My personal perspective.

ASMP: Your ongoing documentary portrait series Florida Women of Achievement (FWA) spans two decades and includes nearly 100 portraits of inspiring women leaders. Based on your experience photographing and interviewing these subjects over the past 20 years, what has changed about being a woman? What has remained the same?

SB: We’ve experienced a very pivotal time in history for women. For centuries, women were not in the mainstream. I started photographing women who were the “firsts.” It’s hard to remember that before the women’s movement in the 1970s, women were not a major part of the work force. They were rarely given the opportunity to enter professions and decision-making bodies reserved for men. When I started as a photographer in Miami, there may have been one or two other women photographers in South Florida, and we weren’t taken very seriously. It was the same for women in law or medicine and most paying jobs. I think women today feel they are equally entitled and as capable. Educational institutions are now open to women across the board. I think most of us really don’t remember the exclusion women experienced for centuries. We now have an expectation, so women do not feel gender based limitations.

One of the things that remains the same is women are generally still expected to run the household and take the main responsibility of children and family, even if they hold full-time positions.

ASMP: FWA includes both film and digital photographs. Do you feel anything has been lost by switching from analog for digital? Has the tone or experience of your portrait sessions changed at all due to the switch in technology?

SB: I think if you look at the entire body of work, one couldn’t determine which was shot on digital versus analog. I do think the tone of my sessions has changed in some ways. We don’t need to wait to see a Polaroid to check composition and lighting and details, so our sessions can be smoother. And, of course, postproduction can alter final images, allowing us to be less pressured or precise when shooting. But I always try to make the best image possible in camera and not count on postproduction. I still spend time with my subject, to allow the session to span enough time for my subject to be comfortable, and to allow that magical moment, when everything comes together to create an image that speaks to the audience.

ASMP: Obviously all of your subjects struck you as unique and powerful or you wouldn’t have selected them. But which woman or women made the most exceptional impression on you?

SB: I think everyone I’ve been privileged to photograph has qualities that have been inspiring. But if I had to pick one, it would be one of the images you published in the ASMP Bulletin to exemplify my work. So I was really happy you asked for the image of Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, who has been honorary chair of FWA for more than a decade. President and Chancellor Emerita of Barry University, Sister Jeanne has been an extraordinary role model, trailblazer, and leader who has participated as a unifier in a very culturally diversified community. Even now, after her retirement she remains dedicated to education and community, having helped to establish a university in Kenya, as well as mentoring and helping others to achieve their dreams. She has certainly left a lasting impression on my life.

The other photo you selected is of another very inspiring pioneer. The late Dr. Jeanne Jones Perdue was one of the first female cardiologists in the nation, and was medical counsel to several U.S. Presidents. She was known for her compassionate involvement with her patients. As I recall, she worked way into her 90s and was admired by the community she served.

ASMP: In your description of FWA, you say you “shoot from the inside out.” What do you mean by this expression?

SB: I started as a painter/sculptor, so aesthetics are very important to me. But what’s even more important to me is the light that is within my subjects. When I am in a photo session, there is a level of communication that reaches beyond words. I need to connect on a level that brings out the essence and the beauty — that intangible that sets a person apart.

ASMP: You started as a still photographer, but you’ve begun writing, interviewing, shooting and directing multimedia and video productions for the upcoming FWA series to be shared on the Internet. What challenges have you encountered in tackling video?

SB: It is definitely challenging, but equally exciting. As a still photographer, I work pretty much alone with an assistant or stylist. As the photographer, I oversee all the fine details. With video productions for the documentaries, it’s teamwork — a very different dynamic. You have to find a team that understands your overall vision and can contribute to make the story work. I still love the impact that a single photographic image can make. But to be able to have a subject tell their personal story in their own words and voice can be very powerful.

ASMP: Some of your FWA portraits are made in personal settings, while others are made in professional settings. How do you decide where to photograph a subject? Do subjects ever suggest or dictate where they would like to be photographed? Have you ever used a green screen for a portrait sitting?

SB: I’ve never used a green screen and don’t think I would like to for this type of shoot. I generally speak with my subjects before a session to understand what has a special meaning for them and ask for their suggestions. Other times, I speak with their assistants or agents, and I often scout locations that can reflect their inspiration, aspirations or career. I feel there’s an energy contained within the location and, when added to the mix, it helps me to connect, to kind-of meld with my subject. For me, photographing a portrait is Zen-like. It is the moment when the subject and I become one, when I can feel I’ve captured their essence.

ASMP: What equipment do you use when shooting portraits on location? Do you work with assistants during these shoots?

SB: I almost always use assistants, but have occasionally soloed due to circumstance. Working with assistants helps make everything easier. I can focus on relating to the light quality, composition and subject, while my assistant helps with equipment to keep the shoot moving smoothly. For the past several years I have used Canon equipment and Dynalites.

ASMP: How do you identify potential FWA subjects? Do you keep a running list of people you wish to photograph? Is there someone you’d like to photograph but haven’t been able to yet?

SB: Yes, I do have a running list and work with my board to make final selections. Quite honestly, when I first started this project, there were fewer women of achievement to choose from. Now there are so many remarkable women who have had the opportunity to let their light shine. Besides excelling in their field, we look for leaders who understand the importance of giving back to the community. That is really an essential quality to help inspire future leaders to make a better and more socially responsible world.

Yes, there are many candidates I would still like to photograph, but the list is way too long to list in this interview.

ASMP: How do you make your FWA subjects feel at ease? Do you interview them before you photograph them, or vice versa?

SB: I often interview subjects beforehand. But often we meet at the shoot because these women have really busy schedules. I ask to schedule enough time so we can connect via conversation. I think the biggest thing is to listen, to respect their accomplishments, to hear what has meaning for them. Somehow, as this unfolds, the moment happens when I capture a special image.

ASMP: One of your FWA portraits is of Virginia Jacko, President and CEO of Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, who is blind herself. Did your approach to photographing a blind person differ from having a sighted person as a subject? Did you direct Ms Jacko differently than other subjects?

SB: I don’t know that I really direct my subjects. I may suggest slight alterations, but I really think I allow the session to unfold. I usually select a location because I know the place reflects a part of their being and I let it happen. I know I expend a lot of energy while shooting. When I begin, I’m sure the tech parts are all in place and stay on top of that and, of course, fine tune details of styling. But what’s really important is that I capture what makes them remarkable.

ASMP: Do your subjects have a say over which portrait you use for FWA? Do they control the portrait session to any degree? Explain how you work with some of these high profile women.

SB: I’ve been very fortunate to have very smooth sessions. Many of my subjects have seen my work before and pretty much allow me to create their image. But I also feel a portrait is a collaboration, so I appreciate my subjects’ involvement in the process. I often start the shoot by sharing the initial images. This can set a comfort level, so the subject can see composition and details, and make suggestions or changes if they like. Other times I just shoot, when the energy is high and I don’t want to interfere with what’s happening. Each personality and each session has a unique dynamic, so I don’t have a set script or rules.

I usually show my final selection to the subject. Understanding that I’m creating this for a historic record, I want to be certain that my subjects are proud of how I have chosen to depict them.

ASMP: How do you contact your subjects? Do you have a standard letter or packet that you send by mail or do you try to find a common acquaintance to initiate a personal contact?

SB: I do have a letter and packet, which is sent to each subject. Sometimes I have a common acquaintance with a subject, who will introduce the request. I’d say that the acceptance rate among subjects I ask is 90 percent or more to date.

ASMP: Has the process of photographing and interviewing all these inspiring women for FWA made you reflect on your own life as a woman?

SB: It has definitely reflected on my life, and not just in terms of gender. I believe that gaining insight on how extraordinary people think and have led their lives is a wonderful gift to experience.

ASMP: Have you always embraced your femininity? Were you greatly affected by Women’s Liberation?

SB: Actually, I was not really involved in Women’s Lib when it was at its revolutionary height. Now, however, I would probably consider myself a feminist relating to equal political, economic and social rights for women. I believe it’s important to have gender equality, to be judged by ability not by one’s sex. So yes, although some years later, I am involved. I think the women’s movement is perhaps the biggest global social revolution ever. I believe the world needs a balance of men and women leaders. When I was in university, most young women were encouraged to enter a traditional career in teaching or nursing, or to find a husband who would become a doctor, lawyer, architect, business leader. Universities were not open to women taking up chairs in the class because it would preclude young men from their future careers. Today women have proven themselves and, even more important, the world has seen that as women are educated — especially evident in third world countries — poverty diminishes, as mothers who are educated see to advancing their families’ education.

ASMP: You created the nonprofit foundation Amaranthine to support FWA. How did you come up with this name? Does it have a personal significance for you?

SB: It does have special meaning for me. Amaranthine refers to a mythical flower that never dies. The documentary for me aims to perpetuate the positive energy and vision of these history-making role models.

ASMP: Please talk about the process of setting up this foundation. What was required and how long did it take?

SB: The nonprofit organization was set up in 1999, so I don’t know if the process is the same today and frankly I don’t remember all the details. We filled out the paper work explaining our mission. It took some months for approval, and we are diligent about staying within the parameters and sending in required documentation on a yearly basis.

ASMP: What are the aims of the foundation? How do you garner support and donations for Amaranthine?

SB: The purpose for which the nonprofit corporation was organized is for the artistic and educational recording of history for the benefit of future generations.

Garnering support requires an entirely different set of skills than photography and includes writing proposals, meeting with community leaders and so on. Support has been received from grants, foundations, corporations, private sponsorship and in-kind support.

ASMP: FWA has exhibited at over 35 venues, including the US Senate Russell Rotunda in Washington DC, the Florida Governor’s Mansion and The Capitol in Tallahassee, Miami-Dade College, The Miami Herald and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida — quite a diverse array. How do you identify venues that would be suitable for exhibiting FWA?

SB: The aim of the exhibit is to inspire and educate though the arts. Identifying locations has been geared toward where we felt the community could have access and where the exhibit would make impact. Either we send a letter of inquiry or, at other times, we receive requests from locations asking us to exhibit.

ASMP: When FWA portraits are displayed in a gallery or on a wall at any venue, do you use a set sequence, or does the sequencing not matter in a series such as this?

SB: It’s actually challenging to display the images because each venue is so different. It depends on how the things flow in the particular space and how images work next to each other. It’s never the same and takes much time and care.

ASMP: What is your archival process for your image? How do you organize your digital images? Is this system connected in any way to your analog archives?

SB: I use Aperture to organize my images. This aspect is not my strongest suit. I have not integrated systems.

ASMP: Besides establishing the foundation to support your FWA project have you taken any steps to plan for the legacy of your work? Have you or are you seeking to donate your work to a museum or cultural organization?

SB: Not to date.

ASMP: FWA is a personal project, but you shoot commercially as well. How do you prioritize your workload so that neither personal projects nor client work gets neglected?

SB: Just sleep less, if necessary. I do try to pace myself, but that is not always possible. Everything gets done on schedule.

ASMP: In addition to FWA, your Web site displays your celebrity portraits, editorial, video production, family portraits, lifestyle, product, architecture, event and fine art photography. Please share your thoughts about this type of presentation versus using different Web sites to present individual categories of work.

SB: I really don’t know if my approach is commercially as sound as having individual sites for different categories. I am open to altering my promotion, but I just sort of feel this is who I am and what I do. I’m not narrow and prefer not to be pigeonholed into a specialty. I think that I’m hired for my vision and interpretations. I enjoy being given an assignment and working on how it will be executed to impact the audience. So I am a package, the sum of my parts, and I seem to attract clients who see what I offer as a whole.

ASMP: Do you find it’s best to offer clients a wide range of photographic services within your local area, or have you simply always enjoyed photographing a large array of subject matter?

SB: I’ve always enjoyed diversification. I think though, clients usually hire me for a specialty area like annual reports, interiors, portraiture, editorial or events. I occasionally get a crossover to photograph a different category from one client.

ASMP: Scherley Busch Studios has three locations: South Florida, Atlanta and New York. Do you maintain studio space or have dedicated staff in all three locations, or do you relocate and rent space for assignments and personal projects?

SB: I mostly shoot on location and do not have a dedicated staff in different locations. If space is needed, it is rented for the assignment, and I have freelance assistants. At this time, most of my assignments and focus are in South Florida.

ASMP: Based on the three locations mentioned above, please briefly describe the challenges and opportunities to working in each photo market.

SB: Basically, traveling and setting up in another location takes extra time, but working in another market opens you up for an additional client base.

ASMP: What marketing techniques do you use to keep in touch with commercial clients?

SB: Contacting via phone, emailing promotions, US mail, exhibitions, networking, and we are also working on increasing our social media presence.

ASMP: What is the worst thing that has ever gone wrong during a commercial shoot, and how did you handle it?

SB: Forgetting a piece of equipment. It occasionally happens that something is missed on the check-off list. But we’ve always saved the day with an alternative solution. Another disaster that recently happened was arriving at a location and finding the doors locked. We had to spend a good amount of time tracking down the contact at the location and then had to scramble to be ready, and still be composed with things under control when the client arrived.

ASMP: You’ve been photographing since the 1970’s. What is it like reflecting back on over 40 years of work? What was one of the most triumphant times for you? Do you have any regrets?

SB: Each decade has had different benefits and challenges. I think perhaps this is the best time for me. I’m excited about this new frontier of added movie-making. It has really expanded my horizons. I used to teach at the University of Miami and always enjoyed working with students. So along with movie and still productions, we have added an intern program for Amaranthine so student apprentices can be mentored and learn from working with our team. Putting all the things that I love to do together in one big package is great. And photography as a fine art is so much more recognized now, in comparison to 30 years ago. Shooting as a fine artist is how I started out, but now there is a strong market and collectors. This fall, I’m planning a photographic art exhibit at the Americas Collection in Coral Gables. So, I feel that I’m really doing all things that are fulfilling.

ASMP: How has photography enhanced your life?

SB: Being a photographer has been a wonderful career. It has been my connection to the world. I’ve personally gained tremendous insights and knowledge by really tuning into what is in front of my lens. From the people I’ve been privileged to work with and photograph, be they celebrities, world leaders, artists, inventors, everyday people, to telling the story about my subject, be it nature, architecture or capturing a culture or a cause, my camera has helped me “focus” and experience exciting moments.

ASMP: Do you have any words of advice for young or aspiring photographers just starting out?

SB: Tell your story through your own vision. When I started out, I remember talking with a friend and mentor Ernst Haas, one of the early iconic LIFE magazine photographers. I was hoping this guru could give me the formula for how to succeed as a photographer. What I learned over the years is that there is no formula. I’ve learned it’s important see through your own eyes, not to compare yourself with others, and to always continue to learn and expand your horizons. Be the best “you” in your creativity, business practices, marketing and, most importantly, in your relationships.