Going into a dark and tight space, venturing into an active construction zone, or climbing through one of the SFPUC’s watersheds is just a normal day’s work for SFPUC Photographer Robin Scheswohl.
Over the past 12 years, Scheswohl has seen her share of excitement with the SFPUC. She’s documented large capital projects from the time a shovel hits the ground to when the completion ribbon-cutting celebration takes place. Throughout her time with the SFPUC, Scheswohl has also met most of the field staff in various milestones of their projects and careers, capturing their stories behind her camera.
What most people don’t know is that Scheswohl’s work is prominently featured throughout the SFPUC’s headquarters, website and on the newsroom. To give insight into her story, the Communications team asked Scheswohl a few questions about herself.
Q. What is a typical work day for you?
Scheswohl: The most interesting part of this job is that there is no ‘typical’ day. One day I might be busy taking photographs inside a brick sewer tunnel or shooting video of the Headworks Project at Southeast Wastewater Plant. The next day I’ll be flying my drone to capture construction activity or taking photos of reservoirs in the Peninsula Watershed. When not in the field taking photos, I’m in the office processing them using professional editing software, taking care of photo and video requests, and scheduling shoots. In addition to documenting construction projects and events, I also manage the historical photography and film collection. This involves scanning glass plates, slides, albums, and negatives dating back to the early 20th century.
Q. What is the most unusual work location you’ve photographed?
Scheswohl: In 2017, during a media tour, I climbed inside a brick sewer tunnel built in 1866 beneath Ellis Street in the Tenderloin. The tunnel was filled with cockroaches that thankfully scampered off when I set off my flash. While I was taking photos, a rat ran past my leg. The service worker I was with said that I was “lucky” to see a rat because no one else on the media tour got to see one. I would have to say that this was the most unusual location I’ve photographed.
Q. How did you start your career as a photographer?
Scheswohl: I first got interested in photography when I was a teenager. My dad lent me his Canon AE-1 35mm film camera (which I still have) and we would go out together shooting. In my early twenties I started photographing diners in the east coast and won best portfolio in the photography program I was enrolled in at Antonelli Institute in Philadelphia. After graduating, I worked as a photo assistant for commercial photographers in Philadelphia and as a second shooter for a wedding photographer. I also worked in photo labs and a brief period as a baby photographer. I moved to San Francisco in 2004 and started with the SFPUC in 2007. From photographing diners and babies to now the sewer system, you never know where your career path will lead you.