Photographer Jon Stephenson shares a portfolio filled with fascinating (and sometimes startling) colors and images. We interviewed him about inspiration and the drive it takes to become a professional photographer.
ABI: What experiences have you had as a photographer that led to what you are doing today?
JS: From the days of my halcyon youth, I’ve had an itch to create – to write, to draw, to paint, to design, and to photograph. I’ve worn many labels in this life – disc jockey, broadcast reporter, anchor and producer, writer, graphics designer, raconteur, Civil War re-enactor and a few other odds and ends.
During my days at university, while taking photography courses, I began to feel that this was something for which I’ve some talent. Along the way, I’ve tried different approaches. Early on, I thought of becoming a magazine photographer. Later on, I dabbled in portrait photography and then stock photography caught my eye. Problem is, I was left a bit dry by these venues. And so, a few years ago, I decided to try my hand at fine art photography.
ABI: How would you describe the inspiration behind your portfolio?
JS: I prefer to create imagery that tells a story – in color, in texture, in light and in shadow. Have a look at classic old films like “The Maltese Falcon,” and “Casablanca” and notice how the film-makers of that day used light and shadows to create depth and texture. I’ll look at something ordinary, and I’ll search for a different viewpoint, a new way of looking at the familiar. I look for a way to make a moment mine, be it in camera or in post-processing.
ABI: What formats are you using to sell your work?
JS: On my primary website, you’ll find wall art, greeting cards and calendars. Soon, I’ll add keepsakes and photo books. You’ll also want to visit my profile page at VIDA Voices. There, you’ll find a selection of unique fashions, all featuring my imagery.
ABI: What insights can you share with other photographers who are looking to build a body of work?
JS: Begin by learning as much as you can. The internet is replete with courses and webinars (including many here at ABI), covering every aspect of photography. If you haven’t yet decided on a camera, visit rental shops and join photo clubs and get your hands on cameras and lenses, tripods, all of it.
Once you’ve got some gear, get thee out into the world and start taking pictures – LOTS of pictures. Spend time carefully studying these images and learn from them what works and what doesn’t. Eventually, you’ll discover, as did I, what sort of photography best suits you and then you can begin to assemble a portfolio.
You do that, and you may want to look into establishing a website and then it’ll be time to learn as much as you can about the business of selling your work.
I’ll warn you up front that it’s definitely not as simple as setting up a website. You have to find out who’d be interested in purchasing what you create, and then you must discover how to reach this audience. This takes time and it can definitely be frustrating, but with lots of practice, a modicum of patience and a dab or two or resolve, you’ll get there.