Based in Denver, Colorado, the well published Steve Stanton photographs weddings for a living throughout the US & worldwide. He also owns a partnership business selling hand-crafted camera accessories called Artisan Obscura. We’ve been treated to Steve’s new documentary series on children of Phnom Penh, Cambodia in this feature. We also love Steve’s 3 main criteria before taking an interest in any photographic project!
1. What is life to you? What it should be?
Life to me is to be experienced, the meaning of which I believe is simply to be; to be loved and to love in return. Life is a verb and must be lived.
2. When did you find your calling in photography?
I started getting into photography a bit later than most I guess, I was about 21 or so when I won what was to be my first camera (a Canon Rebel / 35mm film) at a sales job I had. I shot everything I saw of course, without restraint. It wasn't until my oldest son was born that I felt the urge to take things much more seriously. My son's birth I think bubbled up a strange fear in me, always worrying about what I'd miss if I didn't photograph it.
3. Do you have a “second profession” or passion?
I have more interests than there are minutes in a day. I carve, and have a little wood shop, and I enjoy music and play guitar as well as some piss-poor banjo but only for my family. I even started a camera accessory company with my friend Preston Utley (an excellent photographer in his own right) called "Artisan Obscura". It's been a way for us to connect on a deeper level with like minded artists. I created Artisan Obscura to help others fall deeper in love with the act of photography. By creating products that served both form & function, one would want to engage with their camera more and more. As one engages with their camera, they want to take pictures, the more pictures they take the more they fall in love with the act of photography and seeing. Simply speaking, we turn machines into personal forms of expression. Hopefully inspiring more photographers to fall in love with their craft.
4. What movie did you love recently?
I just watched and immediately bought "What we do in the shadows". A comedy right up my alley!
5. Is/Are there any project(s) you wish you could do - or might do?
I'd really like to establish a link between visual artists and the 3rd world, teaching ongoing workshops to children, helping them shape a different perspective of their world.
6. Is there a big difference between your personal work and commissioned work?
Yes and No. Every photographic project that interests me whether commissioned or personal needs to meet a few criteria:
- it needs to take me on an adventure;
- it needs to be new or different to me; &
- it needs to be hard for me in some way.
7. Do you shoot with your left or right eye?
I tend to shoot with both, depending on if I'm framing landscape or portrait, and if I'm using my DSLR or a mirrorless camera like the Fuji XPro1
8. Are there any unseen experimental images in your attic you’d like to show us now?
I wish. I'm unfortunately way to liberal in my sharing for any hidden gems to still be hidden away, however the series you're showing for this interview is something I'm still relentlessly working on, experimenting with treatments, techniques, etc.
9. Who do you respect - in photography or elsewhere?
I tend to respect anyone who doesn't shout for attention. Those people who do what they do in the shadows and edges, where you have to discover them. A few photographic inspirations would certainly be Rodney Smith; Barbara Bosworth; Pentti Sammallahti; Mary Ellen Mark and of course, Richard Avedon.
10. If you were to start all over again, is there anything you would do differently? Why?
Had I to do it all over again, I'd tell myself not to stress the nagging fear of starting and sustaining a business. Any gigs over the years I shouldn't have taken, or rabbit trails that sucked up too much time were always based on fear.
Bonus: Do you think the gear you use affects the way you photograph? Why?
Absolutely. Although 99% of my photography is digital now, there's no question that the camera I use directly impacts my style, the speed with which I craft an image, everything. Of course I'm torn because I love the instant feedback of digital, but I feel far more inspired with my Yashica in my hands.
Lastly, the series I've included here in this interview is the newest essay I'm working on. I'm trying to blend the feeling and emotion of photo-journalism with a more commercial esthetic to isolate the story and connect to the subject within the frame. These were taken during a trip last month to Phnom Penh, Cambodia where I was tasked with documenting the children of sex workers, expressly those living in extremely unsafe environments whose parents have very limited options for looking after them.