Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to 107. Tell us a little about yourself and how you evolved into a photographer
Thank you! I was pleasantly surprised that you reached out! I’ll start at the beginning, I was conceived on a chilly October evening in a car, I’m just kidding (not really). I have always been more of an observer than a participant. I suppose it’s safe to say that I’ve always been more of a creative, “free thinking” individual, as well. That freedom always got me in trouble; I had to be mindful as a young, black woman who already had a lot going against her. So, I spent many years (unknowingly) attempting to blend in, despite how I thought and what I saw. Given that perspective, artistic endeavors have always been more of a hobby for me. After many attempts in traditional education, tons of changes in majors and attempts to “follow the path,” I realized I could take my creative abilities and use them to create the life I wanted for myself. My family played a large role in that self-realization by always supporting me in whatever I wanted to try. As for photography, I love reality and photos are one of the easiest ways to capture it right then and there.
How was ACL?! It looks like you saw some incredible shows. What were your favorite show to see or shoot?
ACL was a complete dream! I had originally bought a weekend pass for the 1st weekend because I heard that Kendrick Lamar, Anderson.Paak, NAO, Corinne Bailey Rae, etc were going to be there and no way was I going to miss out on that. Then I was asked by SoulCiti to be a photographer for their coverage during the 2nd weekend. Who says no to an opportunity like that? Anderson.Paak was my absolute favorite, his energy was contagious and I was singing and dancing more than I was shooting! The same goes for M83, they are true performers. The lights, their movements, their whole aesthetic was indicative of their level as experienced artists.
How did you get the ACL gig?
I met the head of SoulCiti Donell Creech, through Princess Jenkins, whom I met in a roundabout way through a group I helped create with my friend Victoria Watson, Sistas Of Austin. It’s amazing what sort of connections you can benefit from by being more than an observer and actually participating.
How easy or challenging is it to be a freelance photographer in Austin and why?
Seeing how I am new to being a freelance photographer, I find it quite difficult. Though, that may have a lot to do with my natural tendency to NOT speak to people, haha. There is often a lot of “liquid courage” involved when I do! Photography takes a lot of speaking to people, networking, and being everywhere all the time. Considering that I am a serious introvert, it takes a lot out of me. Other than that, Austin is growing in ways that I feel is making it less of an artist safe haven and more of a “Give me all your money” community. Though, still heavily saturated with incredibly talented artists, I feel it’s hard to fight the ever looming commercialism of the “weird” Austin.
You images are so bright, vivid, and saturated with color. Has this style of photography always come naturally to you or was it something you evolved into over time? Tell us more.
I love color. Love it. Though I also love reality, I feel as though the fact we exist as a species is this wild, vibrant notion. I suppose that feeling comes out in my images. Humans are so complex, what we have created, all the variety is spectacular and I suppose that is what my eyes catch. I think the more comfortable I am with my own existence, the more vibrant my art becomes to reflect that.
Just browsing through your concert photos, you have this talent for capturing just the right vibe, attitude, and atmosphere of a live show/festival. How do you go about selecting a live music image? What are you looking for when you are taking photos?
Honestly it is all the performer. If they have a good vibe and a contagious energy then there is no way my photo of them will be dull. I feed off of what they are throwing at me. When it comes to the finished product, I just want something that the artist would be proud to see of themselves. Something that depicts who they are in that moment. The energy or emotion that they are conveying is beyond valuable.
Something I didn’t know about you is that you are an (abstract) illustrator. How would you describe your style of art?
Oh, yeah. Not many people know that. I’m trying! It doesn’t come as easy as photography. I definitely limit myself and critique myself harshly in regards to those pieces. Color still plays a big part. I love playing around with the color wheel and color combinations. I realized through attempting to do illustration, that I see the world through two different lenses: Human experience and Shapes and Colors. I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to combine the two.
What is the next challenge for you as both a photographer, illustrator, and artist? What are you looking to conquer or eventually do... that scares you a little?
Man, putting myself out there scares the hell out of me! However, because I could never see myself in any corporate gig and also because I don’t want to work in the service industry FOREVER, I have to try. So, here I am. Honestly, I hate capitalism and I find it hard to live in this world so I don’t really know what is next. I just want to be as happy as I can without sacrificing my ideals too much.
As someone who is growing in her craft, what would you tell a younger version of you that is looking to be a photographer (and/or illustrator)?
To a younger version of myself I would say, if it feels right-- do it, regardless of the negative feedback or repercussions. Life is for living how YOU see fit, not for following what others have done before you. Enjoy yourself.
STEPHANIE WARREN WEBSITE