Cris Stephens is our guest judge for our ‘Lifestyle’ week and we can’t think of anyone else better suited to this theme. Her images are natural and powerfully emotive. We thank you Cris for giving over your time to us and hope you’ll be a regular visitor to The Dark Room.
1) How long have you been taking photographs and what inspired you to start?
I’ve been taking photographs ‘professionally’ since June 2011. By ‘professionally’ I man grabbing a camera, shooting manually and translating all what I envisioned in a final product. Shooting people other than my own kids. Focusing on details, perspectives, all types of natural light and discovering beauty through different lenses (before I had one or two simple lenses). By ‘professionally’, I mean having clients and getting paid for my work. Having responsibilities and schedules. Having a product to deliver. Having needs to satisfy other than mine. Facing challenges (I shoot my kids in their great moods. In one hour shooting, the models could be hungry, sleepy, cranky and yes, the challenge is to get the great shot with a kid that does not know you and is just wishing for a snack!). I started professionally when I retired from the corporate world and got my BIG camera! But wait…you do not have to wait to have the ‘big’ equipment to start. In my case, the timing just worked that way (I have so many images taken with my pocket camera that are still framed or even printed on a huge canvas).
MY FIRST INSPIRATION? When growing up my dad purchased in a monthly basis the National Geographic Magazines, and they were mailed to us in Argentina. I would sit for hours admiring the photographs. It was in the 80’s when I discovered Steve Curry (well, now I know who was behind the camera. Back then, I would just appreciate for hours the images printed. I did not understand a word of english, but I would sit on the wood floor and just admire each of the photographs. I wanted to know how to do it. I wanted to see through those lenses. I wanted to see how they were taking them. Admiring was something I did for years and years. Due to how underpaid artistic carreers were in Argentina and the constant unemployment, I decided to study accounting. Flew the world, ended up in oil and gas, and did well =). I liked it but it was not my passion. But I knew that it was my path to end up doing what I feel passion to do. And here I am. Being a mom, and loving photography. Sometimes things do not happen in the moment you want them to happen. It took me many years but here I am. I just have to learn to be patient =)
2) Which camera and lens do you use the most?
I am a canon girl just because I always had canon cameras! =) I work with a EOS 5D Mark ll. The lenses I use the most are the 70-300mm 1:4, the 16-35mm 1:2.8L, and the 50mm 1:1.2. I can do a photo shoot (with a lot of variety in captures) just using these three lenses.
3) Name a photographer that inspires you..
I will not list them all because I have a long list to go but there are so many that inspire me in the most incredible way. So much talent out there!. I will mention only one that clicked in my mind and heart while following her work for years during lunch break at my office. She is the talented and kind Deb Schwedhelm. Later in time I had the chance to participate in a workshop with her, and then becoming good friends. I do not have words to describe how much I love her, I love her work, and I love how she inspires my soul.
4) Tell me one obstacle that you’ve had to overcome…
Since becoming a photographer one obstacle that I had to overcome is not to get too distracted with money. I love photography and the artistic part of it. I love what you can create, what you can transmit with your images. The stories you can tell. I love expressing my feelings from inside just translating them through an image. I started photography before I studied it. I started shooting before I studied technique. Before I knew what was “technically” correct or not. The good thing of being self taught and starting raw is that I found myself first. Then I researched and researched and studied and spent hours in front of the computer. Googling and watching utube. Keeping what was relevant to me and getting rid of what was not giving me anything. But by then, I knew who I was and what I wanted to do. I knew that the dramatic photography is what makes my heart sing and the babies in the basket are really cute and I can appreciate the beauty in the capture but it was just not for me. Props is not what I use. Spontaneous moments, and just letting my subjects be is what defines what I do. And little by little I knew myself and I work on being true to myself. Always. So returning to the question, my major obstacle is the money distraction. I constantly work on not getting distracted about booking more than what I know I can book. The more bookings, the more money and believe me, that is always so tempting. But reality is, I can deliver what I do if I work with time and I put my soul on your session. So I book a limited quantity of sessions per month and enjoy each of them from beggining to end =).