Summer Artist Feature: Sarah Stephan Photography!

Seriously! How adorable is this girl! She is awesome and I'm so excited to share her beautiful heart and incredible photos with you today! I know you will feel inspired....enjoy!

1. How did you get into photography?

This is going to be a long answer! The first time I dipped into photography was after high school. My mom started me painting when I was 3 or 4 and I stuck w/ it. At about 18 I hit the proverbial brick wall when I tried to paint. I loved art, but I had a very black/white technical side to me that I couldn't get past and I stopped growing as a painter. I was having some health issues and was putting alot of pressure on myself to accomplish what I thought was being expected of me which was making my health worse. A good friend of my mom's asked me the question, "If you had the opportunity to work towards what you want to do- not what you think everyone else wants you to do- what would it be?" And then she wrote me a check to do it. I enrolled in a photography class the next week. Unfortunately, my health got worse and I had to drop the class. But the seed was planted. Fast forward several years and several jobs later and a pattern had been set. My health was becoming a major issue and was narrowing down my job choices. I was chomping at the bit to begin working for myself, but the resources just weren't there. One Wednesday night during communion, God gave one of my best friends the charge of taking care of me. We were married 5 months later. This gave me the freedom to stop working outside of the home. The time became right and God just started opening doors for me. To this day I haven't paid for a single piece of equipment out of my pocket.

2. What is your favorite thing about taking photos?

It's the hunt. Haha... that sounds so odd when I put it out there. I seriously can't do anything w/out seeing it as a photograph in my head. Whether I'm driving down the highway or folding laundry I'm so incredibly aware. At least aware of colors, shapes, compositions, shadows, expression, people. Not so aware of my driving. If you've been around me when I'm in this state on the road I sincerely apologize. Perfect example: I went to the downtown office of a gentleman from our church who is a photographer to look at some of his work. He's in the oil business just like 99% of the people who work in his building. As I was leaving I got on the elevator, turn to face out and in front of me is a huge plate glass window of an office. Sitting at a desk is a shaky older gentleman w/ stark white hair, glasses and a short-sleeve button up shirt pecking away at an old typewriter. It honestly stirred my insides. I wanted to know his story so badly. And then the elevator doors closed. As my husband and I left the building and were walking back to our truck we passed a barber shop and through the window I could see the barber donned in an apron and sitting in one of his chairs reading the newspaper w/ his glasses perched on the end of his nose. It made me laugh! Next door to him was a watch repairman alone in his store. He looked like Gepetto. I love this kind of photography b/c it creates a whole story in your head. There are other types of photography I enjoy- landscapes, architecture, details, etc. b/c of the lines, and the shadows, and the compositions. It satisfies my desire to look at, and surround myself w/, pretty things.

3. Describe a day in the life of Sarah. When do you make time to be creative?

This is an area where I fail miserably- time management. I'll tell you what I try hard to do. We don't have kids yet, so I have the luxury of staying awake later and sleeping in until 7:30 or 8 in the morning. Stepan (the hubby) leaves for work between 8:30 and 9 so after he's out of the house I try to spend time in my Bible. My tendency is to go straight for the computer to answer emails, edit or blogstalk other photographers so this is time I really have to fight for. My creative time in front of the computer is in the middle of the day and my favorite time behind the camera is in the late evening. Or on the very rare occasion- at sunrise. But that's usually only b/c I'm driving out of town somewhere. B/c I've started out as a portrait photographer most of my time behind the camera was w/ clients. And don't get me wrong- I love my clients. But I earnestly desire to spend more time shooting just for myself. I'm trying to make the transition towards doing more fine art type photography and being more choosy about how many portrait sessions I take on.

4. What drives you to keep taking pictures?

I wish I had a fancy, inspiring answer here! On the practical side, I want to be able to contribute financially to my family and still be able to be a full-time ministry partner to Stepan and (someday) a full-time mommy. My deep, honest answer is that I'm actually asking myself the same question right now. I do it b/c I thoroughly enjoy it. It brings me so much joy! But I also earnestly desire for my photography to be my "Kingdom work" as well- that eternal mark on the world that God makes by using little ol' me to draw people into a real life relationship w/ Him. I've dreamed up all kinds of things I'd like to do for God w/ my photography, but I'm just starting to sit still and watch/listen for what He's calling me in to.

5. What kind of camera do you use?

Yay! An easy Q! I'm a Canon girl. I use a 40D w/ a handful of Canon lenses. Hope I have an old Canon 630EOS my dad bought when I was 5 or so, but I haven't used it in years. I'm also about to get my hands on a Leica M3 rangefinder camera that my Granddaddy bought in 1955. I'm pretty pumped about it! I've been kind of shopping around for an old medium format film camera, but it'll be a while before I bring one into the family.

6. What is a must in your studio/work space?

1.) A fan. Seriously. The AC doesn't work in my office and it gets toasty! 2.) My labrador, Max. He is a permanent fixture behind my chair. Our other dog, Steve could take me or leave me while I'm working. But the room feels empty to me if Max isn't in here. 3.) My iPhone. It's almost become a new appendage. 4.) Bare feet. I can NOT work if I have shoes on.5.) Food. Sadly, I'm a snacker. And it's not usually something healthy, either. Right now I have a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough sitting next to me.

7. How does your faith affect your photography?

Again, this is a Q that I've been asking myself alot the last 3 months. I've been evaluating myself and my work and any answer I were to give right now wouldn't be genuine. So I guess my answer is that I'm not really sure at this moment.

8. What are you passionate about?

Oy, this is a tough one. I'm passionate about protecting and nurturing my marriage. I have the ridiculous privilege of figuring life out w/ my best friend and I don't take it lightly. I'm passionate about having fun and making the most out of life, but sadly that passion is just in my head lots of times. So now I ask myself, "Is it really passion if I'm not acting on it?"

9. What's your top 5 creative music?

I don't think I could make out a list of 5 artists or 5 songs. I go through phases and right now I'm loving jazz. And also Euro stuff. I'll often listen to Chris Botti or Sufjen Stevens. I've always liked instrumental music like The Six Parts Seven's [Everywhere][And Right Here] album or much of The Album Leaf's music. But my staples will always be the Daves... David Crowder and Dave Matthews.

10. Where do you find inspiration?

In whatever's in front of me. I like the challenge of being able to create art out of what's right in front of my eyes. Even if it is my mountain of laundry on the couch. Like I said before, I'm a bit of a blogstalker. I love looking at the work of other portrait photographers. I probably have 3 dozen bookmarked right now. To give you a nibble, here's who I looked at today: Tara Whitney, Millie Holloman, Kelly Moore Clark and someone I just came across very recently... Sarah Rhoads.

11. What's your next creative adventure?

Stepan is speaking at a young adult retreat up in Colorado this weekend and I have no responsibility besides supporting him. So I'm challenging myself to shoot more in those few days than I ever have before. There's no telling what I'll walk away w/. I'm hoping to start building my fine art portfolio and getting some stuff out in the public. I'm pretty giddy about the whole thing!


Stepan said...


Thanks for taking the time to share my wife's story. I'm so proud of her work, and the amazing talent God has given her. I'm also humbled and honored that He would call me to share life with her. Even though we don't get to see you guys very often, you and Jeremy are money, and really cool too!


Courtney said...

What a beautiful interview. Sarah sounds like a really inspiring girl!

Molly~ Specs & Wings said...

We feel the same about y'all, Jon! Sarah is awesome and I love her vision in her photos...tells her story and speaks of her heart filled with Jesus!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and believe me, Sarah is as beautiful inside and out as she seems! I loved visiting your blog...it's lovely!

Kate said...

I LOVE this girl!!! I completely appreciate her heart for God & the honesty that shows thru her photography. What a rockin' artist! I can't wait to see more from her & get to know her better. I feel a kindred spirit in the humor of her photos--love it!