Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Art of Making Art - Pt. 1


"There are those that create art...and there are those that define it. Steven D. Hill falls into the latter category." - Sean Dibble
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On June 4, 1985, a baby boy was brought into this world. This baby boy would grow into a young man with an innate gift for creating beauty. His name is Steven D. Hill and he is based in Dallas, Texas. He thrives in this industry made up of stylists, make-up artists and photographers. His secret weapon is that he excels at all three.
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In the golden age of glamour, it was easy to look on in wonder at the amazing images that photographers such as Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton were creating. Women were transformed from pretty to extraordinary by the likes of Max Factor, and artists were combining the skills of stylists, lighting technicians, make-up artists, models and photographers to create images that were larger than life. The visual impact of the efforts from the early pioneers would be studied and emulated, and ultimately reworked in the decades that followed. For a certain generation, Madonna was the pinnacle of creativity, exploring (what was assumed to be) uncharted territory in her vidoes and photo shoots, but a well trained eye, or someone who was familiar with the works of artists and performers from yesteryear, would be able to pinpoint where much of her inspiration came from. Along with her other talents was the ability to incorporate the past into her present, mimicing what had already been done in such a way that she embodied it and made it her own.
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Art, in many ways, is about life, and some of the greatest talents were able to see life from a unique perspective and then process it in a way that it could be reflected back to the masses as their own vision. With such an abundance of creativity flowing, it would eventually become more difficult to offer something that had never been seen or done before. Indeed, this would become a cliche of sorts, with the idea being that there were not any avenues left to explore. Instead of being stunted, artists created new works by paying homage to their inspirations.
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And then came MTV and a new media - the music video. Directors and artists would still use the past as creative influence, but the public's attention spans were getting shorter, brought on, in part, by this new method of storytelling that relied on quick cuts and impactful visuals to capture and keep the viewer's attention. This process would continue and morph, continue and blend to the point where much of what we see and hear had the look and feel of what we had already experienced. Singers became clones of each other, to the point where voices are sometimes indisguishable, and the world of fashion, as well as photography, appeared to come down to either a decision on which decade to recreate, or whose photographic style we could copy.
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Talent is an extraordinary gift, but it is no longer enough to just possess it. In this day and age you have to step up your game and sometimes take a simple idea and push it to the highest level. Photoshop has made it easier for a photographer with modest skills to produce images of astounding beauty, but is this really about the craft of photographing or is it more a reflection on computer graphic skill? The actual answer may be unimportant to many, but there will always be just as many others who are longing for the purists. A person whose talent and vision relies solely on their skill and imagination. An innovator.
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Enter Steven D. Hill.
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There is a phrase Steven uses to describe his art: "The foundation of fashion, pop culture, and media combined." An ambitious turn of phrase that he has lived up to wholeheartedly. There are countless places where you can journey through the portfolios of models and photographers, including Model Mayhem, Model Coast, Beautful Mag, NEXT, and a host of personal blogs. It is sometimes overwhealming to discover how much beauty there actually is in the world, and just as exciting to see photos that demand a second look, and yet underneath much of it there is a trace of similarity. Paying homage still exists, and there are a few, like Justin Monroe, who can produce a photo that may remind us of David LaChappelle at first, but by pushing the idea just that extra step has allowed him to be in a class all by himself, where he is viewed as the architect rather than the builder. And he is not alone. We could list Luis Rafael, Rick Day, Mark Henderson, Carlos Arias, Murray!, HotSnapz, Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, Sandro Boss, Lalli, Terry Richardson, Empyrean, Dylan Rosser, Y why Y why Y,Shinobi, Mark Grantham, ASYLUMseventy 7, Flesh & Color, Rundu, and quite a few others.

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.......... And, without question, Steven D. Hill.

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When you see a photo by Steven, you know that he took it. There's no need to glance up at the SOOAK logo. It starts with the styling, continues with the make-up, and then rests on the image itself, often infused with some creative text, or defined by the negative space at the top of the photo where the logo is often found, resembling a landscpe that has been rotated and presented vertically. What Steven has done is unique and innovative, not just for the exceptional quality of the photo, but for the care and thought that goes into the presentation. This man does not tip toe past a single element, and nothing escapes his keen eye for detail. If make-up is the primary element of the photo, then his mastery of this art is boldly evident. He can make anyone beautiful, but why stop there? In his hands, the face is a canvas, and his hand, coupled with his imagination, work together at creating a living piece of art.
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Steven is the missing link between the past and the present, and this visionary has managed to create a space for his work that sits in neither realm. What he offers is a glimpse of the future. His photos practically declare, "this is what could be."
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The third issue of BLISS is a celebration of all things Steven - the man, the make-up, the photos, and the models who have had the priviledge to become a part of the SOOAK world. I am honored that he took the time out of his busy schedule to be interviewed, and allow me to include his incredible body of work in my magazine.
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©2009 - Sean Dibble



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