Sunday, October 4, 2009

Live Through Your Work - Steven D. Hill - The BLISS Interview


Steven was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions for me. Meet the man behind the magic.

BLISS: So when did you first get interested in photography?

STEVEN HILL: I first gained an interest in photography about 5 years ago.

B: Do you remember when you got your first camera?

SH: Back in 2006, a Sony Cybershot DSCH1 in which was a 5.1 Megapixel camera.....It was stolen actually...

B: You've advanced a great deal in such a short period of time. How did you start out and what type of images were you creating?

SH: I don't remember how I started out. I was born an Artist...but when I started out I was creating images of the caliber like now but not as intense. Fashion Photography was my first venture!

B: Your models are undeniably attractive people, and there is a great deal of diversity in your choices. What is your definition of beauty? Is it purely physical, in terms of looks, or does attitude, carriage and personality play a role?

SH: My definition of beauty, is pure physical but also you need to have a overall personality that carries the word beauty.

B: I love that idea of having to "carry beauty" because it basically validates the arguement that a nasty personality can detract from looks, no matter how gorgeous a person may be.
Now, you also know how to create beauty. You are also an incredibly gifted make-up artist, as well as a stylist. When did you first develop an interest in both?

SH: My interest in Make Up Artistry came years before I even thought about photography, only because I watched my mother in the bathroom as she prepared her face for her day. I have always felt the power behind looking and feeling beautiful, but being able to make others feel that way through a make up process is amazing. Styling became my interest once I figured fashion would play a major part in my photographic art...although I studied fashion design while in college. Not to forget my assistant/teammate Traci Moore has done the majority of the styling for my photographs.

B: Your photos are very conceptual, incorporating all three elements - make-up, styling and photography. Where do your ideas come from?

SH: People never know the answer, sometimes I never do either. I always have stuff going through my mind, but ideas comes once I meet the model which usually is the day of the photo shoot. Just a few times I will already have my idea in mind, but it all depends on the chemistry with the model and I. Let me say this about the Make up, it comes to me as I'm doing it...meaning I just go with the flow.

B: I feel as if you are making statements with many of your images. Some of these statements are very bold, but at times, I am not entirely sure what is being portrayed, yet I am completely riveted. Do you use your art in this manner, or is that merely the viewer's interpretation?

SH: That would be visual interpretation along with the creative energy in the room.

B: Everything about your work is very meticulous, right down to the SOOAK logo. What does SOOAK stand for?

SH: I believe in the right to express myself through every detail in my photographs. Also, the word SOOAK stands for....Steven One Of A Kind...I took every first letter to make the word SOOAK. A bold word that I believe I have lived up too.

B: Most definately. It's the perfect moniker for what your are presenting with your work. How would you describe your style? What makes it a SOOAK image?

SH: The foundation of fashion, pop culture, and media combined.....a twist on fashion and photography. Art. Style. Eye opening. Creative. Form. Body. Soul. Mind. Urban. Editorial. Edgy. Wondrous. Inspiration of color. Definitely unique. It's rough. not too polished. Grainy. Authentic. Refreshing. Beyond fashion. Crisp. Clean. Pure. And has a southern urban feel.

B: That is an impressive list of bold adjectives, and I can say, from my perspective, that your work truely represents each of them. Presentation can make even the simplest image stand out, and you have a unique way of cropping that adds height, using the negative space to draw even more attention to the subject. It appears to be your trademark. Was this a conscious decision? If so, what was your intention?

SH: That actually was something I thought to be a brain teaser and leave the viewer wondering like, what's going on. My own idea of presentation is to have people wanting more. The idea of the extra space was actually a conscious decision.

B: Visually, it is very striking, and has put a stamp on your work, defining it as uniquely yours.
How do you set up a shoot? How much planning is involved?

SH: When I'm shooting just for portfolio reason, I just find a model; pick location if not just in the studio. Set date, time and go from there. Most of the paid gigs when I have them, it's just about the same thing, except money is received.

B: I reviewed some of the portfolios of models who have posed for you and noticed that the other images are vastly different from their shoots with you. Do your subjects understand what you are creating intuitively or do you have to explain the concepts to them?

SH: Normally, I tell them the concept; they are always down for the count because it's so DIFFERENT from what have done.

B: Have you ever received a negative response to a final image from a model? If so, how do you address this?

SH: Actually, I have never received any negative response.

B: I have known and met quite a few make-up artists, and they seem to prefer working with female models, which they say gives them more freedom. You have successfully pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable, and use make-up in a non-traditional way. In spite of this, do you have an affinity for shooting one gender over the other?

SH: No, I actually made my point; shooting male models is just as amazing as female models. Society has peoples' minds messed up. People are stuck with the same thing, and think following the cycle is the way to be. I decided once I first started, I would be different from what you normally see.

B: Those of us outside of the make-up world can rarely name any famous make-up artists. I can think of two: Way Bandy and Kevyn aucoin. Were you inspired by anyone in the field? If so, who?

SH: Kevyn Aucoin, who believed in his vision and not only that, he lived it.

B: Are your sessions defined more by Steven the make-up artist, Steven the stylist, or Steven the photographer?

SH: WOW! Actually, Steven the Photographer.

B: Are there any ideas that you have wanted to try but have yet to incorporate into your portfolio?

SH: What I choose not to discuss but you will see in my future photographs.

B: If budget was not a factor and you could create any type of image that you wanted, what would it look like?

SH: I'd rather not say.....There's so much I could do..but my ideas mean a lot to me.

B: Completely understandable. What other photographers do you admire and why? Can you describe their style?

SH: David Lachapelle. He has evolved his photography into an idiosyncratic and highly personal combination of reportage and surrealism.

B: We are totally on the same page there. I'm a huge fan of his. What was your most memorable photo shoot?

SH: Being able to shoot at the top of the Mosaic Lofts (Downtown Dallas) on the 21st floor inside what I call my glass house....2,874sf. It was amazing.

B: What was the biggest challenge you've had, in terms of a shoot?

SH: I don't recall anything.

B: One of my favorite images is the painted face on model Josh Lofty. Another is "Beauty in a Box". Do you have a personal favorite? If so, why this image in particular?

SH: I don't have a favorites, I like everything the same. It's all my work. I like some more the others but I don't call them favorites.

B: You know, I always ask that question, but I'd have to answer the same way you did if the question was posed to me. My favorite image of my own work is constantly shifting.
There are certain models who are featured often in your portfolio. Do you have any favorites amongst them? If so, who and why?

SH: I wouldn't say I have a favorite. I love them all. Each model has something special about them.

B: Where do you find most of your models? Are there any physical requirements to shoot with you?

SH: Most of my models are from online or random people I come in contact with, but I actually use most of the same people because I gain a personal bond. It's easier for me to use the same models because I know what they are capable of.

B: I'm not sure if people really understand how important that is. There are people that I've wanted to work with, and then when the opportunity came, the shoot felt difficult or flat, because the model just could not produce an expression or emotion that was needed for the photo. I use some of the same people over and over for the exact same quality that you do.
If you could work with any famous person in the world, living or dead, who would be your dream model? Why?

SH: Alek Wek - she's the definition of BEAUTY...and from the looks of it....I could only capture it even better. Standing at 5 ft 11 in...from her dark skin tone. She understands the uniqueness of fashion and the creative world!

B: What type of camera do you use?

SH: Samsung GX-1L

B: Do have a preference in terms of cosmetic brands?

SH: M.A.C. Cosmetics is the way to be as other make up artist would say. I love M.A.C! There are other brands that are great, you just have to find what works for you. I use just about everything you can think of. It's not the brand it's how you use it.

B: Have you ever thought about creating and launching your own brand? If so, how would it differ from the many brands out there?

SH: I have thought about it to be truthful, but as far as it being different I haven't gathered enough information or brainstormed that yet. Although we all know it would be different.

B: What advice would you give a new photographer?

SH: Express what you feel no matter what people say or do. Live through your work!

B: I LOVE that! That needs to be the title of your feature. What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a model?

SH: Know who you are, understand your boundaries and go for what you know never fall or anything...STAND FOR SOMETHING.

B: What is your ultimate goal as an artist?

SH: To become international known, make a name for myself. Show the world how art plays a major part in photography, and make up artistry can be use not only to make people feel and look beautiful, but to create something. Being able to express my creativity through a digital process. To be publish in magazines all over from Wonderland, Zink, WAD, V Magazine, and Vogue, and many others. To have open galleries throughout the country and to publish photograph books that would be sold throughout the world.

B: I follow your blog regularly and absolutely love it. You are also on Twitter. What made you decide to incorporate these mediums?

SH: Yes, I'm on Twitter! I feel you can reach out through the internet faster then you would trying to afford to travel..

B: Do you have any personal heroes?

SH: Of course, my mother, grandmother and my aunt.

B: Can you tell me one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn?

SH: I'm really not a people person, if you know what I mean.

B: On a lighter note...tell me 5 fun facts about Steven.

1. I love COLOR.
3. I love text messaging.
4. I look like my mom.
5. I have short legs.

B: Any last words?

SH: Thanks for being interested!

©2009 Sean Dibble

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