As a photographer, Linnea Stephan finds inspiration in everything from social justice and mental health to fashion and the arts.
The Los Angeles-based media artist combines elements found in traditional photojournalism as well as street photography, but as she’s grown as an artist, she aims to carve out her own artistic niche.
“I think that if you want to capture the essence of everyday life you have to be totally, honestly interested in learning about the way people deal with pain and love and humor and so on,” Stephan reveals to LYFSTYL.
Her portraiture in particular is one area that can be considered her bread-and-butter. Thematically, she has a knack for perfectly capturing everyday moments and settings similar to seeing them in the corner of your eye. Check out the full interview with Linnea Stephan below.
How did you get started as a photographer?
I was given a camera as a 10th birthday present, but had been using my father’s camera on family vacations and around the yard up until this point.
What initially drew you to the medium of a photography? Does it still captivate you to this day?
I would use photography as a way to explore and I still do. Having a camera as a child allowed me to be present in a group setting but also having my own individual experience, which is something that will never be deprogrammed from my brain. The connectivity to the world is what drew me to photography. It’s also escapism, which now photographers and non-photographers have both realized.
“I think that if you want to capture the essence of everyday life you have to be totally, honestly interested in learning about the way people deal with pain and love and humour and so on.”
You initially wanted to be a photojournalist and were influenced by street photography. Even though that wasn’t the path you ended up taking, how is this manifested in your current work?
Street photography has never been an easy way to make a living, but I think that when the magic of photographs as an invention faded, the possibility to exist strictly as a street photographer faded with it. I should note that I have worked as a photojournalist for newspapers and am still interested in doing so. Regarding my current work, I am still most fond of telling stories with candid photos. I try to stay involved with current events and the status of my neighborhood and city, which is something a true street photographer does whether consciously or not.
From intimate views of those in your local community to exploring societal topics like mental health and the strength of women and children, your portraits seem to capture the essence and beauty of everyday life. How did you come to learn to appreciate the everyday?
Thank you! I am very observant just because of my personality type and because I have great eyesight. I am so dependent on that because it allows me to notice a lot that I wouldn’t otherwise. It comes from years of practice as well. Anyone can learn to be more observant with their senses. I chose sight because it is the way in which I am able to spin a positive outlook for myself. You can shift your perspective visually in a mere fraction of a second and that is a very powerful metaphor for what’s going on inside your head. I’m learning a lot about Buddhism, can you tell?
Building on this, how did you learn to capture this within your photographs?
I think that in curating my own work and having been taught to edit down, I focus on sharing the pictures that emphasis this the most. So sometimes I make loose, reactionary, just-because-I-can photos but a lot of those are never shown to the world because they don’t fit into the work that I want to share. I was forced to learn a lot about emotions at a young age. I think that if you want to capture the essence of everyday life you have to be totally, honestly interested in learning about the way people deal with pain and love and humour and so on. And then get close with your camera so viewers know what’s going on too.
What’s the most understated or important element of capturing the perfect portrait?
This is such a good question. For my work, I think that there is a way to honour and flatter everyone with just lighting alone. I never alter the way people look in images. You let the light and the subject sort out themselves while you wait for the stars to align, even if it’s just a few seconds, otherwise something will be off. Some of the best portraits are “off” but then that’s often still an intentional decision. Let them show you when to take it, just watch.