As an artist, I believe in the importance of collaboration, and I really want my website to be a platform for not only myself but also the artists I admire.
The first artist I am going to feature is Suzy Stowell, the lovely shutterbug behind many of the photos on this site.
What I Admire About Suzy and Her Work
Suzy is friendly, sweet, and extremely easy to talk to. As soon as you explain what you want, she makes it happen. She will also help you with things like posing, and she is very open to creative choices.
Together, we have done both experimental photography (like an underwater shoot in the Virgin Islands) and professional portraits (like the ones you see on this site). Suzy has been photographing me for years, and she always does an excellent job.
She has taken my high school graduation photos, my college graduation photos, all of our family photos, and my professional headshots. I can’t wait to hire her for my author photos someday (hopefully soon).
Suzy has a gift for photographing people. She makes her subjects feel at ease, and she has a distinct talent for capturing each person’s individual “essence.”
No matter the context, Suzy’s photography is authentic, creative, and fun!
In her own words, Suzy's story is, "lots of stumbling and getting back up."
Suzy has been taking pictures for as long as she remembers. In high school, she was the best student in a black and white photography class at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California. When it was time to go to college, Suzy packed up her car and drove to San Francisco by herself -- only to discover that she wasn't the best student in art school (at the Academy of Art University).
Still, Suzy persevered. She enjoyed learning and experimenting with her art throughout college and graduated with a BFA in photography.
Since then, Suzy has been working by trial and error -- and trying not to compare herself to other artists. She tells me,
"Nobody teaches you how to make a living off of being an artist."
This is something Suzy (and many of us) still struggles with today. She is working on finding the balance between taking pictures and paying her rent, and she has to remind herself that she isn't a failure because she took a job to pay the bills.
Suzy's story is extremely relatable, and her work speaks for itself.
Dive in to hear more about Suzy's story, told in her voice:
Q&A with Denver-Based Photographer Suzy Stowell
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?
A: No. I always knew I wanted to be taking pictures, I always was taking pictures, I always enjoyed it. When it was time for college and picking my future, I chose photography.
Q: How did you become interested in photography?
A: Before I liked taking photos, I loved being in photos. I was a complete ham as a child, always posing.
I also helped my mom scrapbook all of our family photos, all the time. So many scrapbooks.
I wanted to make my own scrapbooks, so I had to make my own photos. I used disposable cameras; digital cameras. People wanted to see the photos I was taking, then they wanted copies of the photos, and I realized, "oh, this is something I can do that makes other people happy."
Q: Tell me about your time as an amateur... I think we all start doing things for fun or as play.
A: In high school, I took my first black and white photo class in community college. I got to set up photo shoots instead of going to a party and taking pictures (before that, it was mostly event photography).
This class was the first time I got to get creative with photography and direct my own photo shoot. I also got to learn a whole new process, which was exciting. I ditched high school to go the darkroom. I went to my old elementary school and staged a Taylor Swift-esque photo shoot with my friend in a prom dress.
I did a lot of experimenting in college, too. The best part of being an amateur is there’s no money attached – it’s very low stakes. There's no client to please, it's just fun, weird photoshoots.
Q: When did you decide to “get serious” about photography? Or do you still feel playful?
A: Choosing to go to San Francisco for college was my “get serious,” point. But I was still having fun. I spent a lot of time questioning, “what am I going to do to make money in my life?” and I chose photography. I kind of said, "this is what I’m doing, this is where I’m going."
I wish I would have taken school more seriously and taken advantage of different opportunities, like renting cameras I could never afford otherwise.
I was still acting like an amateur through college. I had ebbs and flows of being lax or taking it seriously.
I got out and got real serious, but I had a hard time diving into photography because I had to make money or else move home.
Q: What kind of formal training have you had?
A: I’m still paying my student loans [laughs].
I took a community college class and spent four years in art school.
At the Academy of Art, I took so many classes –- location lighting classes, studio classes, strobe lighting, still life classes, fashion and beauty classes, medium format classes, digital imaging classes, and photoshop classes.
The funniest class I took was a website class, because we made flash websites, and now that knowledge is pretty much obsolete.
The Academy of Art is an accredited school, so I got my BFA and a well-rounded education.
I think the biggest difference between amateurs and professionals is learning your lighting.
Q: What’s your favorite project you have worked on?
A: There’s a project I did in college for my fine arts portraiture class called “Unforgettables.”
It's a series of environmental portraits, capturing how someone is in their space.
I have a terrible memory, so I wanted to take pictures of all the people in college I didn’t want to forget.
Photography is a snapshot in time, a memory of that moment. Unforgettables memorializes all the people who were important to me at that time in my life.
I want it to be an ongoing project.
Q: Can we see your favorite photo that you have taken?
A: This photo shoot was absolutely ridiculous. I booked my school’s pool, but we showed up only to find out that shoots weren’t allowed in that pool anymore.
Everyone was ready to go, so my model took us to an unheated pool in her rooftop apartment, and it was ICE COLD.
Thank you, Jen, for getting in the freezing cold pool with me.
We spent the whole shoot running back and forth from the hot tub to the pool, and I didn’t expect anything from the shoot, but we got this photo.
I was impressed. My school was impressed. It hung in the spring show.
Q: How do you balance making art and working for money?
A: I’m still struggling with this. Taking a non-photo job does make me feel like a failure, but relying on my art to pay all the bills petrifies and paralyzes me. It adds too much pressure to be perfect, and it’s hard to be creative when I’m worried about paying rent.
I have a full-time job right now, but I’d like to change to a part-time job, so I can supplement my income with photos without worrying about paying for my life and making rent.
Right now, working for money outside of photography allows me to be creative without worrying about money.
Q: What jobs have you had besides photographer? Which was your favorite?
A: Most of my jobs have been in childcare because I’m pretty good with children. I currently work as a preschool teacher, and I did not love that at the beginning. There’s a very steep learning curve, but now it’s a pretty rewarding job.
Before that, I worked as a nanny. Being a nanny to a baby in San Francisco was my favorite job because all I had to do was walk around the park and take naps for two hours a day [laughs].
I’ve also had a bunch of other weird jobs. I've worked catering so many times, I’ve worked as a kayak instructor even though I didn't know how to kayak, I’ve valet parked cars (terrible). Lots of weird little odd jobs that I’ve taken while I was trying to be a photographer and realized I had to pay rent.
Q: Do you have any other hobbies, interests, or creative outlets? How do they tie back to your photography?
A: I like to do a little bit of everything. I got back into playing soccer, which is more of a physical outlet. I think I purposely choose hobbies that do not tie into my photography at all because I worry about burnout. I don't know if I'd enjoy photography if I made my entire life about it.
I like to go hiking and kayaking and traveling. I’d like to learn more about landscape photography, so I can capture of all the beautiful things I see.
It's not quite compartmentalizing. I just can’t bring my camera everywhere because it's breakable. Sometimes, I'll bring other cameras with me and capture snapshots of my other hobbies and interests. Other times, it's nice to not be the one taking pictures.
Q: Why do you take pictures? What speaks to you about it?
A: The memory frozen in time. I have a terrible memory, and sometimes I can’t remember bits of my own past. Photos spark the memories and the stories and help me remember the people I knew at that time.
I guess I’m just really nostalgic [laughs].
Pictures will always be around. You can look at a photo 40 years from now and remember everything that was happening when it was taken.
Q: What’s your “brand?” What do you bring to the table that other photographers can’t?
A: When I set up a photo shoot, my goal is to make it feel like you’re chatting with a friend. No pressure, at ease, to get the most natural moment, to get "what is you." An actual smile, a natural laugh. I want to show people what they look like.
My goal in every photo shoot is to capture people as they are. It’s easy. It’s not a stressful thing.
I work with people, not models. I want to make them comfortable in front of the camera and then I do everything I can to make sure they look good.
Q: What are your creative hopes/ dreams/ goals for the new year?
A: I am moving to Denver in February, so I get to focus on building an entirely new client base. A big part of that is getting better at self-promotion, and this is a start!
I hate talking myself up, so that’s something I really need to work on. That’s a goal for my new year – talking myself up, self-promotion, getting myself on Google, updating my website, taking advantage of my social media platforms, and stuff like that.
Another thing I want to try out is doing more still life and product photography. My goal is to make money in photography, and this seems like a great way to do it without the stress of coordinating with people. I really want to try this out in addition to my portraiture.
Q: Tell me about your business. How can people find/ hire you?
I’ll be new to Denver, so hit me up. I love doing family stuff and headshots, so I’ll continue doing that.
You can find me on my website, suzybeephotography.com.