Chocolate City Interview

I met Charles Mombo, owner of the website Chocolate City, a website that gives information and news about the African American community contacted me about being featured on his blog, I was so excited. He asked a lot of great questions and I wanted to share the interview with all of you.

Full Interview Click Here is grateful that talented photographer, Stephanie Graham, has been kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer few questions and has been generous in allowing us to publish three images from her folio of work. The images featured Walmart, Tasha, and Malari (in order of appearance).

Thank you Stephanie for agreeing to this interview with And now… on to the interview…

CC: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?

PEOPLE!! I LOVE TO SHOOT PEOPLE! I am also really interested in anything dealing with gender, class and age. I love hearing stories from people and taking my observations and recreating them.

CC: When did you first become interested in photography?

I was taking a youth ministry class at my church. One of the youth leaders were

Walmart by Stephanie Graham
Walmart by Stephanie Graham
showing these photographs to other kids in our group and I was like what are these pictures. There was nothing interesting about them, they were just snap shots but they were black and white, glossy 8×10’s but they were cool. When I asked her about them she told me that she was taking a photography class at our high school. I was like really? It fulfilled the art elective that was a requirement. So I enrolled in it the following semester. I like to think the whole thing was divinely ordered Lol.

CC: What was the first photograph that you remember making an impression on you?

I think it was my first major shoot where I worked with a small crew. I had makeup and hair, and an assistant, and a model. I shopped for the wardrobe and the 5 of us went out and made an image. It gave me goose bumps and as my model swayed and posed for me I was like wow! I am really doing this. When I got the pictures back I was sooo excited. It was a picture that could have been in a magazine. I still get excited when I stumble upon images from that shoot.

CC: In your general opinion, do you think art schools are a good idea or a waste of time?

Tasha by Stephanie Graham
Tasha by Stephanie Graham
Hmmmmmm the million dollar question. Its really hard for me to say because I went to art school and I turned out great!! LOL!!. I often wonder if I didn’t go to art school if my life would be different. God orders my steps so its really hard to say. I do think that education/training is good to perfect your craft. You don’t have to necessarily go to art school to get that training you could take classes and workshops and practice and still be successful. What I like most about class settings in art school is the constant critique and dialogue that keeps happening with your peers and instructors so you are always thinking about your craft. Art school also allows the college degree that is “so important” College is a must of its right for you, but no I don’t think that you need to study art in college, I would suggest someone to maybe study business first. Art is a business; talent will always be there.

CC: Do you have any formal training in the art and science of
photography? Did you go to (art) school?

Well I learned photography in high school in Schaumburg and then I went to Columbia College Chicago where I continued my photography studies as a minor and took up cinematography as my major. It was a tough program, but I had a great time, met fabulous people and learned a lot about myself as an artist. I was mega happy when I graduated. OMG! I was so happy LOL.

CC: What first inspired your interest in photography? What continues to inspire you?

Photography was a subject in school that I really looked forward to. Not that I blew off any of my other studies but it was the only thing in high school that I took very very seriously. I was so surprised that I was creative which made me happy because I wasn’t all that great academic. I’m like YES! There is hope for me to have a great career in my life. I automatically knew it was what I wanted to do. I think what sparked my interest was that I was successfully completing art What continues to inspire me as a photographer is all the stories that I have in my mind that I want to share through my pictures and films

CC: What’s the most important quality a photographer needs to have?

Passion and personality. You have to be fun and likeable. Shoots can be all day sometimes and no one wants to work with you if you are a jerk. Passion because I need my subjects to believe in my project and what I am trying to do. You will get a much better picture that way I feel. They go hand and hand one doesn’t trump the other.

CC: What cameras and lenses do you use most often?

I’m still a film girl. I shoot medium format 6×7. I shoot with a Mamiya RZ 67 Pro II. My lenses really are all over the place depending on what I am shooting but I always make sure that I have my 110 and 65 mm lenses. They are my babies those two lenses.

CC: Name a photographer(s) whose work you respect and admire.

I really love the work of Nikki S. Lee, Carrie Mae Weems and Anthony Goicolea All these photographers photography create their own scenes and stories and use themselves as their own subjects. Their setups range between simple and elaborate; yet have a lot of meaning in them. I love them. You can see that it takes a lot of time to get the shots together, but they look effortless and you get what the artist is saying, well at least I do. LOL

CC: What’s coming up? Exhibits? Shows? Photo shoots?

Malari by Stephanie Graham
Malari by Stephanie Graham
Right now I am working on 2 portrait projects where I am photographing comedians and pastors daughters. Once they are completed I will have an exhibition for them. I’m shooting a documentary about black kids in white suburbs.

CC: What magazine/brand or advertising agency would you most like to shoot for?

I would die to shoot just one layout for “Vibe”. To me, Vibe Magazine is the Vogue of Urban Photography. I would also love to shoot for “W Magazine: The Art Issue”.

CC: OH NO!! Photography is suddenly against the law and you must!!! Choose another career…. What would that career be?

If I couldn’t do photography; I would definitely be a life coach. I love inspiring people and helping others realize their dreams, and breaking down the steps to achieve each dream. I get a real joy out of that. I often joke with my friends telling them I am their life coach. LOL!! Who knows maybe I will look into doing it anyway.

CC: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with [end]

OMG!!! NO !! Thank you.

You can see more of Stephanie’s work at her website - which showcases more of her photographys.

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