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Check Out Stephen Swintek’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Swintek.

Hi Stephen, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I am a commercial advertising photographer who’s on an adventure to rediscover a more personal aspect to my photography that I explored when I was an aspiring artist some 25 years ago. After graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena (photo 97), I started my career as a photo assistant in LA and eventually started my own studio specializing in photo illustration. At the time, I worked mostly in the NY publishing industry creating book covers and illustrations for major magazine publications with a few advertising gigs here and there. With the decline in print, I ventured into teaching at Art Center and began shooting for ad agencies and design firms (both conceptual and product). Over time, I have been getting further away from the storytelling aspect of photography that I find most captivating. To that end, I am creating several new bodies of work to focus on subjects that I am passionate about and selling my work directly to the public via art fairs and shows. The work is deeply personal, rewarding, and in a way it feels like I have rediscovered an old friend.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The hardest thing to do as an artist is to suppress doubt and forge ahead with little or no idea where you are heading creatively. So it’s never a smooth road, and I believe strongly in following your heart and trusting the process. There will always be obstacles within the art or with life itself, but you just have to push forward. I hate cliches, but the creative career is a journey and the pathway forward is always open-ended with a multitude of possibilities. With time and experience comes the knowledge that you have done it before, and you can do it again. You just have to believe in yourself and be passionate about the work you are creating. The solutions always seem to come when you least expect it.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As a commercial artist, I am known for colorful creative solutions to complex issues. Every image starts with a sketch or a concept where I have to discover the visuals that support the ad or editorial story. In my fine artwork, I am still applying these methods, but the subject matter has changed to become more personal in nature. I try whenever possible to shoot film (both black and white, and color film) with vintage cameras and eliminate any digital manipulation. I also build all my own sets and props including the miniature whaling skiff image included in this article. It’s not the fastest or easiest way to create a photograph, but when I do bring an idea or story to life that hits the mark personally, it tends to connect with the viewer as well. This last summer while showing my latest series “Oceania” at the Laguna Festival of Arts, I had several patrons tear up while viewing my work. Upon seeing their reaction, I teared up too! It was unlike anything else I have experienced in my career thus far.

What matters most to you? Why?
My wife and family first and foremost… As for my art, since I spent a career in advertising where we basically create faux reality to sell products and services, what matters to me most in my personal work is authenticity. Where my subject and my approach to capturing it is both authentic and truthful to what I want to say. I want to create work that is both unique, compelling and hopefully speaks to you in a more spiritual way. I don’t want my work to match your couch, I want it to speak to your soul.

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Stephen Swintek

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