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Day 318: First Friday Feature: Stephanie Pearl

There was a moment a while ago when a photographer I had been following for quite some time followed me back and I do believe my heart skipped a beat. Stephanie Pearl, is an incredibly amazing photographer and it is my incredible honor to feature her here on my blog post.

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Thanks so much for having me Lillian. I live in London in the UK and have always moved around a lot in my adult life for productive reasons. I consider myself as a creative and a boffin, I have a dual career. I’m an insect scientist working on designing the UK’s first insect protein factory using food waste, and an other worldly, dark, conceptual, portrait photographer.

2. What go you started in photography?

I’ve always loved art and portraiture. I used to create photorealistic pencil drawings of people and turn them into elves and fairies when I was a teenager. Then I got my hands on a camera for my 18th and realised that I could do that and so much more with photography. Suddenly I was creating sets and scenes and experimenting with colour in a fraction of the time it took to physically draw something. I fell in love with the versatility and pace of painting with light.

3. Describe your workflow, what is unique about your process?

My work flow starts with a concept drawing and sourcing materials and models perfect for the idea. Then it’s usually a couple of weeks to a couple of months planning. I usually scope the location before the day of the shoot. Sometimes that means travelling hundreds of miles to roam around abandoned buildings by myself. These days I try to work out how the light will move around the location throughout the different times of day and seasons in order to ascertain the perfect hour in which to shoot. 

I guess what’s unique about my work lately is that I’m always trying to create creatures rather than just characters. I had some realisations that I wanted to bring my biology into my art a lot more, so that created a passion for personifying fauna and flora. There’s been tickles of this new direction in some of my work but it will become very apparent when I start to release my newer art.

4. What do you enjoy most about creating an image?

It’s almost impossible to describe. When a shoot goes right and you give birth to a piece of art that you put your soul into, life kind of feels like it slots into place. It’s like giving back to the world a piece of beauty that your eyes took from it, and the celebration of our neonatal awe for the planet. It’s also self expression and the hope to touch someone in a way that other kindred artists have touched you. It’s spending an incredibly special day with a person or team member and helping each others talents shine through. It’s being part of a community of dreamers and welcoming others into your mind and world.

5. What accomplishment in your photography do you feel the proudest of?

The accomplishment that I’m most proud of is having my favourite image used by the metal band Soen for their album. I’m a fan of the band and knowing they picked me is humbling and encouraging. It also makes my heart soar to see the image on stage.

6. What camera equipment do you use?

I use a Canon 5d mk ii and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I have a lightweight tripod so I can climb with it. I also have a 28mm f/1.8 lens for shooting in enclosed spaces like small rooms. That’s it really. It’s a simple set up but it does me well and I like the way the images look.

7. Is there a certain theme you try to express in your work? Why do you feel a need to share that? What do you hope people will take away from your images?

I pretty much always try to express my love for nature in my images. Being a scientist and environmentalist, it’s so important for me to bond with nature in this way. I also personally find darkness alluring and healing to express. That’s something that has resonated with me since a very young age, I think because dark beauty reflects a realistic view on life, which is fun to juxtapose with surrealism. I hope that it challenges and touches people. I also hope that it helps people to see the world in a more magical light, even if life is ugly sometimes.

8. Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration from many places. These days it’s mostly unusual creatures and environmental destruction. For a lot of my work, my inspiration has been linked to my personal journey; loss; fear; abuse; escapism; love; learning; growth; empowerment. I get my colour inspiration from film photographers and antique church paintings.

9. Out of your images, which is your personal favorite and why?

Cocoon of flesh and bone is my favourite image. I have it mounted on my wall. For me, it’s the ideal blend of alien escapism, innocence, darkness, insects and beauty. It’s also linked to my home town Margate and the most personally advancing point of my science career.

10. What is the biggest piece of advice you have ever been given? What advice would you give your younger self, the you who has just started creating?

The biggest piece of advice I was given was in A-level art by the print technician. I had just finished a 20 hour piece of an old man transforming into a leaf. It was extremely detailed fantasy and representable of my style direction. I then decided to try to copy a colourful cartoon pin-up tattoo artist that I liked the work of. It didn’t mean anything to me, I just thought it was cool and the technician knew that. She stopped me mid-drawing and said that I should focus on what comes from my heart. She pointed to the old man and said that nobody else has made that before and that it was unique to my heart. It was the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. Now I have photography and Photoshop to create my surreal fantasy scenes with and make new stories for people to enjoy.

My biggest piece of advice to my younger self and to other artists would be to quickly break away from studying people that you admire or idolise and find your own unique journey. If you do that you will be happier, more self exploratory and more fulfilled in life as an artist.

You can find Stephanie through Instagram or Facebook.

Until Next Time,
Lillian Merritt

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