Stephanie Rausser: Finding the Beauty & Humor in Life
BY MELISSA WALKER
Every month we ask a photographer to share an impact maker.
This month we feature Stephanie Rausser, who shares the beauty of the Bay Area, and beyond.
Can you briefly share a key moment in your education or career that pushed your work to another level?
Early on I recall walking onto one of my first commercial sets and contemplating all of the variables at play: clients, models, crew, wardrobe, props, location, etc. I knew in that moment that I had to manage all of the pieces successfully in a very short window of time.
This was no longer just about taking a picture, but a true intersection of art and commerce.
I was raised by a father who was an economist, and a mother who could whip up a pair of overalls from an old curtain, so it actually strangely felt a bit like home.
There are so many technical aspects to photography and film. Are there any primary skills that you’d recommend as an early focus to someone starting off?
Really understanding how to shape and work with light is essential to great photography.
We work very hard to ensure our lighting looks natural and pleasing to the eye. Every shooting environment poses a different challenge.
Whenever possible it is great to know in advance what those challenges are so one can come prepared with the right tools to light it well.
Your career has shifted from an editorial focus to include more advertising. Was this a result of the changing publication world, or a goal that you’ve always had?
I would say both. The printed editorial market has declined significantly in the past 5 years. Many editorial clients are sourcing stock photographs as they work with tighter budgets.
In regards to advertising assignments, it was a fairly organic transition from editorial assignments early in my career to advertising assignments later on.
I have been fortunate over the years to have collaborated with a great team of agents who have been able to consistently put my work in front of key decision makers.
Your work captures an emotional quality that is filled with pure joy. How do you capture this celebration of life in such an effective and consistent manner?
I am attracted to the bright side and the colorful, I work well with the people I photograph because I always strive to come up with happy, spontaneous, energetic, and whimsical photographs.
It often takes some time to warm a subject to the camera, but it is always well worth the wait.
How much of your work is spontaneous in relation to the amount of careful planning that must be required to achieve the quality of your images?
If I am working on a personal project, sometimes I just need a great location, a subject, and maybe a simple prop. I get to work and the image just reveals itself.
If we are working on a large production, several days can be spent pouring over wardrobe, locations, props, and models. That said, once we arrive to set we do everything we can to make the set fun and spontaneous.
A portion of your work now includes moving images and video. Is this a reflection of demands in the advertising industry? Or was this always a long-term goal for your career?
Absolutely. The convergence of still and moving imagery has been a huge driving force behind the current state of advertising.
The majority of my shoots today combine both video and still on the same day. This presents unique challenges in regards to casting, lighting, location and subject selection.
It is critical to select both dynamic locations and subjects as they must able to satisfy the demands of the still and moving worlds.
Your bio mentions that your degree is in English. Do you think the storytelling aspect of your work derived from this background in literature?
The written word has evolved and expanded from our earliest attempts to communicate with each other through visual communications.
Writing has allowed us to expand and elaborate ideas in very nuanced ways. Story telling, whether it be written or visual, when successful conveys tone, perspective, emotion, meaning, and perhaps a moment of truth.
I love stories about people, which is why early on I chose to become a lifestyle photographer.
People are what serve as the guide through a story, and I think given the style of my work, I like a story with a happy outcome.
You’ve made books and visual series featuring themes that are close to your heart. Are there any new passion projects on your horizon? What’s next?
At the moment I am very curious with the idea of change.
From time to time I look back through my archive and will run across a photo of a child I took perhaps 15 to 20 years ago. In some cases, that child has children of their own now.
I think about how they must have changed, and how much I have changed during that time.
Daughters become mothers, mothers become grandmothers, and on it goes…It’s an interesting time now for generations to relate to each other given the intense influence technology is having on us.
This is particularly true for younger digital natives whose entire existence has been dominated by one screen or another. Perhaps a screen-less multigenerational project is in the works!
Who is your impact maker and source of inspiration.
I would have to say my impact maker is really not a person but a place, the world around me.
I am so very stimulated by what I see day to day in the world. Life in all of its humor and beauty is a constant source of inspiration.
As a child I moved often as my father was in academia. I attended four high schools in four years, and as I entered each new environment I was first an observer before a participant. I think this is still true today.
Stephanie Rausser’s work focuses on kids and lifestyle with an appreciation for capturing light and spontaneous moments.