I met Steven Westbrook Adams at "Ah La Life" in February curated by Khalil Osborne. In a room full of art and onlookers his photography managed to stand out amongst the crowd. That night, he was featuring only black and white photography which made his work even more intriguing. I knew from looking at his work that he was someone that I'd love to meet and to watch grow artistically.
Later, I learned that the "Ah La Life" exhibition was his very first show and his first time going through all the motions that artist go through in preparation for a show! As a young and emerging photographer, he has already established a great portfolio featuring soft yet strong images. With goals to display his work in other exhibitions and a hunger to grow, Adams is sure to reach impressive heights.
Tell me a little about yourself, your childhood, and how you started in the craft of photography?
During my childhood there was a lot of moving! However, I am a Jacksonville native. I moved to Detroit, Michigan while in elementary school and returned to Jacksonville during high school. While in high school, I began my journey to becoming a photographer, but, in my junior year for Christmas I received a point and shoot digital camera and it pretty much intensified from there.
What type of photography do you do and where do you get the inspiration for your work?
I primarily do portraiture because it's what I'm most uncomfortable with but I'm still able to be confident in the results I produce, if that makes any sense. I'm very introverted so there's nothing that would come more natural to me than to just take my camera and only take still-lifes. In doing that, I can actually be comfortable in my own world for the rest of my life and, in fact, that's how I started. Unfortunately, nothing grows in the comfort zone. After a long hiatus, in 2015, I picked up the camera again and dove head first into portraiture. Now, I'm forced to communicate my visions and ideas to people, often times asking them to also step out of their own comfort zones in the process. I've learned that I actually love the collaborative nature of portraiture and dealing with people and their various intricacies. That is what I love about other people and one of my main inspirations.
Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
I'm not sure if I can even pick out a favorite shoot, let alone a favorite picture! Every shoot is different and they all have taught me different things. I don't quantify the quality of my own work so I couldn't make a top 5 if I tried! The ones I like, I like equally and the ones I dislike, I dislike equally. Maybe I haven't accumulated a big enough volume of work to start having those kinds of opinions. The only photographs that truly stand out to me are the ones I took when I wasn't trying to be a "photographer". The photographs I took when I just wanted to save the moment, while I was in it, are the ones I cherish the most, and I'd rather not share those.
What is your proudest moment so far?
A couple of weeks ago the "Ah La Life" exhibit curated by Khalil Osborne was basically my first show and that felt pretty rewarding. It was my first time going through the process of printing, matting, and framing my work with the intent of displaying it. I'm grateful Khalil told me more than a month in advance because it definitely took all of that time! The series that I choose for display was in and of itself a first experience. It was my first time doing an ensemble shoot and my first time using studio lighting. Most of the pieces on display actually sold, which was another first for me! It felt good to know that I'm capable of producing work people can connect with despite wandering repeatedly into strange territory. Like I said, comfort zones, you've got to get out of them!
Do you have any advice for someone in high school who is studying photography?
Haha! I'm not entirely sure I'm at the point where I qualify to give solid advice. There are definitely things I know I need to learn and mistakes that I still make that I have to weed out. Honestly, that's probably the advice. Learn self-honesty, how you work best, and be honest about what you need to work on. There's literally always something you can do to improve. You're never as good as you think you are, but, the upside is that you never suck as much as you think you do either.
Does where you live influence your photography? How?
I'm not entirely sure. Jacksonville is a huge city. But, considering the work I do, the landscape doesn't play a huge role in my process like it would a street or landscape photographer. Even still, I can't take away from Jacksonville the hidden gems I've found as being wonderful settings in which to shoot. I'm a voyeur at heart so I always have my eyes peeled for settings that I feel speak to me.
What is one question nobody has ever asked you—that you wish they asked you?
Haha! Well, there aren't too many questions I haven't been asked. However, genuine questions about why I am the way I am, always mean a lot to me. So I'd like to answer more questions like that.