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Stefanie Upchurch

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in [00:00:05] My name is Stephanie, and I'm from California, and I've been in New Zealand for 10 years, and I'm studying photography at Mass University. It's a four year bachelor honors degree. I love documentary photography. I like to capture people. And I love I love more candid shots. I'm not a, you know, studio photography's great. And we've learned how to do that, but I love I love being out and getting to know people and the internet and the interaction with them. And that's, that's what I really love. That's what I want to do when I finish [00:00:34] what is documentary photography. [00:00:36] To me. It's not necessarily with people with anything, it's just it's, it's documenting it how you see it. So it's from your perspective. So it's photography is all about opinion, pretty much so it's, it's, I guess, it's something different to everybody. But for me, it's you know, it's it's the way I my outlook on the world, I guess. [00:00:56] So as part of the the messy photography course, you were asked to do, what kind of project what, [00:01:03] um, you were given a commercial based project. So you yourself had approached a client, and it was kind of a hypothetical assignment, and with no necessary outcome. So I approach pride and said, and a few different websites in the US like the Trevor Project, I know I am a bit high, but they said aim high. See what happens, never heard anything back about those that are from New Zealand, [00:01:26] did you have any specific ideas about the kind of projects when you were approaching these kind of nonprofits, the kind of project that you were interested in with the things that you really want to target. [00:01:37] Um, for me, I, because I've recently, you know, been more open with who I am. And so I just, it's, you know, I've always been kind of scared to go kind of out of my comfort zone. But um, I really kind of wanted to get involved in the gay community and just, you know, try and try and do something. So that's, that's what I've been kind of working on, I'm not sure I'd love to do a major project on that. So this is kind of like a little project leading into hopefully a bigger, a bigger project [00:02:08] with it, any other kind of projects of the type that you've actually kind of ultimately done. That inspired you in that direction. [00:02:16] I did a self portrait, myself this year for our context paper, which is our double semester paper. And I just, you know, the self portrait went really well. And I was really happy with it, it really, it really helped me be comfortable confident with who I am. And I just thought you knows that it kind of sparked other things and made me want to try different projects. So and then that was a studio project myself, and I kind of thought well be great to photograph people outside of the studio, and see what kind of reaction I get from them looking at the camera. So [00:02:46] why did the self portrait project kind of help you to kind of understand yourself, [00:02:52] and the self portrait project helping me because I've never really been extremely confident person or with my sexuality, so it, you know, this year stuffs kind of come together. And I've just been happier with who I am. And through the project, it really, you know, people said, I started to change a little bit, and they started to see me be more open. So it was it was a great project. [00:03:15] Is that something you had expected would hit? [00:03:17] No, not not at all. Kind of just started the project. And it ended up being a ended up because I'm, you know, a little modest, and ended up being a nude self portrait. So it was, yeah, I didn't, it didn't start off. That was the development of the project. And it was kind of, you know, showing who you are on the inside kind of you know, when I was in the studio ended up crying in the photos and it was just it just it to the project just developed into that, you know, you don't expect when you start a photography project for to, especially me and stuff like that, but I was extremely happy with it. And so as my tutors Yeah, it kind of sparked other things and and you know, just made me happier. Yes, hello. Sounds a little quirky. But the air [00:04:05] the proposal that you then put to pride in seed walk, can you describe what kind of proposal that was? [00:04:11] Sure I'll so basically you kind of put a little bit about myself in it and said, I really want to do a project made a difference. When I met with people, I basically said, Where would you like your photo taken? What best shows who you are. And I talked to everybody for good, you know, 20 minutes, half hour, got to know them a little bit. And then it, you know, felt like a comfortable situation. So, and that's what I've been told them people look at the work that it's you feel comfortable looking at a don't feel this is an awkward, you know, kind of photo that, you know, it's very natural feeling. And everybody was, you know, who I approached was they said, Yeah, I'd love to do this. I mean, at first he had a lot of people interested in people, you know, backed out, but then I more people in the people that I got, I got 12 aim was to have 12 portraits and I wanted to achieve that. So I got 20 people. [00:05:00] Yeah, I'm really happy with it. [00:05:03] Was there a difference between putting the proposal out to the general public in terms of trying to get participants and the personal connections that you had was without other [00:05:15] personal connections was how I got, I got most of the people for the photographs I'm putting, because there was a press release put out on a couple different websites and that, you know, I got a couple of people emailing me and then as I was ready to shoot, they kind of said, Oh, you know, I'm actually reconsidering this. I don't know if I want to do this. And I said, that's fine. You know, I didn't want people to do to, you know, just to do because they feel they had to, you know, I'd rather people be Yep, I'll do it [00:05:41] was hard getting a wide demographic of people. I'm thinking in terms of like, Regina sexualities, but also ages was, I mean, one, I guess, was that something that you're going four and two, was it hard to get? [00:05:56] Age definitely was because everyone I met was between 18 like 35, roughly. And but I had a advantage of working out kind of weird exact amount of I had six females, six males. But I didn't know no one have known who was transgender, or nobody older, I thought an older generation might, you know, and would have would have worked really well to show that someone who's older is, you know, really happy with who they are. So, but you know, just worked out that I got everybody at a younger age. But [00:06:29] why do you think that was, [00:06:30] um, I think people that knew people, it was you know, and then some of the people I originally had, who, through email were older, and I had a couple with kids, and they decided that it wasn't, it wasn't for them. So which is which is understandable, especially, you know, if you have to be careful, no matter what you're photographing, have to be careful. So [00:06:50] moving on to the photo shoots. How difficult was it to sit and those sheets are [00:06:57] organizing with 12 different people was a little difficult. Everyone has different schedules, and I've got four classes to do. So it was kind of I basically said, Well, I can do it whenever you're free. Because I wanted, you know them to not think that there was a lot of pressure. So then, you know, people got back to me, it worked out fine. [00:07:13] What about choosing locations? And kind of styling the participants? Did you leave it up to them to suggest places? Or were you more kind of directing watch? [00:07:25] Um, well, I met everybody in the city center. And I walked around with them for a bit and I said, Well, where would you like your photo? Take? A lot of people immediately saw some and they said, Oh, how about over here? And then I kind of made some suggestions of people who, who weren't really, um, who didn't really know what they wanted their photo taken. But I mean, that I took a couple a couple different locations. So I shot a lot of each person. [00:07:45] Did you make any suggestions in terms of the clothing? Or what they should we? [00:07:50] No, no, I said it, you know, Come as you are. And I'll sounds kind of Nirvana song window. I, you know, basically just be yourself, which is the point of the photos. I have a couple of people actually me Oh, should I dress up? And I said, No, be like how you would be on a day to day because I don't want it to be a staged photo. You know, it should be like, if you met someone on the street randomly decide to take their photo, I wanted it to be kind of like that, you know, evil if because all part of the project, you know, you don't want someone to [00:08:17] dress up? [00:08:19] What about the poses? Or the emotions that they convey in the images? Did you direct them as to what they should be doing? Or was it [00:08:27] I had to tell a couple people to smile, because a couple people were a little bit nervous. But I just I just said, you know what you the first 10 photos you take somebody are never very good. Just because it's you, you could feel the kind of you know, you just you have to wait a little bit. And then eventually people will become really relaxed. And then I didn't have to say smile or do anything after that. It was just kind of, you know, as you were I talked to them while I was taking their photo, as you start talking to someone they just, they relax a lot. [00:08:53] What kind of things would you be saying to them to kind of makes them make them relax hill? [00:08:58] Just asking them about themselves? Some people are very open and talk about coming out and and how you know, how their lives are now? And are just people that were studying just talked about general stuff. [00:09:12] doing that with people that you've never met before? [00:09:15] No, I mean, I probably couldn't have done this project a couple of years ago. But I think you know, if you're more at ease about yourself, it's easier. If you show that you're at ease about yourself, it's easier for someone else to open up with you [00:09:26] had many of the participants model before? [00:09:30] Um, I think one or two had, but just for photography projects, like messy photography projects, nothing. Nothing out of university, I guess. So no, no professional models or anything like that. [00:09:42] Was it a challenge to work with people that that wouldn't necessarily used to having their photographs taken? [00:09:49] No, I mean, I did I did shoot a lot of a couple of people just to make sure I would get a good photo. But no, it wasn't really a problem. Yeah. [00:09:57] When you say a lot, how many photos would you be taking? [00:10:00] I'm about 50 of each person. But I'm but that's within a good, you know, half hour just talking to someone and you're talking to them so that I shot digitally. So if I shot on film, it would be a little bit different. I chose digital because I just felt that it was people seem more relaxed, and even digital camera, what is film, it's a little more serious. And you also have to really have to watch what you shoot me shoot with film because it's some Look, it's a little bit expensive. But I love digital photography. So that's why I chose it. [00:10:35] Can you talk to me about shooting on location outside? Are there any things that you need to look out for in terms of the lighting or background or natural conditions? [00:10:48] I didn't really want a lot of people behind the photos. So I kind of went in areas where there weren't a lot of people in the background. And lighting I usually shot on a sunny day, which was awesome. Could be a bit difficult because I'm the way the sun comes down on on the face. Yeah, you got to watch that. And then I did shoot a couple times on rainy days. So to be careful with the flash, you know, there wasn't there wasn't too much in somebody's face. But I know it ended up you know, ended up being okay, it would have been good to have an assistant I did it all myself. But I think next I'd be great to have an assistant, someone all the reflector maybe to get the lighting even on the face. And you know, it's a definitely really a good experience for me, I learned a lot and I learned what to do better next time. [00:11:32] You were saying that you were talking about 50 shots per person? How did you in the post production decide which shot was the right shot? [00:11:42] That didn't actually take that long, I kind of after I shot each person I kind of did a little edit down. And and I kind of tried to pick photos that kind of went as a series. However photo was cropped a certain way that I liked or mostly was a what was you know, going on in the person's face is what really kind of made me choose the photo? [00:12:04] What were you looking for in the face? [00:12:07] Confidence is every all the photos I chose of everybody they look really comfortable, comfortable and confident with who they are, which is the point of the project of being proud. So and the thing I like about the project is because I asked a couple people and someone in the computer lab sitting next to me looked at the project and they said what is all the photos of these people it was there supposed to be similarity in them, as you know. And I said, Well, why don't you try and look and see and they couldn't figure it out? And I said that's really good. Because it's everyday people. You know, that's the whole point. [00:12:37] Did you do much image manipulation and post production? [00:12:41] A little bit with the lighting and a couple things like that, but nothing? I don't I don't like editing people's faces. I like the more natural look, I didn't, you know, that's if you're doing a fashion project. That's a bit different. But for something like this No, no editing other people. [00:12:55] Why don't you like it? Isn't? [00:12:57] It just, I think it takes away from who the person is. It depends on your own project, though, is that if you were doing a fashion project, yeah, then you do it with editing, skin tones and that kind of stuff. But this is a more natural look. So it's two people are [00:13:13] on reflection, looking back at the series, does it still speak to you in the same way? Or have the images changed for you now, [00:13:21] I still speak to me in the same way. I mean, next year, I really want to do a major project and have, I would love to have a lot of people do and look for age range. And just Yeah, I would love to do a major project on it. And also kind of go into the studio and show the comparison of how someone is in the studio and how they are to show people in and out of their comfort zone. So [00:13:45] after completing this project, have you gone on to do any other kind of queer related photography? [00:13:51] Oh, no, not yet. Hoping to ask we that was the last assignment of the year finished. And then I just went to New York for a couple weeks. So I'm back now. So hopefully I'm I'd love to do something like that. I did take photos at a march a couple months ago. And I really enjoyed that. That was that's something I'd love to do. So [00:14:07] what kind of March was it? [00:14:09] Um, it was a it was Oh, it was to legalize adoption and gay marriage. So not just having a civil union basically being able to have the same same rights and equality is on the street people living married. So [00:14:23] what was that like taking photographs of a very fluid situation? [00:14:29] It was It was great. It was you get kind of a little adrenaline rush from that because I was kind of amongst the crowd and taking photos of people. And, you know, for the people that are really fighting for something that they believe in, it really leaves you with a good feeling. [00:14:42] And you just mentioned briefly that you were in New York. [00:14:45] Yeah, I went to mass he did a New York trip, November and I went for two weeks and then spent a week in California siloed amazing time. [00:14:55] How was New York? After being kind of more comfortable with your own identity? How did you find that [00:15:01] I felt really alive in New York. There's just something very freeing about it. And you just I don't know if it's because there's nobody you know there or anything like that. But it's just there's something about that city and just kind of makes you light up. It's it's an amazing city. [00:15:15] Well, you didn't a little photography over there. [00:15:17] Oh, yeah, I was there for about three or three weeks the total trip and I took over 3000 photos, which is a very extreme my parents I'm it was a bit, you know, bit too much. But a lot of it was you know, I was in some photos and a lot of street. I love street photography. And yeah, probably too many photos. But, you know, how often are you going to go to New York? So it was a it was a great opportunity? [00:15:39] Is there a difference between taking street photography in a place where you might never have been in maybe never go to again, as opposed to say doing something in Wellington where you're there all the time. [00:15:52] I shoot Wellington a lot. I love to go out with my camera. [00:15:56] Take photos of people, and there's the city itself. And you always you always find something new. I guess New York was you just saw something and just took to take I took about 400 photos one day and I said okay, gotta stop. But he does. You constantly see stuff? See stuff you've never seen before? [00:16:13] Just Yeah. [00:16:16] What do you make yourself stop? I mean, if it's digital, lets you know, like, you run [00:16:20] out of space pretty quick. had a couple of memory cards. I mean, I did if I saw something I want to take a photo of I just took it and we got lost from each other quite a few times. Because with a bunch of photography students, everyone was just taking photos, [00:16:32] you know, mentioning, every student would see it completely differently. Yeah. photographing. [00:16:37] Yeah, I mean, we didn't I haven't had a chance to look through everyone's photos but someone else's photo of something and you thought Oh, I didn't think to take a photo of that. There's a lot of advertising in New York. So I took a lot of photos of that kind of stuff. And I went and saw rent which was absolutely amazing. It was it's off Broadway now. But it's a small theater very intimate kind of setting and it just blew me away. I've never seen it anything like that before. [00:17:02] So from messy third year to New York to messy fourth year what's next for stiff [00:17:11] hopefully something big hopefully it's a great year it's in as my honors year so it'll be be a lot of work but I we have an exhibition will have an exhibition at the end of next year. So I think October. So your whole year is basically coming up with something to show and hopefully you get people interested in your work and you get a good outcome from it. [00:17:29] And good outcome for you is what [00:17:32] a job hopefully something I'd love to go overseas and work you know, another another year from now so [00:17:41] try to live in the moment.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes.