Streets Ahead Interview: Stefanie LePape

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This week we are pleased to feature Stefanie LePape in our “Streets Ahead” interview segment. Stefanie is also known as “Sanikdote” and “SLP” via Backspaces, Flickr and EyeEm and you can find the links to her accounts below.

We first learned of Stefanie’s work over on Backspaces… and have been following her ever since. If you’re familiar with this artist, you will know that she’s the first to admit (and joke) about having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). However, in her case, we think this condition “adds” to her artistic perspectives and vision in the most remarkable (and beautiful) way.

She is a photographer with a painting background. Stefanie connects to her subjects in an intriguing way… often capturing psychological subtleties with different layers of meaning. Probably the most obvious examples can be found in her “Window Reflection Series.” We are enchanted with the way Stefanie uses her Android Motorola Atrix 4G to great effect and further edits with her Apple iPad.

So, after reading this interview, please be sure to visit the sites below to view more of Stefanie’s work… we guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

Backspaces
Flickr
EyeEm

 

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© Stefanie LePape

Please share a little bit about yourself…

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© Stefanie LePape, “Communicative Breakdown”

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from?

I am a third generation NYer currently living in South Florida. My family background is diversified. Each of these cultures have had a strong influence in my life. My husband is from the north western part of France, Bretagne. My earlier film work has had a solo exhibit at the Gershwin hotel in NYC. I was also thrilled to have a piece selected by Susan Burnstine as part of a collective exhibit. I also enjoy knowing one of my photos is the cover for a book of poetry in Europe.

 

Have you always been interested in photography?

My initial response to this question was an immediate “not really.” I never entertained the idea of photography because it was too expensive to pursue. However, on occasions when I was able to borrow a camera I was thrilled to use it.

When I had my own camera  (a gift from an intuitive friend of mine who simply said, ‘you should be taking photos.” )  I took photos as references for paintings. Interestingly I have found myself with a stockpile of photos and few paintings. When I gave this question some thought,  I realized a more significant relationship with my interest in preserving moments. I posted a little essay of it on backspaces. (“Super Siding In and Outta Yesteryear”)

 

 

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© Stefanie LePape, “C more”

 

Are you (or have you been) involved in any other art medium… such as painting, sculpture, writing, music?

As I mentioned, photos were for me to use for future paintings. As a teenager I went to various classes at The Art Students League. These came to a halt when I had taken ill, lost my job and could no longer afford the classes. My favorite mediums were sculpture (because it was “hands on”) and life drawing. The human form is ever fascinating and body language is of great interest to me.

I am always designing — creating something or another. My husband and I do decorative painting, although the demand for it is not the same as years ago. On occasion a request for a mural or traditional decorative painting will surface. We are a good creative team. He handles the lineal aspects of our assignments since I can not draw a straight line, even with a ruler!

There have been many projects I have started and swiftly moved on to something else.The one area that has held my attention for a significant period of time has been the area I never really considered ; Photography I love experimenting with it. I am highly influenced by music and it’s ability to create mood. I haven’t the patience to learn an instrument as I get bored at the beginning. As far as writing, my poor grammar keeps me humble enough  to never make claims to being a writer. Although If I do write, it is because I can not not write. I am a thinker and at times words just arrange themselves acceptably. If I feel it merits refining and i can discipline myself to focus…I will aim to dignify my rambling.

Is it obvious i have attention deficits? And yes!!! Disorder! Lol

Which mobile device do you use?

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© Stefanie LePape, “An Urban Dance”

 

Which mobile device do you use to take (and process) your photographs?

I currently use an android Motorola Atrix 4 g and my iPad. I am trying to decide which  camera …I mean phone to get upon an upgrade come August.

How did it all start?

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© Stefanie LePape, “Finding Cindy”

 

How did you get involved in mobile street photography? And is this a genre that you predominantly focus on in your work?

Early on I never conscientiously said, “I am going to pursue street photography.”In looking back at my first photos, the majority have always been some sort of candid moment in life. With or without humans in the frame. Did I know it was street photography?  I was just looking for subjects to paint. My interest in compositional form and body language were my focus. Rather…let me correct that… anything that I found interesting I would capture, however random.

My focus on mobile street photography came a few years after 2001. I was taking some photos in the subway, At that time with a Polaroid camera. I was advised it was against the law, and my camera would be confiscated if i continued. Thereafter, again in trying to take a photo of the Citicorp building i was chased away. The guard wasn’t very friendly and sort of incited my native nerves to react, albeit on the sly. I walked away determined to get the shot. I had my phone in hand and it dawned on me, hmmmmm I can just use this. At that time the resolution was really bad but I figured I could at least preserve the moment and maybe make a painting of it. (Never happened lol ) This day found me taking my first mobile street shot.

A man pushing a shooting cart with this really dirty smily face pillow. He was so upset and said ‘ what you taking my photo for ‘, I tried to reassure him it was the smily face that got my attention.The image I have of him really depicts the altercation. Thereafter, I have several abstract street shots from my phone frenzy or rather cellular intervention period. That was probably 2005 or 2006.

Street Photography Ethics…

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© Stefanie LePape, “I to I”

 

There is a general question among some people about the morals and ethics of taking pictures of strangers in a public environment. Many think that this is an infringement of an individual’s rights and privacy. What are your thoughts on this? Has the question about “privacy” been an issue for you in your work? Have you had any negative experiences taking street photographs in your home country or whilst traveling abroad? How did you handle them?

I firmly believe in the golden rule. I have no bad intentions other then observing them. If anything, I think a potential moral issue would be to become desensitized to our subjects. To look at them…through them…but not see them and their individual ids. Perhaps to lose our humanity in our quest for that decisive moment. We are sort of using another for our own gain.  When once we got what we wanted we simply walk away. I think this may be why I do not favor taking photos of the homeless. I would feel like I am taking even more from them and giving nothing back. True, some give a voice to the invisible, but at the same time…then what?

I have not had any issues abroad at all and some of my favorite candids are from there. I have had some confrontations in NYC and here. Aside from the moment stated above, several folks have inquired whether or not I was taking their photo. I don’t like to lie so I told them the truth. I try to converse with them, show them their photo and explain why I found them interesting. If they want me to delete, i delete right on the spot in front of them. There may have been a time or two where I try to convince them to let me not delete it and I promised to conceal their identity but if they are insistent on it, I respect them . Overall, being respectful and not minimizing how another feels about something, usually leads towards an understanding. I like people and have no issues with communication to understand. Interesting to note,  have had more challenges with my phone cam rather then with the big guys. I think folks are concerned about manipulation or being exposed whereas they prefer not to be. If someone feels strongly about not having their photo taken I think it’s really important to respect. You never know the reasons they feel so strongly about it. We might place them in a compromising situation of which I personally would not want to be a privy of.

Personal guidelines while in the streets…

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© Stefanie LePape, “Doorway and Hinges”

 

Do you have any rules in place when you are on the street photographing? For example: are there certain “things” or situations that you personally feel are “off limits” in your photography? Can you explain why?

I can’t say I have any conscientious rules. I don’t think it’s kind to exploit folks in humiliating situations. Children, at times, find me hesitant to focus on and immigrants who might be fearful of exposure.  Although I favor both children and a supposed foreigner because for me it’s affording them a chance to be seen.

Personal preferences while on a photo shoot…

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© Stefanie LePape, “Profile”

 

What kind of situations, characters, and/or environments appeal to you? Why?

I can’t say there is any one aspect of another that gets my attention. If anything, I feel that taking an active interest in street photography has ruined my being able to answer this. Before I would just take a photo of something or someone that got my attention. Now…I am just looking to find something to capture.

It’s easier for me to say what does not appeal to me. Where I currently live is extremely uninspiring with regards to street photography. There are no streets. Literally!!!!!! I have tried “speed by” shooting. Often I will see a moment and ask my husband to slow down so I can get it. His response… after I am frustrated he didn’t slow down, “Stef…I can’t just stop traffic because you want to get a photo.” Me, “why not?! It’s Florida. .no one knows how to drive anyway.” This is a constant dialogue between us. (lol) I have tried driving and shooting myself, but its bad enough folks can text and drive here, I really don’t want any consequences from my focus being divided. And even if I am in an area with more people on the streets, it bores me.

Early on I went to Miami to try and get my fix. Where as some folks might take an interest in the results…they bore me. I need some mood and less sunny perspectives. We are constantly debating whether or not to return to NYC. Not only because of financial  reasons but for the streets. In any case…back to the question…ummmm we usually get back to the city every 6 months. It’s been a year this time but we will be there late summer.

Can I answer that question then? I will be in my natural environment and I will have a more intuitive aim.

Women’s perspective in street photography…

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© Stefanie LePape. “The Dreams of Our Sons”

 

Do you think that women bring to photography, especially street photography, a certain perspective that is not necessarily shared by many male photographers?
If so, can you elaborate on your thoughts?

Are men and woman different? Perhaps some may argue not.  My few years in life have taught me one thing,… we are apples and oranges. We feel and think differently. Woman tend to be more intuitive.  Of course, I can’t speak for all woman or men. Nor can I conclude this as an absolute. Actually …I think to properly comment on this question I would love to be tested. Perhaps having photos presented to determine if it were male or female who owns it. That would be fun. Do men and woman see differently?  I think each individual does. That said, results should make it irrelevant as to who saw behind the lens. Perhaps the difference is more a left brain right brain approach/perspective.

Role that mobile devices play with women and photography…

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© Stefanie LePape, “Yeah… I See You”

 

Are there any women street photographers/photo journalists who have inspired you d in your work? If so, who are they? And what inspires you about their work?

I have ADD which makes it a challenge to retain certain information. I might have come across some very inspiring work but can’t reference it. For a certainty I do appreciate Vivian Maiers. She had a sensitive eye and I can relate to her obsessive compulsion with capturing time. Of course my stockpile is digital. I find inspiring that she did what she did for herself. Although, I wonder what she –as well as other active photographers/artists would have done in this modern era? Would they be involved in the virtual gallery shares etc? Today in the 21th century the mobile community of woman engaged in street photography are Inspiring for me. There is more of an openness about their approach and liberation from the stringent rules of standard street photographers. Their freeness is helping me break free from the days I sought approval from the die hard rule driven approach. Since I do dig the post processing of an image their example is motivating.

Post processing images…

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© Stefanie LePape, “Toward The Light” (Images of work “in progress.”)

 

What are your thoughts on post-processing mobile street images? Do you process your own images? If so, can you share with us an example of your work flow process?

My non-mobile approach to streets were influenced by certain groups that held to the unedited completely candid frame. You post process and it would no longer be considered true streets. I think the decision to post process can be determined by figuring out what we want to highlight, the significance of the moment and our goal. Again, this is why I am really inspired by the flexibility found in the mobile community. It’s helped me get back to me and what I prefer. I tried for years to get approval from the top dog street photographers… and  while it definitely helped me to grow and work harder, scrutinize and be more conscientious, I lost myself in it. I used to try to defend my approach by telling them I am more for the impression of a moment then any definitive obvious shot. That the impression is something more can see and relate to. I am so glad to be unleashed from the rules of their streets as opposed to SlpStreets. Without doubt, balance is needed… and good self critiquing. Its easy to overly process. However, when it comes to photo journalism— I do believe it should be kept as seen.

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© Stefanie LePape, “Toward The Light” (Final image)

A few years ago one of my favorite street shots was, “Man With A Hat.” Since I wanted to create something similar via mobile shots, I manipulated two of my photos in Superimpose. I used BlurFX for the tunnel and cropped the image.

Please share some images and what your thoughts about them are…

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© Stefanie LePape, “Inside the Writer’s Mind”

One of those ideal moments when things are set up for you. I was so drawn into the juxtaposition of this, the separation between his mind and hands. The activity above and spewing out of him….while a more uncluttered flow coming from his pen.

 

 

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© Stefanie LePape, “Untitled”

My neighborhood has hosted several immigrants who have come to America seeking a better life. I have witnessed much of their experience over the years… too often, meeting the harsh realities of a dream. The various cultures i have been exposed to helped me appreciate their perspective. I saw This woman approaching and immediately set myself up in the window so I could capture her without invading her privacy. Since there are many who might be residents without legal papers, I didn’t want it to be too obvious.

 

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© Stefanie LePape, “City of Two Tales”

One of my favorites because it highlights the division amongst our experiences in life.

 

Artistic goals and aspirations…

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© Stefanie LePape, “The Life Of A Tree” (My focus was on the plant. I waited for various folks to pass by. This fellow got my attention because of his age and suit, he was well dressed and influenced by James Joyce , The Dead. I tend to be on the look out for older folks who more then likely are more aware of their mortality.)

 

What are your artistic goals and aspirations?

Since I am uninspired with street photography in this locale I am currently focusing on a few montage series.  My goal is to print out several sets. I do not consider anything finished unless it has dimensional qualities I can touch. I love seeing the results outside this virtual world. Also…ultimately…I hope to fully accomplish my mission and develop the art of teaching. Artistic pursuits lend itself towards more self absorbed interest. My goal is to share whatever possible ‘talents’ I might have.

 

Social Media platforms…

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© Stefanie LePape, “Can You See the Real Me?” (I am drawn to my look in glass shots because they are like puzzles to me. I love discovering different aspects inside the reflections.)

 

Where do you show your work? What social networks are you on? On which platforms are you most involved?

The usual.  Most active in Flickr and EyeEm. I easily feel the futility of such photo sharing platforms and will often tire of it all. Of late, I have been appreciating iPhoneArts because it seems more serious. I have had a domain under my name…but haven’t had the attention to focus long enough to set up.  I joke I would love a manager, but the truth is…

Personal tips…

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© Stefanie LePape, “Are We Clear On That?”

Do you have any mobile street photography tips or tricks that you’d like to share?

It’s really important to be ready. Your gear has to be out and ready to shoot ASAP… I suppose “as is” is a given. So much is about timing when it comes to getting that “all time elusive decisive moment.” I have tried having my settings to rapid speed shooting and purge accordingly. Although, it might feel unnatural to have forethought in street work, one does develop a keen eye for which moments are worth capturing and which are just random efforts to just shoot anything. That is something we can easily fall into. So much is subjective to oneself and the viewer. Yet I do believe there are certain standards that are applicable for quality. I think it’s important to frame accordingly. Have your composition set up. Don’t become dependent on instaCrop. I also think its important to analyze what it is we like about what we capture. What does it say? Does it say anything? What is so interesting about this shot? Is the composition spot on? More then ever it’s important to aim high. There’s an abundance out there.

Anything else?

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© Stefanie LePape, “Geo Metric”

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

Listen to critique… but don’t listen to it. We can learn a lot from others. Being overly sensitive hinders growth. Nowadays, every and anything is being validated by massive likes. I think it’s important to not put stock in the numbers. I have heard several folks say they “like” so as to be polite. Sometimes I find myself conflicted because I don’t like something. I ask myself , “what will the other person gain if I am not serious about my participating in approval.” I work hard at not being an automatic finger flicking favoriter. Then again…I tend to like a lot. 🙂

In conclusion, I am very appreciative of the support from many who have followed my work for years. Since I have ADD I can be random. I can only imagine how that throws off some who are more selective in their interest. I am an experimenter and thrilled by considering various forms of photographing a moment. Those who take the ride with me…are truly appreciated.

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7 thoughts on “Streets Ahead Interview: Stefanie LePape

  1. So honored having been asked to share my thoughts. It means so much to me.
    Thank you.
    Thank you .
    Thank you.
    And thanks to all those who read and see beyond all propensity for errors too often found in the use of words.

  2. What a great read. I really enjoy finding out more about my online friends and Stef certainly has an interesting story to tell. I admit when I first saw Stef’s photography i just didn’t get it, but that was due to my shortcomings, not the pictures themselves. They were simply too deep for me to appreciate properly and at the time i was searching for something that spelled out exactly what it was, something i didn’t have to really think about to appreciate. Now i do “get it” and now I get so much more from Stef’s photography, so thank you Stef. Keep up the great work.

  3. Excellent interview and very interesting to learn more about Stefanie. I’m a fan and find Stef’s work super interesting as well as sensitive. Congratulations, Stefanie!! So happy for you.

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