Our introduction to Stephanie Dubin, who uses the moniker Art is Why, was back in January during the first Buffalo Instameet held at the classic Sportsmens Tavern. We had been following her on Instagram for months before the little soirée that afternoon, admiring the unique visuals, eye-popping color, and preparation she puts into her work. When we finally met her, we were elated to see that Stephanie was just as awesome as her photographs!
So sit back, relax, sip on a tasty beverage, and get to know a killer Buffalo artist…
Art is Why. That’s Ani, right? ‘Why’ you get up in the morning?
“Art is why” is from an Ani Difranco poem that’s inspired me since I first read it. I’ve translated “art is why I get up in the morning” quite literally, and as a creative individual I’ve found it to be a wholesome phrase to live by. “Art is why” is a reminder to keep improving and growing – it’s a big motivator.
What was your catalyst, your ‘jumping off’ point? Do you remember the first photo that you were insanely proud of?
I started taking pictures using my iPhone and using various apps to edit my images. After two years of shooting with my iPhone, I longed for the ability to produce higher quality prints and wanted more artistic control over exposure. I purchased my first DSLR which was the Nikon D3000 and spent the next two years studying the exposure triangle and taking a lot of pictures and learning from mistakes. Through the continued process of shooting, editing, creating; I realized how passionate I felt about photography and how much it motivated me to do better and keep pushing my limits. The beautiful thing about photography is that we’ll never stop learning and perfecting our craft and this excites me. In 2013, I submitted a photo to the Vision Art Awards hosted by 464 Gallery. I received an award of artistic excellence from Dr. Janne Sirén, the Executive Director of the Albright-Knox art gallery. I was thrilled for the acknowledgement and won a solo exhibition for the upcoming year. That recognition was pivotal for me in managing my self-doubt as an emerging artist.
What gear and software are you using these days?
I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses. My favorite lenses to shoot with are known as prime lenses, the images produced from primes are crisp sharp. I enjoy post processing just as much as I love getting out and shooting. My workflow is using Lightroom to import, organize, rate, and post process (edit) all of my images. I’ll then bring them in Photoshop if it requires further editing and/or compositing depending what I’m working on.
What’s the overarching message with your photos? Is there a theme that you’re trying to convey?
Some of my images try to tell a story, convey a certain mood, while others are simply an interesting aesthetic created by the visual elements around me such as a pop of color, leading lines, light, shape, symmetry. I view my work as fun, creative, and colorful. I try to see the beauty in the everyday by paying close attention to the details.
Do you find more gratification in capturing a spur of the moment shot or setting up something perfectly, just the way you envisioned? Or is there something uniquely great about the two?
I experience a deeper sense of gratification from my work when I’ve spent time planning and thinking about what kind of image I want to create, rather than going out aimlessly. There’s nothing wrong with wandering without a plan as it has its time, place, and strengths. I’m having a lot of fun with composites; a composite is a single image that is made using elements from more than one image, typically using an editing software like Photoshop. The process of having an idea, planning how to execute, overcoming challenges, and then being satisfied with the final result is rewarding. For me, this approach has made me produce stronger pieces of work. In compositing, knowing what I can accomplish in post processing helps me in the initial planning process.
Do you think a photographic eye is something that comes naturally or can be taught? What did your artistic path have in store for you?
I have a background in graphic design and find myself aware of color, space, and form in my surroundings and I believe this has enabled me to have a keen eye for effective composition in my photography work. A photographic eye is something I believe comes naturally if you nurture it, and technique can always be learned.
Who do you look up to as influencers to hone your craft?
I find an incredible amount of inspiration from the community of passionate photographers and creatives connected through the Instagram social network.
What kind of images speak to you?
I’m really in love with surrealism photography. There’s a fine line between just enough and overdoing and this threshold varies for different people. I love a realistic image with a subtle touch of fantasy, oddity and/or fun. I enjoy looking at other people’s photography and analyzing how they created their image. Another love is the long exposure technique, it makes night time shooting a lot of fun for me. I also enjoy looking at and creating commercial photography e.g., product/food/lifestyle.
Is this more of a hobby or a full-time gig? Have you done commissioned work in the past where we’d look and say, “Oh yeah, that’s Stephanie!”
It is both hobby/passion and side job as I accept freelance work and commissions. I shot the “Dream American” album cover art for local rock band Noah Gokey & the Skulls. They’re from Niagara Falls and wanted a ghosty band portrait, so we shot a long exposure right next to the fall’s cascading water, it turned out pretty rad.
Thanks, Stephanie! Keep lining up those shots and knocking ’em dead. See you around town.