We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin Steele and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kevin, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
Living in LA now, I grew up overseas: born in Kuwait, childhood in Bahrain, NY, Paris and Panama. After university in NY I came to California, living in Santa Barbara for a long time before moving to LA . I met my love and continued the nomadic life spending time in Philly and then moving to Mexico for what was intended as a winter and which ended up being two years! My childhood around the world instilled cultural awareness on the one hand and wanderlust on the other. My creative work follows the same path.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Photography started for me in my early teens in Panama. A photography class in high school in NY led to my afternoons in the darkroom and a camera around my neck every day. A career in photography is not easy, for a long time it was a passion on the side. I was also passionate about climbing and that became my focus in the ’90s: documenting my life and those around me in the climbing world and adventures around the globe.
Fast forward to 2003 and my first national ad campaign shooting on the faces of Mt Rushmore, a unique experience. Then came the downturn in 2008 when work almost stopped and I focused on my future steps: what do I really want to be creating and shooting? I took the downtime to re-invent my portfolio with friends and athletes. This series led to some attention and signing with a great agent in NYC.
Back on that first shoot on Mt Rushmore, the Creative Director championed me and guided my path forward. That opened up a world of commercial photography that was beyond me at the time and I’m grateful for that. With an agent I’ve realized that sometimes the key parts of the campaign are a blend of maximizing creativity while minimizing risk. He introduced me to a level of production that was necessary and I embraced it: shooting global campaigns for American Express, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and others in the past few years.
My style, influenced from experiences around the world, is grounded in authentic and beautiful moments. It’s always an evolution. As the print world began changing I’ve found motion another way to convey visual stories. Always keep learning, nothing remains still. Be open to ideas and keep moving forward.
Now we are a year into this global pandemic where in March 2020 my projects were either pushed or outright cancelled.
I went back to my roots in documenting the world around me as the pandemic unfolded. On March 15th, as we were shutting down I began a series that is now over 100 scenes shot through the front door into lives being lived across LA. The series is on Instagram @life.onpause. It’s a personal project documenting life in lockdown. Each scene is a view into how we are living in this time: a single b&w photograph and thoughts in a short paragraph. This has been a powerful and cathartic project, keeping my creative juices flowing while also being a record of this time.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Comedy! I’m so sad the comedy clubs have been closed this past year. They were always our favorite spots. The Comedy Store, Hollywood Improv, Largo at the Coronet and Dynasty Typewriter at The Hayworth were regular outings. It’s been a tough year for so many in the creative and performing arts! I hope normalcy returns but until then keep supporting the arts which are always exploring new ways to reach out and connect.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to my Dad and to my wife Cici. Dad instilled the love of photography. Cici is my champion and my best critic. My father ran projects for a big civil engineering company which is why we were around the globe as a family in my youth. He handed down to me his classic 1966 Medium format camera and lenses (which I still run film through). He supported my photography from my early teens although he pushed me to have a real career. He knew I was a smart kid and photography is a tough go. So I degreed in Physics and Engineering all the while pursuing photography. I’m glad he was able to see me achieve success. Cici is my love, keeping me focused.
Instagram: @kevsteele and @life.onpause