We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie DeFeo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I hit the stereotype of an artist/athlete in high school. I had my mind chosen to pursue sports medicine in college and play volleyball, run track in those four years. My junior year of HS I was side-swiped with a serious injury and was forced to chose between: a wheel chair in my mid 20s or a life I could create without the physical challenges in which an athlete suffers.
Being passionate in sports – the decision was hard to make. Luckily, I had art as an outlet to release tension and uncertainty when I was injured.
I am very grateful to have learned how to paint, photograph, use my hands with material, and creative write in school and from my parents. Those were my building blocks of how I became the artist who I am today. This uplift from my close community gave me the strength and ability to successfully take time to learn the craft of photography and other mediums. The challenge of society stating “starving artist” also intrigued me. Being around many artists at a young age, gave me energy to keep on challenging that statement. I never really listened to others deeming negativity. Always listening within and blasting good tunes if the negativity tries to get loud.
Art is my thing. Success equals happiness. From me choosing to pursue a creative career in my lifetime, is me deciding on wanting to spend my life creating. I know that pursuing anything is a ride in itself – theres ups, harsh turns, downs, and a lot in between. That’s my love for being a creative. Always challenging myself, learning, creating and making art for others to either sell commercially or just have for themselves. =)
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Starting to pursue photography as a career, I wanted to jump right into it. However, I didn’t know what subject I wanted to pursue to photograph: architecture, product, portraiture, fashion, pets! There’s a bunch…
When I was young I would get printed catalogs from Urban Outfitters. I think I was 16 and told myself that I wanted to become an Urban Outfitters photographer. No joke. (haha)
So, I think in my mind that was always my interest, but I never knew how a “born in Delaware – The University of the Arts student”, would become a photographer for UO.
Like an athlete – you have to start training somehow.
I applied for the sales associate position at UO when I was a junior in college (needed the money, but also was like “hey this is definitely a step in the right direction”).
In my interview process, the hiring manager noticed I had no background in sales and then asked why I wanted to be at UO. I believe I did try to make an excuse for why I would be good for the store front in sales, however I looked at her and said I want to be a photographer the company and wanted to apply for the summer photo internship. I told her I would do anything and work hard in sales, to get the opportunity to work with the store instagram, to provide content.
I remember I had such a fun time creating imagery for the UOPhiladelphia instagram. Noticing the engagement with the audience was very rewarding.
Within that 6 months of sales, I applied for the styling internship (only one available) and I got it! I was given the opportunity to show what I can do/help for the UO women’s photo studio.
After that, I was invited back to be the UO Women’s photo studio intern. Then offered a Digital Technician position. Shortly after, a photographer position opened up and the team thought I would be a good fit for the job!
I was very excited, very proud of my accomplishments and short journey to get where I never thought I could get.
I’ve been with the company for a total of 5 years (including sales job) but as a photographer for 3 years.
Along with being a in-house still life photographer for Urban Outfitters, I have been slowly growing my photography business and learning how to be a successful artist financially. Balancing a full-time job right out of college, has its own challenges, but the best I can say for that is to take your own breathe when you need it. Listen to yourself within and grow when the opportunity arises. Never give up if things get tough.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wowwww, okay! Hellllo everyone, welcome to my week trip, lol.
>>>>> you traveling to Philadelphia >>>>>>>>>>
Instead of giving you an itinerary (which I never really go by, because life and I normally stop take pics of the sky along the way) I’ll type a bunch of cool spots to stop by!
~~ Picnic in Fairmount Park, nature walk in Wissahickon, Hammock in one of the parks, eat John’s water ice, get a Philadelphia pretzel, don’t have a Pat’s or Geno’s steak but a Jim’s or Angelo’s cheesesteak, burger (veg or reg) from The Pub on East Passyunk, InRiva, Bike, Pho75, Vietnamese coffee, spumoni + all food at The Palizzi Social Club, see a mural of Gritty at Triangle Tavern, ooo breakfast at Miles Table, food + cocktail @ Parc, go thrifting on south street, first fridays (when they come back), painting in my studio, doing a photoshoot – cause why not,,,,, If you haven’t taken a photo near the “Italian Stallion” that’s definitely an adventure with the tourist. OH and when you’re down there, definitely take you around the art museum! BenFrank Parkway is cool,
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There’s a lot of people I need to thank, who helped me get where I am today.
My parents, both are very creative souls. They let me run around barefoot from outdoors to indoors while planning a haunted house at age 8. Mom and Dad, thank you for believing in me and allowing me to be creative from such a young age. 🙂
Also, shout out to my high school. My art crew and sports friends. My track coach and art teacher always pushed me mentally and artistically to achieve my highest self. Without them and push from others, I wouldn’t have believed in myself to embrace creativity.
Also + Also, a huge warm hug to everyone who has allowed me to photograph them. Photoshoots, art – is a team effort and I am so thankful to be around such creatives to make a piece successful.
Stephanie DeFeo, Manny Dominguez