I’m not quite sure how it’s possible but it’s already March and that means there’s a new CMpro of the Month to introduce you too, Stacey Vukelj! Stacey may be a New York lawyer but she also has a passion for street photography. She’s crazy talented at her passion and we are so pleased to have her here today sharing her thoughts with us and giving us a taste of what’s to come!
march cmpro of the month | stacey vukelj
interview by Megan Dill
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Also, what first piqued your interest in photography?
Let’s see. I live in New York with my husband, our (usually) wonderful three-year-old son and our cat, who does not think our son is wonderful in the least. My husband and I met in law school and have lived in the city for almost ten years now. I used to be a structured finance attorney but now work part time in more of a practice support role at my firm. I am extremely close to my family – we moved a fair amount over the years and I think that those shared experiences have contributed to us being particularly close-knit as adults. We are all a little nomadic at heart and love to travel. We also have Western roots. My parents are both from Wyoming and we would visit my grandparents every summer – when New York feels overwhelming I like to picture myself there. The space and beauty is good for the soul.
I have always loved taking pictures. My first camera was a little hot pink number that took those pre-loaded film cartridges – maybe a Kodak? My parents gave it to me to take on my third grade field trip to Springfield, IL, birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. When I was in junior high we started traveling more and then moved overseas. I became the family historian and put together albums of all the photos I took. This continued into my adult life, though the albums stopped once I got a digital camera.
Despite my love for photographs, somehow it never occurred to me to actually try and learn more about photography. But in the fall of 2011, one of my best friends pointed me to an online class aimed at taking better pictures of your kids. There was a lesson on manual shooting and from the moment I borrowed my sister’s DLSR to give it a try, I was hooked. I took my first CM class in January 2012 and haven’t looked back.
You’re a busy lawyer with an adorable son who makes frequent appearances in your work. How do you find the time to continue developing your skills as a photographer?
The answer to that lies in the disastrous state of my apartment. In all seriousness, I think it is a combination of practicing whenever I can (my camera is with me 95% of the time), letting certain things slide and being married to someone who is supportive of my investment in this personal project, both financially and from a time-commitment standpoint. Working part time is also a big piece of the puzzle.
You’re relatively new to photography. What do you attribute your remarkable artistic and technical growth to?
I’ve been at this for a little over a year now. I would attribute most of my growth to a combination of stubbornness and practice. At least as far as the technical side goes. I knew that there was a way to make my photographs look like what I was seeing in my mind’s eye so I did (and continue to do) everything in my power to learn how to make those visions come to life. As to the rest, I have just tried to remain true to my own aesthetic and trust that if I think something is beautiful, others will too.
You love to travel, as seen through your shares on the CMpro Daily Project. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do there?
My current top three destinations, in no particular order, are Turkey (Istanbul in particular), Petra in Jordan and Patagonia. We aren’t really beach people, so our trips involve a lot of wandering and hiking and picture-taking, of course. Also, my parents live in the Philippines, so I am also excited to head back to Asia in the next year or so and do a little photography while I’m there. We hope to get out West again sometime soon too…I could go on forever.
With your home base in New York City, you oftentimes venture out into the hustle and bustle to engage in street photography. Please share your best advice for the novice street photographer.
In a nutshell, be aware, be confident, be creative, be safe and have fun. I cover a lot of this in more detail in my upcoming breakout but you can also check out a blog post I wrote last year for some initial ideas: http://www.clickinmoms.com/blog/taking-it-to-the-streets-street-photography-tips/
When taking photos on the streets, what is your preferred gear?
Unless I have a specific project in mind, I usually pop a wide-angle lens on the camera and head out the door. Currently, I am getting a lot of mileage out of my 24mm.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I do not have a succinct answer to this question. I consider myself to be primarily a street photographer, but I don’t think my work necessarily has the grit that some people associate with this genre. My images tend to be dynamic and almost tactile, with a sense of motion or texture, but often with softer colors or processing. A lot of my work crosses over into more of a fine art category rather than the documentary side of things that people often expect from street photography. Many of the images in the “weather” and “windows” projects I am working on are good examples of this. My “small boy/big city” series can more concretely be described as urban portraiture.
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received along your photography journey?
Shoot what you love.
Where do you find the greatest inspiration for your work?
For the most part, I am simply inspired by life in New York City. There is so much going on here. When I need an extra jolt, there’s nothing like a trip to one of the art museums or even just perusing photography or art books at the bookstore.
Do you have a “most embarrassing” photography moment that you would be willing to share?
Not so much an embarrassing moment, but the looks I get when I’m out getting soaked in the rain or sitting on a grubby street corner to get a shot can be pretty priceless.
What is your current favorite photograph?
You’re currently putting together a breakout session for Clickin Moms. Would you like to provide a teaser on the topic you’ll be covering?
The breakout is called “Street Smarts: An Introduction to Street Photography.” It covers a whole host of topics – everything from use of creative settings to practical metering tips to safety considerations to photographing strangers. It offers a window into how I shoot and ideas for creating your own approach to street photography. I hope you’ll check it out, it was a lot of fun to put together.
Thank you Stacey for the fantastic interview! Make sure you head over to Stacey’s website, blog, and facebook to view the rest of her gorgeous work. If you have a question for Stacey you can ask in the comments below or visit her ‘ask a pro’ thread within the photography forum.