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Meet Stephanie Brown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Brown.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m an artist and in my bones, I am a photographer.

My relationship with the camera began in Jamaica when I was just a kid. My parents took my siblings and I back frequently before 9/11; it was important for them to make sure we knew where we “really” came from since we were born in the states. My dad gave me his film camera or a disposable camera, honestly just to keep me busy. I really think I learned to see photographing my grandparents home, family members, graves, and trees. I even remember posing my cousins to compose shots and making careful decisions as to not waste the film. It all started there.

I grew up surrounded by creative individuals. I’m the last of five and each of my siblings have intuitive passions for creativity, that spawn from my parents. Sewing and baking with my mom. Constructing the impossible with my dad. Despite their creativity, their practical perspective made it hard for them to comprehend my choice to go to art school. My parents could not fathom a way I could make a living doing something like photography or art, and that scared them. My community of Delray Beach, FL supported my efforts and so did my high school, and honestly, it’s my community that took me to art school and allowed me to afford tuition debt free.

I got my BFA at Savannah College of Art and Design. Here I built an incredible network, my tribe of artists, my foundation that was supportive and nurturing and still apart of my life in many ways today. I also established a style of photographing nudes that I became known for. I finished my degree program early and wanted to jump after my MFA but got a lot of push back from professors because I was young and inexperienced. I was all about doing the impossible so I really rejected that feedback. But then a mentor of mine, Endia Beal, suggested I choose to go to grad school when I knew what I wanted to say to the world as an artist. At that stage in my life, I could not answer that question, so I didn’t go.

Instead, I sought after life experiences and took a job as a photographer for Norwegian Cruise-lines in 2014. I sailed on “The Epic” through the Mediterranean Sea, across the Atlantic Ocean, and around the western Caribbean for six whole months (one contract). My experiences on that ship ignited the trajectory of my art career and it was out of anger and frustration, but also love for people who look like me. Traveling made me curious, I, subconsciously at first, only took street photography portraits of other people I perceived to be Black. Eventually, I started intentionally looking for them, and I fell in love with their diversity, abilities, strengths, and perceptions of themselves. One hundred and eighty-two days at sea showed me that we (people of color) are a global majority; however, my conversations with Black people from other countries articulated how people of color are marginalized across the globe. The microaggressions and racists commentary I absorbed while on the ship and traveling also articulated to me that people all over have bought into this narrative that to be dark is less than. That Black bodies are objects on display. Why is that? How can the narrative change? How can those perceptions transform/shift? What role can my art play in this shift? These questions are what made me ready for grad school.

I spent two years at University of Michigan in their interdisciplinary MFA program. They provided me the time, space, and funding to fully explore my questions and shape the trajectory of my art career that will forever evolve. I recently graduated just last year in Spring of 2018 and since then I have just been unpacking research and the work I made to see what comes next.

My work grew from photography to creating interactive installations, object-making, and an incorporation of written works. Photography is still a strong part of my art practice; it’s how I see and compose new ideas. Today I describe my work as interactive, conversational, and provoking. I aim to disrupt the tired narratives in the world in regard to how people of color identify themselves. My work is driven by questions, and I’m interested in presenting those questions by way of personal narratives, objects, and experiences that reflect how we construct our identities. Who told you were not enough? Who told you that you were enough? Who did you believe? And how did those perceptions of you shape your own self-perception?

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
What in life is a smooth road?! I struggled with patience and letting time take its course. Waiting and trusting in the process was hard and I still struggle with it. But I know now the benefits of being patient.

There is also still a lot of gate-keeping in the art world. People exhibiting who they know and recommending only who they know can be frustrating. The concept that I need to already have exhibitions in order to get an exhibition was upsetting. So much so that I put together a juried show in Savannah during my last year at SCAD called “CEADA” at a local gallery who offered his space for free to provide other artists of color an opportunity to get an exhibition on their CVs.

I think my most recent struggle has been that I have no press about me and apparently that’s a big deal. It’s not enough to have exhibitions, but “they” expect critical writing about your work to be published. I would love for others to be in conversation about my work, and in smaller settings that has been the case, but I’m not quite “validated” until it’s printed by a notable name.

I’m in a waiting phase of my career and having lots of moments of self-examination. I think I am sitting on great content and slowly teasing out the direction my work will take me, especially here in Atlanta. I’m spirit led. All I can do is keep making, keep asking questions, promoting myself, and reaching out to anyone and everyone that will listen.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Stephanie Brown Photography – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I make conceptual art. I’m a storyteller, a documentarian, an observer, and a careful curator of my own breadth of work and experiences. I think I’m known for being forward-thinking and driven. I’m passionate about helping people find their inner strength and value.

I am available for workshops, panels, and other speaking engagements. I’m passionate about sharing my story and I’m grateful for any opportunity to do so.

I am preparing to launch a new business called Light&Love that gives people the opportunity to commission my most intuitive style of work: nude/semi-nude portraits. It is designed to monumentalize love in every form it comes in whether that be self-love or love with a partner. Commissioning artwork is a personalized experience and I want to encourage more people to become collectors of the art they admire. Light&Love allows my clients to not just become collectors but invites them into the art-making process by becoming the subject as well.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I look forward to giving the gift of empowerment and encouragement in honor of the artists, teachers, and supporters who gave that to me or found value in my messaging. I look forward to paying it forward by way of art, a speaking engagement, or a fireside chat. I’ve got some workshops in the making that I’m excited about.

This summer my first solo show at a museum will take place on June 8th at the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala, FL. The exhibition is titled, “Do Not Bleach” and it will be followed by a community spoken work event on the theme of appearance.

Other than that exhibition, another big change coming up quite quickly is my last name. In October, I’ll be marrying my best friend, Phillip Fleming, who is an amazing comic artist. Navigating two emerging art careers is not an easy feat and definitely not the most financially exciting thing to happen. But I look forward to the growth and expansion of both of our careers. I enjoy supporting him and nurturing his art practice in the areas he needs it most and he fuels mine in the areas that I need the most support.

Artists are stronger together and when in community with each other. Not a community of enablers to poor habits but a real community of challengers and critics who want to see you do well.

That’s why I’m extra hype about recently being accepted into an art collective of Black female artist here in Atlanta called TILA Studios. This is fiercest group of artists I have ever associated myself with and honestly the most Black women I have ever associated myself with at once, lol, but the energy and empowerment is there and I truly believe that this community will help challenge and propel my career to new heights.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Nick Beardslee, Stephanie Brown

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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