In the Frame: Royce Stevenson
Today, I'm glad to feature film photographer and radio DJ Royce Stevenson. He has a passion for taking 35mm film photos around Kansas and the midwest. Let's talk to Royce to see he's all about.
Your work could be easily characterized as "street photography" but there's also a lot of attention to shadows, structures, architecture, and reflections, too. How would you characterize what you do?
Royce: At first I characterized my photos as street photography, but anymore I try to just take cool photos. Landscapes, street photography, portraits… I love them all! Anymore I try to capture more of a feeling. Plus I am always trying to capture different moments and events, so as I grow as a photographer I think I focus less of the style of photography that I do, and more on taking good photos.
You have a real commitment to capturing the time you're in and the world around you. The work has a feel of being in the middle of something great and vibrant, like a "right place/right time" vibe. Is this on purpose? How do you choose what you shoot and why is it important to you?
Royce: Wow that means a lot to me that you say that. My mother was very much into photography. Growing up she always had her Canon AE-1 program and was taking pictures with it. My most prized possessions are all of her photo albums. They mean so much to me because it captures not only my life but everything that was going on at that time. She passed away 5 years ago and I started getting out and taking pictures with her Canon 50d. In high school and college I took dark room classes and I wanted to get back into film photography. One thing I noticed was around my city there were not that many people capturing what was going on. I live in Wichita, Kansas and I see lots of building photos and landscapes, but I really wanted to capture the people, places and times and of city before they are gone.
You seem to be unafraid to get close and shoot people pretty intimately. Have you always done this? Does it intimidate you to shoot so close to people?
Royce: Shooting people up close terrified me at first and quite frankly still does every now and then. One thing that helps is I try to go to events that have people I know there. I have been taking pictures long enough that they are used to seeing me with a camera now so they let their guard down. I also have a bit of an advantage because I work in radio and people are more apt to let you take a picture of them. Something I always work on and am getting better at is not holding the camera up all the time like I am trying to get a photograph of a person. I might catch them not paying attention or in a zone. Most of the time, the person doesn’t even realize I took a picture of them. But yes I still get nervous and anxious when shooting people.
Your work also has a real sense and reverence for history, specifically the "Kansas Travels" series. What attracts you to those types of places and scenes?
Royce: I love traveling! One thing that I don’t think most people in Kansas realize is how many awesome places there are to see in Kansas! I was also a history major in college so when I drive around and see these small Kansas towns I think to myself, who used to live here and why? The smaller the town the better! Plus Kansas has quite a few ghost towns so there is always something cool to see. A great example of this is my ongoing Kansas Carnival project. Many of the county fairs and small festivals with carnivals are the biggest event for some of the small Kansas towns and counties every year. They wait for them to come every summer and it is an event they save up for! If you ever want to see want the soul and heart of Kansas is about, go to one of these county fairs. Also being born and raised in Kansas, it is who I am and I am so proud that I can represent the state by showing it off in photos.
And finally: You're a Radio DJ! How does this influence your photography?
Royce: Yes. Many times I am able to get access to places and talk to people that normally I would never be able too. Also working in radio, you have to be able to feel comfortable talking to strangers and dealing with people. Having people skills is such a part of it for me.
Make sure to check out Royce's work and connect with him on social media: