When did you first think of becoming a photographer and did you study photography?
I moved from Auckland to Wellington and was a hairdresser at the time.
I loved the creative side of hairdressing, but hated the day to day client work.
My wife (girlfriend at the time) told me to take photographs on my days off.
So I did this every Monday.
After a few weeks I knew I wanted to make it my career.
I studied photography at Massey University in Wellington, during those two years I also assisted Jono Rotman.
Is there a particular genre that you enjoy working in the most?
Advertising. I like images that have ideas behind them.
Most of your subjects are people/animals who are generally really hard to work with or direct - children, horses, cats, cows, etc. How do you manage to induce such brilliant emotions out of them?
I try to make the environment as comfortable as possible.
When I photograph animals I do a lot of work up front to find out if they will be ok with flash lighting, if not I use constant lights. I usually work in large spaces and have a reduced number of people at the location or in the studio.
I also work with really clever animal trainers who can usually help me achieve what I want.
If not photography, what would you be doing?
I would be a cinematographer. Over the past few years I have been shooting a lot more moving footage and really enjoy it.
Your dream project?
It would be to make another short film.
I just need the time to conceptualise it.
What equipment do you shoot with currently?
Canon 5DSR, 1DX MK2, C300 MK2.
Are there enough opportunities within New Zealand to make a living out of Photography purely or do you need to travel around a fair bit?
Yes, you can totally making a living in New Zealand from photography.
I live in Wellington but do spend a lot of time in Auckland working as well because the majority of agencies are up there.
I also work in Australia, UK and the States.
What has been the best moment in your career thus far?
Completing a personal short film and stills project called ‘If You Fall, We Fall’
The project is a collaboration with Blake Dunlop and was conceptualised while I was on holiday with my family in Fiji a few years ago.
It's a pretty abstract study on the Fijian cane workers and explores different gangs in the field.
It's about how hard they work and looking after each other.
When you’re at the top of your game, winning awards and working with high profile clients, what continues to give you personal satisfaction?
Progressing the direction from the last project I have completed.
I always try to change how I approach each brief.
Sometimes clients want to use you for a particular image they have seen or I have completed a project for them and they want the same thing again.
I will always try and change the approach, even if it's in a subtle way.
What motivates or inspires you? If you’re working on a concept, what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?
In the past I would be inspired by photography, film, art, music, and fashion.
But recently I find the best way to be inspired is just start shooting.
It could be something as simple as giving myself a brief to come up with an idea in 5 mins then set up a studio and try to execute it.
Your craziest project to date?
Shooting for Icebreaker in Morocco.
It was meant to be the start of summer, but it was freezing.
We even encountered snow in some areas.
The locals were really hostile towards us, so we had to work really quickly with minimal gear in populated areas.
We were taking a couple of shots around by the airport and two guards took us in for questioning, it went on for a couple of hours.
It was an incredible location, but all of the crew were pushed to the limit.
Any advice for an aspiring photographer, looking to follow your footsteps?
If you're wanting to get into advertising (especially now) I think you need to do more than just take the photographs.
You need to collaborate and add to the process.
I think having a point of difference is important as well as having a style that makes the your work your own.
Shooting motion can be a real benefit, but it does take time and money to work into a stills shoot. Especially to do it properly.
I'm increasingly having to shoot my stills with TV crews, you need to be able to work with a broad range of people.
These situations are often unpredictable and your shoot time is so tight.
You need to be open to adapting.
To view more of Steven's work: