We came across the Flickr photostream of Sarah Haley Stewart and were amazed by her talent and creativity. She’s very young, adorable, and has flair for beautiful conceptual self-portraits which possess brilliant tone, light, settings, and emotions. Her composition and editing skills are such that you can recognize her images among other photographers. Young photographers at their learning phase need to devote themselves to learning new techniques and carve a niche for themselves and Sarah seems determined that she’d always come up with a novel concept. Her talent is evident in her nature shots as well. Most conceptual and fine-art photographers prefer making their shots in dark and edgy settings but photos of Sarah are so much full or warm tones and brilliant light that they take you away to a world of beauty and joy leaving all your worries behind. She is simply amazing! Knowing Sarah and her photography would be fun and inspiration, so we begin with:
Hello. I am Sarah and I live in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. I am an 11th grader, and I love photography (obviously), reading, being in nature, and eating delicious food.
Tell us about your fascination with photography:
I began taking photographs when I was 13. It was nothing serious, just me walking around my neighborhood with my little point-and-shoot camera, capturing anything and everything. It wasn’t until I got my first DSLR that I got serious about it. I began exploring the more artistic, expressionist side of photography and I instantly fell in love.
I’m currently shooting with a Canon 6D (Canon girl for life, not gonna lie) and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. Personally, I’m very drawn towards equipment that will give me sharp foreground focus with an incredibly soft background, just because that’s the style of photographs I usually take. I mainly photograph conceptual/fine art portraiture, but from time to time, I may post a nature or landscape shot I was particularly fond of. But I have to say, portraiture is what really gets me excited about photography. The fact that I can express any emotion, any mood, or any idea in my work through specific colors, light, and props is so exciting to me. It’s amazing how many people have responded positively to my photographs, and it’s brought me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve had my work featured on numerous online photo websites, been able to start a business, and even have one of my photographs featured in a gallery!
First of all, thank you! I feel like a lot of my photos take shape and become what they are through Photoshop. I know some people who would consider this “cheating”, but I feel like editing programs help me create a photo that is, simply, mine. I tend to add strong contrast and rich colors to my images, which is maybe where the “intrigue” you speak of comes from. And when I’m coming up with images in my head, they usually stem from sudden bursts of inspiration. I may be listening to a song that touches me in a certain way, or watching a movie with beautiful cinematography and an idea immediately comes to me. This is one of the most exciting things to me as a photographer. As far as teenagers exploring this genre of photography, I think it’s really fantastic. It shows people that no matter how young we are, we can still create great works of art. There may be some themes and concepts that get used more than others, but as long as I respond to the image, it doesn’t matter to me whether the concept has been done before or not. I just really enjoy looking at and creating beautiful things, because the world could always use more of that, right?
I live in the #1 tourist destination in the world, Charleston, South Carolina. Personally, I consider this a bit of an exaggeration, but there is no doubt that the landscapes and scenery are gorgeous. Charleston is famous for it’s beaches and huge oak trees, and I often feature these in my photos. I feel incredibly lucky to be a 20-minute drive away from practically every beautiful place here, and I take advantage of the fairytale-esque mood it gives. Photography has definitely made me appreciate my town and area more. Although, I’m always longing to go shoot beside dramatic mountains or in large fields, but I’m still happy with where I am right now.
Music is my main source of inspiration, for sure. Sometimes I listen to a song and it strikes a chord inside me, filling my head with possible images that I could go shoot. Even if I don’t get any ideas for photos from a song, I think desperately for one if the song has touched my soul in a certain way. On a lot of my Flickr photos, I even write song lyrics that I think relate or add to the story of an image in the description! Unfortunately, most of the time, I have no ideas for photos. Sometimes I just have to force myself in front on my camera and just shoot, hoping that something good will come of it (and something usually does).
My number one advice that I tell everyone starting photography is to not compare yourself to other photographers. When I first started getting serious, I almost drove myself into the ground by getting jealous of other photographer’s work and it was truly destructive to my creative drive. I had convinced myself that I would never be good as these other artists, but then I realized that if I kept comparing myself to them, I never would. So, instead of feeling envious while looking at other photographer’s pictures, I began to use their work as inspiration for my own, and my work slowly began to evolve into something I could be proud of.