There are certain people, places, and things that simply radiate a feeling of trust. You step into them or around them and suddenly, you feel safer. More sure of yourself. This is because love is powerful, and it shows when love is prevalent.
Steven Piper is a lover. A self-proclaimed gentle giant. Someone who will show you love, no matter where you are. Who you are.
Steven Piper is also a photographer. It’s what he’s made himself known for in Chicago. And Chicago is a place he plans to stay for now, regardless of the undeniable pull toward LA or New York. Chicago is comfort, and according to Steven, comfort is underrated.
“I think trying to get others to break down their walls, and feel like they can be their true selves around me, is a form of love,” said Steven.
Love comes in many different forms. Platonic, romantic, inspired… love isn’t just reserved for people. It’s for places, for activities, for objects in time that bring forth ease.
“Street photography will always be my first love,” shares Steven. “No matter how my subject matter changes, I always use street photography as my foundation and always reference it when I am feeling lost.”
Street photography is the art of capturing people in their essence. Out and about, not worrying about how they look or what they’re doing. It’s open to interpretation, it’s honest. It’s people at their core, in their places, living.
And then there’s the more intimate side to photographing people: Portraiture.
For Steven, moving into portraiture was a natural progression. It lets him continue to capture those candid moments of street photography, but it lets him get a little bit closer. Both in a physical sense ad in a personal sense, he’s able to know his subject just a little bit better.
In order to create such images, in order to look upon a person or place or thing and see within it something that is not yet, one needs to understand inspiration. To know its limitless bounds. To feel its undeniable touch.
“It’s those thoughts that come creeping up from the back of my mind,” shares Steven. “Recently, I have become more in tune with the natural thoughts that may start off as quiet impressions. I just started listening more to where my mind wanders, trying to grab those fleeting thoughts and hold onto them. Sometimes it starts with a feeling, sometimes it’s just a word or concept.”
Right now, Steven’s concept of choice is “free spirit.” What it means to him, to the world.
And then it’s time for execution of inspiration. Actually going from idea to physical entity.
For Steven, the most important part of this process is communication. Keeping everyone involved every step of the way. Making sure ideas are clear and everyone is informed. Whether it be the subject or production help, clear communication is vital.
“Never let your vision just sit in your mind,” adds Steven. “Communicate it to others over and over again.”
Initially inspired by his travels in France, photography has always been about more than just the image for Steven. He’s here to tell a story from his point of view, to articulate a kinetic feeling through the stillness of a picture.
“Seeing imagery that makes people recognize their own unique beauty is what my art is all about,” says Steven.
In his current project, entitled Undertones, feelings are the main event. This 10-piece portrait and film series is meant to highlight the beauty of diversity and the importance of representation.
“In our ideal world, we want to show love in an unprovoked manner – from a place of positivity, not trauma,” he states. “I realized the best place to start is with the skill set I already have, and influence the people and spaces I already reside.”
And so Undertones was born. With the help of many talented individuals, Steven is working to showcase the unique identities of people who don’t always see the representation they deserve. Media often focuses on the tragedies of life, the traumatic side to the effects of under representation and violence in society. With this project, there’s hope to deter that narrative.
“[The project] challenges society’s perceptions of beauty and reaffirms those who have historically felt unseen,” adds Steven.
Steven is currently working on a gallery show to present Undertones to the public. Keep up with him on instagram.
Steven working on ‘Undertones.’ Shot by Gabriela Chavez