Breanna Steinfeldt : Interview



Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the day with the ever lovely Chicago photographer Breanna Steinfeldt, whose work thrives on collaboration, dichotomies, and the mantra that less is more. We began the day with a styled look-book shoot at the Garfield Park Conservatory and ended it with tacos, margaritas and good ol conversation at Big Star, where she spoke about navigating between worlds of commercial and fine art photography, embracing both film and digital, and creating within settings both natural and artificial...but mostly we just talked about how good those walking tacos were....

Can you talk a bit about your background? What brought you to Chicago? : 

Well I grew up in North Dakota, which was terrible, haha.  However, I was lucky enough to have understanding and supportive parents that allowed me to travel a lot growing up.  I also did modeling throughout high school, which gave me the opportunity to travel and actually live in Bangkok for a summer when I was 17.  After doing modeling and getting that experience in front of the camera I came to the realization that I wanted to be the one taking the pictures. I always told myself I wanted to live and go to school in a large city, so it was either Chicago or New York.  I was accepted into Columbia College and so I chose Chicago because it's closer to home and much more affordable.  I've been here for 5 years now and I love it.  

What kind of work are you currently making?

Currently I'm working on a seasonal look book for a local online vintage boutique (in the making) SomeLikeUs Vintage! It has been very fun work.  

Earlier today you mentioned that the look-book you are working on deals with nature in an unconventional way? Can you elaborate? 

Yes! The current lookbook that I am working on is for the spring/summer season, it is my last big project that I am doing for my Photography Seminar class so I really wanted to put all my energy and focus on it throughout this last semester to create a well thought out, visually stimulating book for both me, and SomeLikeUs vintage, who I am collaborating with.  Originally I planned to do a variety of shoots, mostly in outdoor locations, however, for those of you who may not have spent this winter/spring in chicago, it has been so terribly cold that I have yet to shoot outside.  Which actually ended up helping me with my concept.  Instead of shooting in conventional outdoor/natural spaces I took that idea and brought it inside.  I decided to use a faux, fake nature indoors and use it for an overall theme for the lookbook as something different and unexpected of your usual spring/summer lookbook.  For example, I've shot in an indoor pool and today's shoot at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Overall I'm very excited about the work.

Can you talk about your process as a photographer?

When it comes to my process for making work, I like to keep it simple.  I really enjoy and am attracted to natural light so I try to use it in my work as much as possible.  A lot of the time it's just me and my camera and my model in a well lit space.  A well defined, consistent color palette is also very important to me.  I try to keep my color somewhat consistent over all in my work.  

You often thoughtfully navigate between fine art and commercial photography. Can you talk a bit more about that?  

I like this question.  Going to art school is a really interesting time as a young creative person.  Especially with photography, from my experience, the major seems to be separated pretty distinctly between fine art and commercial.  I honestly spent a huge part of my undergrad career trying to be a fine art photographer, and it never really worked out for me. I felt like if I was making commercial work I wouldn't really be considered an artist. Now, however, I feel like I'm finally making work that I am very excited about and really enjoy making.  I try to take influences from all over the art spectrum and incorporate them into my work.  I've been interning at the Museum of Contemporary Photography for over a year now which has helped me a lot.  Looking at as much work as possible is important and I think having a good understanding of both fine art and commercial work really helps to create the best possible image.  

How does collaboration play a roll is what you create?  

Collaboration plays a huge roll in my creative process! I think the more people you work with the better.  Always.  Not only to help make your work more interesting, whether that means getting great clothes to shoot from a local business or whatnot, but also just to have those connections with people in both the same and different industries is always a good idea.  

How does living in Chicago influence your work or creativity?

I think Chicago is an amazing city with tons and tons of talented people.  I feel like I'm always surrounded by creative individuals and that motivates me to be making new work all the time.  Not only that, but I feel like as a city we have a pretty great appreciation of the arts.  

What/Who is inspiring you right now?

I am really into work by Jody Rogac and Alex Prager lately.  

Five of your favorite neighborhood businesses?

Tusk, Moon Voyage, Scofflaw, Big Star (duh) and The Empty Bottle.  

What's next for you?

Graduation! and then hopefully a summer full of photo adventures!

Check out all of Bre's work on her website HERE

+Words by Alysia Alex

+Portrait of Bre shot by Spencer Bagley

This interview is the first post of City Local, an 1137 original column that features art and design savvy people and business from different cities across the country as told by even savvier local contributors. Check back every Wed for a new feature.