We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Mathena and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
In the 2000’s, I was growing up in a rural town in Kentucky. In middle school, I started filming short films, horror movie spoofs, and music videos with an old Sony handheld camera. Everything I filmed was put on VHS tape, that’s how much technology has changed in 2 decades. In high school, I was in a media/journalism class and became the “anchor” on our morning news team. My senior year, I decided to put my movie making skills to a new test and film a documentary of a volunteer trip I was taking to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit. It really cemented for me that I wanted to pursue documentary film or journalism in some way. To tell people’s stories that were getting overlooked.
In 2008, I choose to major in Electronic Media and Broadcasting at Northern Kentucky University, which was the closest thing to filmmaking I could find in Kentucky and George Clooney went there. I met my best friend the first day of College Orientation, and we started the first-ever Film Club on campus. I was part of various short films, music videos and documentary projects in college. In 2010, I traveled to Washington D.C. for the National Equality March and filmed a documentary about the experience. After that, I was hired to work for my college TV Channel, NorseMedia. I would film interview segments covering bands that would come to Cincinnati, like We Are Scientists, Foxy Shazam, and The Silent Comedy. I also did production work on TLC shows and was an extra in “The Ides of March”. By my junior year of college, I was able to travel to Scotland for a documentary project about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (which launched Lin Manuel Miranda’s group ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’ into fame). My senior year, I was able to take what I had learned from Scotland and returned to New Orleans for my final Senior Project – a documentary on volunteering and how it holds humanity together.
After college, I began working at an NBC affiliate local news station in Cincinnati, Ohio. I would Mic up guests, run the prompter, and edit packages for the morning news. I also began photographing events for CityBeat Magazine that year and started camera operating for a local independent baseball league during this time. It was a busy time in 2012-2013 because I was also launching my own videography and photography business. In 2014, the broadcasting life was proving to be exhausting, and the pay was terrible. So I decided to apply at a tech company I had always admired- Apple. Apple gave me a way to juggle my budding photography business whilst giving me Healthcare and a decent paycheck. By 2016, I felt that my journey in the Midwest was coming to an end. I made the move from Kentucky to Denver, and within the first month I met my good friend Robert Castro. Castro owns Ultra5280 Magazine and was kind enough to let me photograph Snoop Dogg at Fiddler’s Green. After that, I was able to work with various local musicians and volunteer my photography for Youth on Record events (a local non-profit founded by The Flobots that helps Denver youth harness their musical talents). My network started expanding throughout the past five years of living in Denver. I have broadened my photography business and purpose immensely.
I have traveled all over the country doing photography work – most notably, I was the photographer for an organization called “New Leaders Council” which consists of progressive young people from around the country that are running for City Council, Mayor, or other public offices. I was lucky enough to meet and photograph Nancy Pelosi and Obama’s senior advisor – Valerie Jarrett. In Denver, I have worked with locally owned and operated Women-run businesses like “Wear Love Wagon”, “MyTwilaray”, “The Brunch Run” among many other boss babes. I currently do photography of all kinds – engagements, weddings, dancers, creative portraits, boudoir, businesses, maternity, pets, kids, and travel photography on the side. Photographers were definitely hit hard in 2020 with the Pandemic… This past year and a half to make up for all of the lost business, I began selling my travel photography, which I would describe as “Dreamy SouthWest Americana”, which is available on Etsy, finally.
Because of business picking up again due to the vaccine, I was able to quit my part time job at Apple. This has been a dream of mine for so long. To finally be able to sustain myself on my photography income alone. With more time to focus on my photography career, I hope to keep collaborating with women, musicians, artists, people of color, LGBTQ+, non-profits and anyone that wants to create beautiful photos or video together. All of my work can be found on my website or my Instagram.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am most proud of my Travel Photography work. Although it’s rainy Popart/Dreamy SouthWestern Photography- it’s a fun passion of mine. I grew up on road trips out west with my. parents and always had a fondness for the desert.
I am also most proud of my portrait/photojournalism work and collaboration with musicians, dancers, artists, the LGTBQ community and many more inspiring people.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Mango House in Aurora, it’s a refugee food hall. Refugees can get access to resources and you can support a variety of refugee run restaurants.
Other favorites: RiNo area, the murals in that area are amazing for photography and just beautiful to look at. Improper City is a favorite.
South Broadway area- so many thrift stores up and down the block and rooftop bars. Most notably for thrifting- a shop called “Totally 80’s” that is pure nostalgia. It’s the greatest. And a classic Denver rooftop bar- Irish Rover.
Little Man Ice Cream in the highlands (Obviously) Happy camper. And finally Odyssey . This 100 year old Italian restaurant has a secret menu on Monday nights- you get can $25 dishes for $8.95. Their food and cannolis are amazing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would say Youth on Record is the greatest. Denver Non Profit organization 🙂
Instagram: @StephMathena , @Steph_Out_West
Linkedin: Stephanie Mathena
Facebook: Stephanie Mathena Photography
Stephanie Mathena Photography