Interviews / Stories
Photographer Steve Dean Mendes
Tell us something about yourself
My name is Steve Dean Mendes, I'm 30 years old and was born and raised in a small town in the south of Portugal, Vila Real de Santo António. For the past 8 years I've been based in Belgium. I'm a creative, passionate and ambitious person who pursues his goals and dreams in life.
How and when did you get into photography?
Four years ago I got my first DSLR ever and started evening classes. After learning the basics I decided to stop following classes and chase this adventure on my own.
During the last couple of years I discovered a new passion in urban exploration and focused almost entirely on this photographic field/genre.
Almost a year ago I also started doing model shoots.
What does photography mean to you?
I've always been a creative person who uses art to express himself. During my teenage years, I used to write poetry and play guitar but when I moved to Belgium I kind of blocked and didn't have a way to let that creativity flow.
This is what photography is for me, a way to channel that creativity and to express myself. It’s a cliché but I thoroughly believe that one image says more than a 1000 words.
What has been your most memorable session and why?
All the shoots I did where memorable. We learn from every experience, or at least we should.
Each model has a different style, strength, personality, creativity and her way of expressing herself. I try to learn from them in every shoot whether she is a professional or an amateur.
Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.
I would describe myself as an environmental portrait photographer. I try to mix the elements of architecture composition with portraiture, always having an eye for detail.
I love shadows and creating a specific mood in photography which suits it the best. This aspect and the attention to details comes from my urban exploration background.
But if we talk about a specific colour pallet and edition, I don't have it yet.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I'm passionate about all forms of art, from classical painters such as Rembrandt with his wonderful light/shadow playing in his portrait paintings, to contemporary street artists such as Banksy with his spot-on criticism to the values of our society. Books, comics, movies, series, videogames, tattoos, they all inspire me in different ways.
Every model with who I had the opportunity to work with inspired me in their own way. Sometimes people forget that models are human beings and not only the ideal of beauty and perfection that society creates; most models I know are really strong women.
The strength and support of my girlfriend and the smile of my baby son are priceless inspiration catalysers.
Do you think in advance what you want in the picture?
Yes and no. I start the idea process with mood boards to conceptualize my idea and what I want to achieve. I think about the composition in advance, but the creative process starts together with the model. We are a team and our goal is the same so I’m always eager to get the opinion of the model. I start by composing the shot and positioning the model in the scene, and then I let her do her thing.
I'll give some pointers regarding the best pose for lightning and composition or to correct a pose, but I prefer that the model shows her emotional relation with the location.
It's a more natural process and that is what I look for, natural raw emotions.
Studio, on location or both?
Location. I shoot mainly with the use of natural light and environmental light, without any flash, so this makes it more difficult to shoot in a studio.
Because of the reasons stated before, location plays a huge role in my photographic style as my lightning choices. Location is more organic, instinctive and raw. Studio is an art by itself which I do also appreciate but it's more artificial, you control all the variables.
One day, I would like to try and improvise a window light studio.
Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?
Hobbyist. Photography is not my source of income, which defines the term professional. I set the bar very high for myself because I know I need to master the technique if I ever want to try and do this professionally.
What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
Regarding urban exploration photography, that was definitely my love for horror and fantasy; so movies and music played a huge role. I try to shoot in places which I didn't have access to when I was living in Portugal.
Through social media and online photography communities such as 500px, I got to know very talented photographers from all over the world. Nowadays there is a huge amount of talent which comes from Russia and Western Europe who are taking editing to another level.
Tatiana Mertsalova is a young photographer from Russia and her work is amazing, from beginning to end. The emotions that she passes through her photography are pure Art. Location is a crucial part of her photography together with the use of natural light. If there is a photographer who inspired me in the past year, it was her.
Nikon or Canon? Favourite lens?
I started with a Nikon D3200 and recently upgraded to the Nikon D800. It seemed the right path to follow.
Regarding lenses, I only shoot with primes because I prefer fast lenses to zoom. On crop sensor my favourite is the 35 mm focal length, in a full frame sensor I love the 50mm. Lately I've been shooting with the sigma art 24mm 1.4 and it's starting to steal my heart.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?
I don't have my own business so that's something I would also like to learn more about. But to every starter l would advise to embrace critiques from other good photographers, this will make your learning curve much shorter. Don't let you Ego get involved neither.
What do you think of our new magazine?
There is a lot of quality in every issue so it's good to know that there is a platform that supports everyone involved in the photography industry.
Keep up the good work.