Feature Project – Stacey Ilyse’s 365

Today we are featuring Stacey Ilyse. She’s been shooting documentary style photography for several years and took on a 365 project (one picture a day for a year) in December of 2016 to document more of her family. You can see more of Stacey’s work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram. Here is what she had to say to our contributors:

Aniya: I absolutely love your work – been following you for ages. I find that we tend to get in a box – “what kind of photographer are you?” And we often times feel compelled to define our work – portrait photographers, vs fine art photographers, documentary, and the list goes on. Do you define yourself as a documentary photographer who also makes amazing portraits? (Love the portrait of your daughter!) Or do you prefer not to define yourself as a “x” photographer? Why or why not?

I think at this point I’m gonna go with “fine art documentary photographer”. Why…? I aspire to create beauty and art within the moments I capture not JUST documenting them, but I’m also not the type of photographer that completely creates the scene. I like to see things unfold as honestly as possible. I think straight up documentary photography is kick ass and sometimes that is all it is that day – just documenting it for what it is. But for me, I’m looking to move past JUST THE MOMENT. I want (as often as possible) for the moment to feel artful, too. That happens for me when I consider the light, the moment, sometimes the lens, the location, the editing choices I make, etc.

Leslie: Beautiful work, Stacey, I’ve been following you for some time and enjoy seeing both your client and personal work. I’m surprised that since you have been shooting so long that this is your first 365. Was there a reason behind this decision? Why this year?

In 2015 I made a commitment to myself to take out my camera more often and capture more images of my girls and our lives, to put myself in front of the lens more often and be more intentional with what I was shooting – while also pushed myself to capture my girls as they were. I felt I had done that pretty well. Some days/weeks more than others, but I had my camera handy and took it out fairly often. Then last year (2016) I told myself I would do a monthly DITL. About 6 months in, I lost interest, work got so hectic, and so on. Especially with learning and adding video services to my business. I found myself at the end of a long and super busy fall season with actually VERY little personal photographs to speak of. I was so burnt out from it all, and I was truly disappointed in myself. Not only did I fail to follow through with my monthly DITL, but I stopped taking photos of my family altogether. I decided on Dec 23rd to just DO IT. I wanted a goal to keep me going – and to make the effort even during a hectic time in my business life to still remember my family. So I made the commitment to take on the challenge. I picked up the camera and took my first shot – of my younger daughter, CRYING in her christmas jammies. It felt appropriate to start with that one. 🙂

Jessica: I love how you see humorous and poignant moments and also have a very strong sense of light. What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses as a photographer and are they different for your personal vs client work?

I’ve never been afraid of high ISO’s, slow shutters, trying new things, epic failures when trying something new, laying down in the dirt, jumping in the puddles and more. Before I started this project I think my biggest weakness was that I was convinced that I COULD NOT engage with my subjects – that it had to be 100% all natural – or nothing at all – but FOR ME that does not work! I find that my own children NEED me to engage with them – I’m their mother, not a fly on the wall! I found that it worked best when I got a good mix – sometimes I let the scene happen as it’s playing out, other times I laugh with them at the kitchen table – with my camera next to me ready to go. Some days I ask them to do it again partly because it was something I wanted to remember and partly because I saw the joy in their faces, so I knew it was an easy sell to get that shot.

Before I changed my mindset I used to feel like I was to running around like a chicken with my head cut off – worrying about “missing a moment” and getting disappointed when I felt it fell flat. The reality of it is this, there will ALWAYS be another moment, and MOST kids (or at least mine) don’t mind us making them laugh, they usually like “doing it again”, or they are to wrapped up in their own moment to notice and so on. Thinking this way gave me permission to slow down, take my time, get it right, enjoy the moment both with my girls and with my camera too!

With my clients I do my best to find that happy balance between getting interesting, authentic images but also ones that I think would speak to the parents too. So while I love me a good toddler crying or find humor in a good spat over a toy and I certainly don’t shy away from documenting it. I also work hard to show the flip side to that child’s personality. I would love to think my clients would be as open with me as my own family, but I think that is hard for MOST people on some level. And that is ok. They are entitled to want privacy, and I respect that. You can’t document EVERY.SINGLE.THING. but you will get the things that ultimately matter the most in the end.

Jenny: I love your work Stacey! And I love that you have included some beautiful portraits as well as documentary work in your submission. Do you only do documentary work for your clients or do you also offer portraiture, fine art portraits, etc?

I ALWAYS love to do portraits for my clients – whether they are individual images, just siblings, or the entire family altogether. I think it is SO important to have both. I love remembering the moment, movement, the overall scene – BUT I still think it is nice to remember how some looks, their features, their expressions, etc. It is kinda amazing to see a portrait of my girls from the start of the year and even 1/2 way through how they have changed! The same holds true for a client! I work hard to encourage my clients to see past the perfect smiling portrait – educating them that it is OK to look beyond that.

Robin: Has your personal 365 project changed or influenced how you document other families for work?

It 110% influenced how I document other families. I’m far more willing to play with light or take chances now with my clients images then I was before. I think I played it safe, afraid that if I shot the way I wanted it would not be welcomed. Now I try and to channel my 365 mindset into my client work. I also feel that by consistently sharing the work I do of my own family has given my clients a clear indication as to how I will shoot their families if they are willing to just let go, have fun, and be themselves!

Heather: I love the humor in your images. I know you just started your 365 but have you run into any slumps? If so how did you push past them?

Yes, some days I think, I’m SO F-ING TIRED. So, maybe the image I take that day is not that fantabulous – but I just do it anyways. I found that when I’ve started to feel a slump coming on – I think of something new to do with it. I give that day a purpose. I decide today is a details only day and only shoot the small, often missed over details of our lives. Or I’ll pull out my lensbaby and shoot with that. I’ll set out on an adventure with my girls and make a point to do it with camera in hand. Maybe I’ll make a point to capture dinner with my mom or take a portrait of my husband instead. I put the power in my hands because we ALL lead lives that are a bit redundant and mundane, but it is up to us to find the beauty in it and create something unique from each day.


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