Q&A with Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the photography-half of the Payne ArtHouse, a studio, and gallery in Charleston, West Virginia.

Let's meet Steve:

Q: When did you know you were in love with photography?
Steve: I was always fascinated by photography. My grandfather was friends with the acknowledged “best photographer” in the area and had portraits of the family made by him on the walls of the house. I LOVED looking at those images not knowing that one-day making images would be my passion.

Q: Do you remember your first camera and the first photographs that you took?
Steve:  I am sure that I begged my relatives to take a photo with one of their expensive cameras but my mother had a Kodak Brownie that she let me use a little bit. I think that was the camera that I took with me on a trip to Washington, DC with my fifth-grade class. I had a blast taking photos with it and looking at them when they came back from the processor. 

Q: How do you choose your subjects?
Steve: If not on an assignment, I think they choose me.

Q: What makes “the perfect” photo?
Steve: For me, it’s the combination of light and shadow on an interesting subject caught with the perfect timing of gesture or action. As Henry Cartier-Bresson called it, “the decisive moment."

Q: What was the first photo you remember taking? 

Steve: My first photos were all silly stuff of my friends making faces or doing really dumb stuff like playing dead in the middle of the road. Seriously, not serious stuff. Then I graduated to squirrels in the park. It was a pretty slow start.

Q: What was the first professional photo you took?

Steve: The first paid job that I had was shooting real estate photos for a large real estate firm in Huntington, WV. I drove all over the area shooting the houses. Then would go back to my makeshift darkroom and print the photos to 8X10’s. I loved delivering the photos and being paid on the spot!

Q: Do you take photos on family vacations or do you like to step away from work?

Steve: Honestly, I like to step away from work, but I do some family shots with my phone. Our daughter gets a little upset with me for not taking more.

Q: What’s the one thing you haven’t shot that you really would like to?

Steve: Maybe big-wave surfing at the Banzai Pipeline, Hawaii. I love the power and abstract nature of waves in general and watching surfers conquer them is amazing to see.

Q; How do you choose B&W vs. color?

Steve: Some subjects require color to be complete, but I love the stark nature of black & white photography. So, it really depends on the subject more than my personal preference.

Q: Is your house filled with yours and Lynn’s art or other art?

Steve: Our house is a gallery to display our work. When we built it and moved-in we named it ArtHouse for that reason. But, in our private spaces, we have other works. A number of pieces by Lynn’s father David who was an accomplished artist, though not professionally.

Q: What other photographers do you admire?

Steve: Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Arnold Newman were early favorites. I even got to spend a week studying with Newman at The Maine Workshops. Jack Ward, who I traveled The West with shooting Marlboro ads is also one of my favorites, but there are many wonderful photographers that I admire and respect.