— WRITER, PHOTOGRAPHER
If there was a singular word in the dictionary that could perfectly and wholly detail Stephanie Nnamani’s work, it’d be the word SUN. Warmth. Yellow. Orange. Energy. Light. All things that you feel and see each time you lay your eyes on her photographs. It was my very early Tumblr days–think 2010–that I was first graced with Stephanie and her artistry. I was particularly fascinated with Nnamani’s aptitude for self-portraits, as everything from her angles to the emotion she evoked dazzled me. It was then that I realized one noteworthy thing: her gift represents a much deeper calling. It represents healing and restoration for both her and her audience.
Your photography style is unlike anything I've seen. There is a sense of warmth I automatically feel when I see your work, especially your self-portraits. How did you break into photography and develop your style?
I fell into photography through self-portraiture. At the time, I didn't know there was a term encompassing my practice. I simply moved on and with the desire to reach myself and share whatever that meant; entailed. I recall a time where I forgot the Sun. I forgot its warmth, its shine–everything. I came home for the first time in 2013 since leaving 13 years prior. That trip, very literally, saved my life. I found the color, orange, pulling me in. I had believed it to be a newfound fondness. But after encountering childhood pictures of me dressed in Orange, it became clear that healing, for me, meant connecting and consequently living as that child I once was. I began responding to colors that seemed to bring me back to myself; my lovely self; my full self. I obsessed over them and still do. Orange being at the center. I find I work in a way that communicates: because I forgot the Sun, I don't want anyone else to.
How does your strong academic background influence your artistic decisions, if at all?
My academic background is primarily in the social sciences. With Psychology as one of my majors and Communication Studies as my minor. Balancing academia and creativity required I essentially marry my interests. I find that I nurse and nurture my psychological health through strengthening the exchange between me and my work. Like the aforementioned response stated, color is central to this. I always try to communicate to people that I see myself as an artist and a scientist. I enjoy how both disciplines collude to reveal the essence of human Being and interaction.
As creatives, it's very easy to be scattered and to abandon order. Creativity is very primal I believe. It performs as a means for survival. When we operate as a means to survive, it can translate as....erratic. This practice is amiss in academia. Academia requires process and order that is critical; prescriptive. Sometimes, for art to make sense, it needs a proper dose of order and of allowing an idea to come into full form before delving into another. This is what academia teaches me about creativity.
As your craft, what does photography mean to you?
Photography means I never run out of ways of communicating my being. Because there are so many, so many layers. Photography affords me that.
How do your life experiences and culture aid in coloring your work?
I try to recreate memories through color. I find so much satisfaction in looking at work and seeing my truth boldly represented. My culture is one traditionally of modesty. It is also very musical–to me. Partly why I obsess over rhythm and urge others to find theirs and fall in.
Think about the first time you had a "dream" until now. I'm sure your life path has changed and gone in directions that you couldn't have imagined, in both good and bad ways. With this happening, how have you not allowed your circumstances to alter your dreams or make you forget about them?
When I first began, it was my first, maybe second semester in college. I was so heavily invested in my dream despite the challenges that were placed in front of me. I poured myself in to the point my academics came to suffer. Which was difficult for me, because I pride myself on simply being able to perform well, in most things. Especially the things I am most passionate about. I had reached a point where opportunities began presenting themselves. None of which I could seize because, well, I was not authorized to work in the US.
Years passed and I convinced myself I had to keep creating. Eventually, it *has* to pay off. Today, I am grateful that I kept my commitment; that I continued to respond creatively. It inspired me to go back to school shortly before my papers finally processed. It even expanded my area of interest from simply psychology–and for a short stint, media design–to business administration and communication studies. I could see the value, again, in wanting to better oneself. I am grateful things did not pan out how most may consider ideal. I struggled and I struggled to come fully into the truth that absolutely nothing stands in my way.
What's your biggest piece of advice to anyone on their life and dream path?
I think it is vital that we commit to trusting the story we want to tell and allow it to move us. The work is the only thing capable of moving us. And others.
How do you DREAM IN HD?
I tell myself that my parents did not bring neither me or my siblings here in vain. They did not bring us this far for it not to be fruitful. And surely I did not come this far to simply come this far.
By: Maricia Josephs, Founder and EIC of DREAM IN HD | Photography: Stephanie Nnamani