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South Atlanta: The Perfect Backdrop

Proper exposure highlights the journey of a local photographer who chooses to keep his creative efforts rooted at home.

Stephen Wilson, Peachtree City native and owner of South Atlanta Photography, came to professional photography in a most unique way. Stephen graduated from McIntosh High School excited to start his undergrad at the University of Central Florida (UCF). He set out with the intention to become a graphic designer, but a painting class Stephen took as an elective opened a door to different creative opportunities. "The teacher saw something in me. She took her advanced painting students to New York and invited me to go and see what it was all about. We visited a hundred galleries." At the time, New York City (NYC) was universally considered the art capital of the world. Stephen left UCF with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting.

In 2005, art fairs were popping up everywhere and people were investing tons of money into a booming art market. Students from grad school were being picked up by top NYC galleries and within five years, were selling single paintings for what some people make in an entire year. It was the potential for what was possible, and the desire to be in the center of it all, that led Stephen to Parsons The New School in downtown Manhattan. A visit to the Parsons Career Center landed Stephen an internship at one of the top ad agencies in the world for Fashion Advertising. This, in its masterful orchestration, exposed him to some of the top names in the creative world.

It was not long before Stephen's interest in painting began to wane, and photography took the forefront. After earning a Master of Fine Arts at Parsons, he began his creative career in fashion advertising, contributing to global campaigns for brands like Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers and Jimmy Choo. Stephen worked in New York for 10 years, having photos published at Elle.com, The New York Times, Style.com, and Vogue.com. Stephen's clients have included household names like Jo Malone London, Lululemon, and Mercedes Benz.

Stephen's photography is distinguished by how he engages with and immerses himself in the subject. "Getting to the heart of who they are, I prefer to have the most real, truest interaction with somebody I possibly can." It became clear early on how much Stephen needs the personal, human interaction - conversation, collaboration and partnership - to create absolutely amazing photos. "Creating a moment of a shared experienced. This is at the heart of what I want to do and why I do photography."

In addition to running the studio at South Atlanta Photography, Stephen is currently an adjunct professor at the Creative Circus, a portfolio school for creative careers in Atlanta. His creative expression extends to gardening as well. "It's related to photography when you actually get to see or hold the end product. That is a real, fulfilling thing for me in my life now. Having something that I can create with my hands; having done physical labor and have an actual payoff at the end that is physical as well."

For Stephen, "Being an entrepreneur is simultaneously super rewarding. You've done all the work and you've created something great, and someone pays you for that work. There's an adrenaline rush, but when things go sideways and they're not working out, the stress can pile up. Being an entrepreneur is great and I love making my own schedule and deciding what kind of work I want to pursue."

That said, South Atlanta Photography is ramping up with senior photos. They have just a few weekends left so schedule yours soon. Visit southatlantaphotography.com and follow them on Instagram @southatlantaphotography.

Stephen shares professional advice for photographers new to the industry, "When you first start out, learn your craft. Shoot as much as possible. Learn what your camera can do and what you like to do. While you're learning, don't charge anything. Go out and create what you want to create and not be beholden to a client. Do free work with the caveat that you don't owe anyone anything. Experiment. Figure out what you want to do before you start charging people. Get some business education and work smarter not harder. Don't leave money on the table and charge what your services are worth."

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