For London-based photographer Stephanie Alcaino, her eclectic upbringing mixed with travel greatly influences her work. She grew up in Sydney, Australia with a Chilean father and German mother, and their lifestyle exposed her to multiple cultures and ways of life.
How did you fall in love with photography?
I initially wanted to major in painting at university ever since I fell in love with Vermeer’s work but went with my gut and chose photography. I never had a moment where I ‘fell in love’ with photography, but rather it's been an old friend that had always been around since my dad introduced me to a camera.
How's life as a woman in the photography world?
Early in my career I naturally was surrounded by male photographers. There weren’t many female photographers to look up to, particularly in the fashion industry. At times, during fashion week, I sometimes would be the only female photographer in the photographers' pit. It’s never been a debilitating disadvantage, but throughout my career, I have experienced sexism, mainly in the form of comments and power play.
Could you share any notable struggles or challenges you have experienced when you were still starting out? What challenges do you encounter now and how does it compare back then?
Early in my career, the most notable struggles were when I was assisting certain male photographers, who would belittle and bully whilst I assisted. There were a couple of projects where I was yelled at, humiliated in front of the client, withheld from eating food or made to feel small. It took several weeks to shake off the negativity and blows to my self-worth. Ironically, it’s been these experiences that have given me the drive to empower people on my sets with my words and actions from clients all the way to the assistants. Positivity, a safe environment, and encouragement are great catalysts for creativity, connection, and collaboration. It’s how I approach all my shoots.
I’ve started a multidisciplinary creative house with two others. We operate as a collective and bring creatives together to collaborate in our client projects, but most importantly give them a ‘home’ in the creative industry.
How do you overcome these challenges?
I’m deliberate about my rest. There are so many benefits about what rest does to the brain and to your creativity. In a city that seems to boast about 60 hour work weeks, it’s been a fruitful challenge to go against the paradigm that more is better. Deliberate rest helps your ability to look beyond challenges, stimulate your creativity and mentally keep you healthy.
Could you share to us what motivates you to continue doing what you do?
I love what a do, it never feels like work to me and I believe if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.
Who do you look up to or draw strength from?
I draw strength from my husband, who has been with me through the thick and thin over the last decade. He pushes me forward in my work and has always encouraged me to believe in the work that I do. He never stops learning, and his generosity with people and his time never ceases to amaze me.
Sex and gender should not be the basis of someone's place in art and photography. What would be your advice for girls and women who are still starting out in the world of photography?
My advice is that no job or pay is ever worth one losing their sense of value as a human being. There were several times I should have left a job with the way I was treated. One paycheck is not worth losing your confidence and self-esteem. Secondly, find people that you trust to speak into the work that you do. Constructive feedback from my mentors helped me progress as a photographer.
Lastly, what are your thoughts on this year’s International Women’s Day theme “Balance for Better”?
We need more females in the photography industry. Nikon created a campaign in 2017, where 32 photographers were selected to test their new product, not one of those photographers were female. They had only chosen men. It highlighted the imbalance of the industry. Diversity across all industries allows for innovation and can really push our world and creativity forward.
To see more of Stephanie's work, drop by her portfolio or follow her on Instagram: @stephalcaino. She's also the founding director and art director of OneSixOne, a multi-disciplinary creative house in London.