Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Shauntelle Sposto
How do moments become a story? For Shauntelle Sposto, creating a visual memoir means immersing herself right in the sweet spot where artistry, meaning, and collaboration meet. Shauntelle's photography takes a fresh look at the "classic wedding" and has been featured in publications such as The Knot, Style Me Pretty, and Brides Magazine. See how growing up as a 90s kid shaped Shauntelle's photography, the camera she says "changed everything", and how she learned to value herself as an artist today in Richard's Photog Spotlight!
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Shauntelle Sposto: I got started right out of high school. I was offered a volunteer position assisting a wedding photographer, and from the moment we walked into our first wedding together, I knew this was going to be the coolest job. It was only natural, after working for a photographer for a couple of wedding seasons, to develop the hunger for my own clients. So, I bought my first camera and started building my portrait portfolio by shooting over the shoulder of my photographer friend at weddings and shooting portraits for my family & friends in college.
R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
SS: The transition was clear for me. Observing the photgraphers I worked for and gathering knowledge about how to value yourself as an artist (and charge for that artistry) came very naturally to me. However, I didn’t transition into a full-time position in photography until about five years ago. At that time, I was working other jobs and juggling my photography clients. As soon as I built up a steady clientele and was making enough to support my lifestyle & business exclusively with photography, I went full time. Not a moment before. I wanted to be smart and take a calculated risk so I didn’t burn myself out or feel overwhelmed with a loss of income in order to support my passion. It was the smartest thing for me at the time.
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
SS: Travel adventures, hands down. If I’m not shooting a wedding, I’m buying a ticket to somewhere cool, packing up a camera and a bag of film, and exploring! My latest obsession is documenting my Italian family history.
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?
SS: I think this has to do with the line of work you’re in. Or rather, what type of photography you do. I’ve always felt creatively fueled by wedding and portrait work. Lately, however, shooting editorial and commercial work has been a tremendous outlet for me creatively. I feel that having creative control over my subject not only makes me better at my job in the field, but also challenges me to take more control in all areas of my art. Also, surrounding myself with other creatives I admire challenges me to think beyond, approach art differently, and step out of the “industry”, if you will.
R: What is your favorite camera and why?
SS: Contax 645, no contest. It’s the first medium-format camera that was put into my hands in 2003, and it changed everything.
R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it today?
SS: Growing up in the 90s, we only had film cameras. I was the kid who was always sent to summer camp or field trips with a disposable camera. My favorite thing was to take photos of my friends, RUN to the local print lab, and drop off the camera to have the film developed. Getting the prints back was a THRILL! I still have boxes and photo albums stuffed with those memories from junior high and high school. Those images are more precious to me than anything.
Professionally, my story starts with film, dips into the digital world for a few years, and then lands back with film. In 2008, the industry I knew and the system I was shooting on was becoming obsolete (or so I thought). As film shooter—specifically of medium-format color film—I felt disconnected, uneducated, and frustrated that digital wedding photography was becoming the new standard in the industry. In fact, there weren’t even digital photography classes available when I was in college! I was young and couldn't keep up technically and creatively. So, I took a break, educated myself on a digital platform, shot a BUNCH of weddings digitally, and ended up feeling burnt out and creatively jammed. It wasn’t until I learned about a hybrid-photography workshop being offered that I even considered bridging the gap between the two worlds. I signed up, learned how to work with a modern film lab, and the rest is history!
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
SS: First of all, my lab family is RAD! I want to hang out with them and chat as much as possible… But really, communication is key in ALL OF LIFE. It’s how friendships are formed and relationships are maintained. It’s no different in the working world. Communicating your needs is so important, and working with a lab that fosters your needs and supports them is a tremendous asset.
We’re also ever changing as artists. I can’t imagine not having an open line of communication available as I shape into the artist I’m becoming. Your lab is there FOR YOU. They want to extend your artistry in their services so your product is consistent. In order for that to happen, it’s absolutely necessary to work together.
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
SS: I’m the world’s worst procrastinator. My pre-shoot ritual usually involves me running around like a crazy person charging batteries at the last minute, printing out shot lists, and packing bags 15 minutes before I have to get in the car. I’M THE WORST. I think it’s time to hire an office assistant. Any takers?
R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?
SS: Missy Elliott's "Work It"… (Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup).
R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?
R: Chocolate or vanilla?
R: Dogs or cats?
R: Modern or vintage?
R: Breakfast or Dinner?
R: Warm weather or cold weather?
R: Early bird or night owl?
SS: Night owl, duh.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
R: Batman or Superman?
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
SS: Historical non-fiction, but BOTH...come on...
R: Comedy or Drama?
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
SS: Time travel.
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
SS: "Effervescence", because I like the way it sounds and I drink a LOT of bubbly!