Stephanie Zettl is owner, operator and president for life of Zettl Photography Inc., a multinational conglomerate with offices in St. Louis, New York, Paris, Zurich, Cameroon and the middle of the Saraha Desert where she once spent a five-year sabbatical to contemplate the photographic aspects of sand weevils.
Born in a small mining village in the Andes, Stephanie began her historic career in image making at age 2 when she accidentally tripped over a camera unintentionally snapping a photo which made the June 1980 cover of National Geographic under the lead story “The blurry cribs of South America.”
It was the first of many visual honors which came to include prizes for journalistic photography, art photography, war photography, fashion photography, still life photography and things-that-are-actually-moving photography. She is among the few photographers in the world noted for both her stunning wedding photography and her work in the less well-known field of divorce photography.
Stephanie is credited as the creator of the world’s only time machine which she invented only to go back and get tips from Ansel Adams. She is one of only five people in the world who actually understand what an f-stop is and doesn’t just pretend to when non-photographers ask.
Stephanie is fluent in 15 languages, sleeps only four hours a night and can kill at 12 paces using only a telephoto lens and the magnified rays of the sun. She was a key negotiator at the Treaty of Ghent, is exempt from all the laws of thermodynamics and has personally imposed a no-fly zone over Oklahoma.
How did you get started in the business? Who helped/guided/mentored you?
“I got into photography because some High School Journalism teacher took a chance on a student (me) who knew nothing about photography but got thrown into his class and didn’t want to write. I had no idea what an f-stop was, but I was motivated to learn. He gave me that opportunity, and it changed my life.
I still went to college to be a chemist, but quickly gave it up and decided to be a photojournalist after Calculus III kicked my butt. (Photography is a great combination of art and science, so it kind of made sense.) Almost nine years ago I started my own business because I had a dream that I wanted to fulfill. So far, so good.
There are many people I need to thank for inspiring/pushing/coaching me. (See the list of 7 wedding/portrait photographers in the list above – but honestly, there are many more.) However, the one person that has helped me in ways I could never repay is David Williams. Knowing him has made me a better photographer and a better person. “
“Inspiration for me comes from so many sources. The smallest thing can be the biggest inspiration – from the way light reflects off a surface to the words in a song, from a simple touch to a life changing experience – all of it can be inspiration. The challenge is just being able to recognize it.
- Music – my work is hugely inspired by music… but it’s way too diverse to even start listing artists…
- Wedding/Portrait Photographers: David Williams, Storey Wilkins, Neil van Niekerk, Chuck Arlund, Greg Gibson, Cliff Mautner, John Michael Cooper. (This list of 7 are the people who have helped me personally develop as a photographer.)
- Commercial/Fashion/Editorial/Photojournalism Photographers: Avedon, Penn, Parkinson, Herman Leonard, Karsh, Dorthea Lange, Elliott Erwitt, Cecil Beaton, David Bailey, Annie Leibovitz, Eugene Smith, Salgado… so many more…
- Artist – John Singer Sargent, Michelangelo, Vermeer, Velazquez, The Pre-Raphaelites, Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Chihuly, Frank Lloyd Wright…
If you’re thinking about coming to another After Dark Event, remember learning is a life long process and AD covers the needs of everyone from the beginner to the most advanced. If you’ve never been to After Dark Before, don’t come in with any preconceived ideas. Be willing to participate, play, ask questions, make a fool out of yourself, fail, succeed, ask more questions, take chances, fail some more, ask even more questions, have fun, be inspired, and inspire someone else. If you are open to all of that, you will walk away with more than you ever imagined possible. ‘My happiness does not depend on someone else’s definition of success. “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien’ “
Special Message or Advice for AD Attendees?
Everyone comes with something to learn. Everyone comes with something to teach. Respect hard earned wisdom and experience. Respect young unbridled enthusiasm.
After Darks Attended: 2
“I love the random lessons that happen when someone asks a question and an awesome discussion or shoot takes place. And there is nothing like the creative energy that just feeds off everyone’s ideas and experiences. The creative energy that pulses through AD is like a drug to me.”
- Nikon Shooter
- Mostly Location Session
- Small Studio
Number of AD’s attended? 7
Favorite AD Moment? Creating Camera Obscura out of a hotel room in AD Cincinnati.
Majority of Business:
- Love Them All…
- What ever the situation requires to get the best photo: natural light, video lights, studio lights, video lights.
Top 5 Skills:
- Documentary Wedding Photography
- On-location lighting
- Making less-than-ideal locations work
- Being Fearless!