A local photographer has been recognized for her personalized high school senior portraiture and other works.
Coincidentally, high school is when photography became a part of Stephanie DeFranco’s life. DeFranco said she was a “band nerd” as a high-schooler, where she played clarinet and originally planned on a musical career.
But joining the yearbook changed her perspective and opened up new possibilities for her future. She graduated from Goddard High School in 2007, and Jerry Holm was her photography mentor.
“He kind of showed me the ways of the photography world and from the first time that I held a camera, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” DeFranco said.
DeFranco, 30, graduated from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. She opened her own business, Stephanie DeFranco Photography, that same year.
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“Practice, practice, practice,” DeFranco said — her advice for budding photographers. “If one thing doesn’t work, then turn the circle and try a different thing. It doesn’t just happen overnight. You’ve got to find what lighting works for you. You’ve got to find what equipment combination works for you.
“It’s just trial and error. Keep going. Don’t give up.”
In the early stages of her photography career, she remembers having her younger brother model for her in their garage so she could practice different lighting, and instructing him on how to pose. DeFranco was born and raised in Roswell and describes her own family as “crafty, artsy people.”
An avid Disney fan, DeFranco said Aladdin is her favorite movie and Jasmine’s desire to see the world is similar to her own. She said she “works to travel” and enjoys experiencing new cultures and people. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, doing watercolor calligraphy, listening to music and spending time with her boyfriend, Dallas, and her two cats named Jasmine and Ella.
Her New Year’s resolution is to write an article to be published in a photography magazine. She enjoys telling stories with her photos and wants to do the same with the written word.
This year, she was awarded and featured in Click Magazine for one of the best photos of the year. She said they had around 46,000 entries for the contest, and her work was featured in a two-page spread based on a client’s experience of overcoming an abusive relationship.
DeFranco said the two-page spread came from her “Women Warrior” project on her blog, where she photographed six women and they shared their scars and stories about overcoming difficulties.
Click Magazine also recognized DeFranco as one of the top 20 high school senior photographers, and she has been featured on various social media platforms for her senior portraiture. The seniors are her favorite to photograph because they bring their creativity and energy to their sessions, she said.
A creative session that stood out is one DeFranco called “Kandy Kate,” in which her model interacted with candy — like pouring Nerds into her mouth or holding a lollipop — while being photographed by DeFranco and filmed by Steven Johnson. One of the photos from this shoot won a grand prize at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair’s Arts and Crafts Show.
She also entered a photoshopped self-portrait — as Captain Marvel.
A former Roswell firefighter, Johnson has known DeFranco for about five years and found out about her from one of her first-responder photo shoots. Johnson describes her as “passionate about the art of photography” and as an entrepreneur who is “steadfast in her beliefs and ambitions.”
Capturing “artistically blended photographic memories” of the community — from first responders to seniors — is one of the reasons Johnson believes DeFranco is deserving of the Spotlight, along with her other awards and recognition.
“She seamlessly blends art and photography, something you don’t find a lot of these days, so the people of Roswell are blessed to have an artist like Stephanie,” Johnson said.
DeFranco’s work has also been recognized as part of Lensbaby’s Top 10 Photos of 2019. The Portland-based company offers lenses and accessories for photographers to “see in a new way.”
For about five years, DeFranco has photographed Cathy Lilley and her family for holiday photo sessions, and also her husband Thomas Lilley’s swearing-in as a district judge in June.
She described DeFranco as friendly, intelligent and talented.
Lilley said of DeFranco, “I think she’s invested in our community. … I think it is just great that our small town can have a big-town talent.”