Corey Stevens is talented.
Genuinely, supremely talented.
He's a trendsetter instead of a settler for a trend. And while many of his subjects share a common denominator with other people's works, his compositions feel different because the eye behind the viewfinder sees them differently. There is intentionality with every shot.
From local architecture to dimly lit shows in local bars, Corey captures brilliant moments everywhere; in Northside, in Columbia-Tusculum, in Over-the-Rhine, Downtown Cincinnati, and beyond. And that's why his Instagram account is one of our favorite feeds to follow.
That's also why we had to hear his story.
Corey, take it away.
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Cincinnati Refined: What first inspired your interest in photography?
Corey Stevens: Shoes, actually! I was a big sneaker head, and got my first point-and-shoot camera to document my sneaker-wearing years ago. My interest in capturing photos also came at a particularly low point in my life, a time where I am very thankful that I was able to find something to do that I could pour myself into. I spent the next six months testing the limits of what I could do with my iPhone 4 camera, and bought my first DSLR at the start of 2013 after hanging out with a friend who purchased a DSLR for a Nike shoot
CR: What's your favorite subject to shoot?
CS: When I first really started thinking and planning the photographs I was taking, I usually found myself somewhere trying to find a different way to photograph my lifelong home of Cincinnati. I especially enjoy nighttime photography. But over the last year or so, I have fallen in love with concert and live music photography. I have always found my creative energy from listening to music, and I've yet to find a more euphoric feeling behind the lens of my camera than while trying to capture a special moment of a musician pouring his/her heart out on stage.
CR: What's at the top of your photography bucket list?
CS: As my opportunities to work with musicians increase, I could rattle off a dozen of my favorite bands that I hope to get a chance to photograph in a live setting or do band portraits for. But as far as places/things to photograph, I look forward to the day that I can travel to Iceland and see the Northern Lights through my viewfinder.
CR: Camera of choice?
CS: My Nikon D7000 has been my working beast for three and a half years now. I have also been shooting 35mm film for the last two years with my trusty 1956 Leica M3, which I inherited from my wife's grandfather. There is nothing like operating a 60-year-old, all-mechanical camera and seeing the results weeks later on film!
CR: Lens you can't live without?
CS: My Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is the lens most often attached to my Nikon. Shooting live music usually requires a fast zoom lens, so I look to my 24-70 or 70-210/f2.8 lenses depending on the venue.
CR: Any advice for aspiring photographers?
CS: Take pictures of what makes you happy and what you like, not what followers on social media are going to "heart." The best way to find the subject that most calls to you is to take pictures of everything. A theme or focus that you are drawn to will find you this way, I have found.
CR: What's one of your hobbies outside of photography?
CS: My wife and I bought a record player and have started amassing a record collection since last year. I spend a lot of time online looking at pressing numbers and info on obscure rock and metal albums the majority of the population has never heard of, LOL!
CR: What is, in your estimation, the best photograph you’ve ever taken?
CS: Last year I was able to bring my Leica M3 with me to see the Deftones in Columbus, and I got right up front. Toward the end of the show, the lead singer came off the stage and began singing right in front of us at the start of a song. During the mayhem that ensued, I manage to blindly stick my camera up above my head. The photo isn't even in perfect focus, but because of the moment captured of him crooning to the audience, and what it took to get the photo, I consider it my 'best.'
CR: Coolest/ most memorable/ favorite experience while shooting?
CS: Lumenocity 2013 was a lot of fun. I set my tripod up with a fisheye lens at the tip of the walkway crossing over Elm Street to the front door of Music Hall, right next to the PBS broadcast camera. This location was inaccessible to the public for the shows in 2014 and 2015 and I feel very fortunate to have the photos that I do from this show.
CR: Motto to live by...
CS: 'Life is too short - create something with every breath you draw.' - Maynard James Keenan.
'The illiterate of the future will not be the man who cannot read the alphabet, but the one who cannot take a photograph.' - Walter Benjamin
Follow Corey on Instagram and check out his blog archive full of photos he's taken over the years.
And don't forget to scroll back to the top to take a peek at the gallery of some of his favorite images.