• Joe Stone Sr

I'm not quitting photography but...

Hey everyone. I just want to say hello, and talk about something that’s been on my mind (not related to anything else going on in the world). I have a lot of time on my hands to think for the last few months, and I made a decision.

I’m done with fashion, editorial, and portrait photography. Like I said, It’s something I’ve been thinking about and evaluating for months.

With fashion photography in particular, my heart isn’t in it -- and never really has, to be honest. For me, the work always felt unnatural, emotionally exhausting, and rarely did I feel creatively energized doing it. Sort of forced my way through it trying to tell myself this is fun. Hard to do when there are not only high expectations, but hours of prep work, hours of shoot time, and dozens of hours editing for each shoot. Then with all that, nothing other than a brief and easily forgettable social media mention that’s gone moments after posting to show for it.

Maybe you get featured in another easily forgettable online magazine. It’s just a LOT of exhausting work and not much in the way of compensation (professionally, monetary, or otherwise) to show for it.

Just dust in the wind...

To be clear, that’s NOT the driving force behind my decision. Let me explain.

I started down the fashion photography path to get out of my comfort zone and learn something new.

Last year I went to a workshop with Tom Lupton, a local photographer I admired. Months later he invited me to shoot photos at the Fringe Fashion show and do some promo work as well. It’s not the type of event or style that I ever thought in a million years that I would find myself doing. At that show, I made a ton of contacts and immediately started receiving requests from models and others (including many of you) to collaborate on projects even though I lacked any real experience. It was trial by fire and learned a lot along the way.

Through those experiences, the fashion industry as a whole as earned my respect. It’s much different than I had previously imagined. Seriously, hats off to you all.

And now the reason for the change.

This art - photography - has been my escape for years.

No matter what I was using, whether it was a wind-up camera, phone, or DSLR, it has never been about being creative in the sense that I’m creating. I mean, that’s part of it, sure. But, the main thing for me (and my overactive mind) is being able to escape life and focus on just what’s in front of me, without pressure, without expectation, without drama, without distraction, and without manipulation. Capturing the world, and life, just as it happens to be.

Getting outside of myself, and capturing a moment that tells a story and evokes empathy and emotion. The smiles, the pain, the tears. Life. That’s what I enjoy. That’s what people remember.

Even when doing fashion photography, my most memorable photos (for me) weren’t from the shoots themselves, but from the behind-the-scenes. Tofik Ahmad and Amy Honeybee goofing around, Nicole Nance posing for a photographer as seen by me through a ton of equipment and people in the studio, or Lucy Howard standing across the street from Fringe smoking (something) with one of the models framed by a wire fence I’m shooting through.

Those are the shots I love. That's what I remember. There's more to it though.

The Question

When I first met fashion/editorial photographer Tom Lupton two years ago, he let me tag along on a shoot. It was his very first time he shot with Nicole Nance (and a wolf) if I remember right. And it was my first time watching a pro-photographer that I really admired working his craft. I was doing a blog video project for school about creatives in the area, and I had been following Tom’s Instagram long before I moved to the Portland area. I was excited and watching him work was amazing. The guy is incredible.

That evening we went to a local pub with the crew and had a couple of beers. During the conversation he paused and looked at me inquisitively (with the genuine interest Tom has with everyone he speaks with). His face was resting on his palm with his elbow propped on the table - and with laser-focus, he offered up a question. It was simple and thought-provoking, but deeper than I ever imagined. The question stuck with me ever since.

“When do you feel like you’re being most creative?” he asked.


I don’t recall my fleeting, off-the-cuff response, but I'm sure it wasn't well thought out or insightful. Looking back through life though, more often than not, I think it was music. When I played guitar (or drums) and sang with a group of people and everything was just in sync, and in harmony. Those that watched smiled and enjoyed themselves. That’s when I felt most creative. Or when I drew or painted something, and was able to capture the fine details that others enjoyed. That felt most creative. When I wrote something heartfelt that elicited an emotional response in the reader - a smile, a tear. That’s when I felt most creative.

I guess in hindsight, it was always about harmony with others, empathy through art, and pouring my heart into something that made a genuine impact. Everything I've done, even outside of art, has always been about impacting others. That's what I need.

How does that change my photography?

I can tell you that I’ve never felt my studio and fashion editorial work was ever impactful. It never elicited anything other than ‘cool shot’ or a bunch of fire emoji. Or better yet, from my male friends, "damn, bro. She's smoking hot."

No deeper thought.

No emotional response.

No call to action.


Even though my modeling and fashion friends are doing great things and I totally respect and admire their work, it's time for me to shift gears. It’s time to refocus and get back to capturing stories and the emotion in the lives that surround us.

Future Availability

I'm open to photojournalism, events or behind-the-scenes work. Please email me at


© Joe Stone Photography

Event - Portrait - Styled - TFP - Commercial - Family

Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon area Photographer

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