Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Zettl.
Hi Stephanie, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
I often tell people that I became a photographer by accident. The truth is, it was because of a scheduling problem during my senior year of high school. Instead of an advanced Spanish class, I got assigned to a newspaper class.
Thanks to my stubbornness, mixed with a measure of optimism, I told the teacher that I didn’t want to write stories. I wanted to take photos. He asked if I knew how and I responded with “No, but I’ll learn.” In three months, I went from not knowing anything about a camera to winning second place in a national high school competition.
This “can learn” attitude of mine has served me well over my career, whether it meant working freelance for newspapers, starting my own wedding photography business at the age of 24, or moving halfway across the world at the age of 40 to work and volunteer in Myanmar.
When I first started as a photographer, I realized that my camera was a “passport” that got me into places I normally wouldn’t see. Every day, I got to meet someone new. As I grew as a photographer, I realized there is a lot of responsibility that comes with photographing people.
No matter who I photograph, my goal is to treat them with respect and dignity. I want to earn their trust. When I earn their trust, people freely welcome me into their lives and reveal their authentic selves. I get to meet some amazing people.
In 2014 we were doing some volunteer work with immigrants in St. Louis when I became close friends with a young woman from Chin State, Myanmar. Myanmar (formerly Burma) had been closed to the outside world for over 50 years. At the time it was starting to open up and I wanted to see it before it became like everywhere else and everyone wore “blue jeans and t-shirts.”
After photographing happy weddings for many years, my husband (who is also a photographer and my business partner) and I decided to embark on an adventure. We have no children, and while we are still “young” we wanted to do some good in this world.
After several trips to Myanmar, we decided to spend 10 months there in January 2020. We planned to do some volunteer work, teach English, and help small businesses improve their marketing and reach new markets.
Unfortunately, Covid shut down the airports in March 2020 for commercial travel and they didn’t open again until June 2022. It was definitely an adventure, just not the one we expected. Myanmar is currently facing a lot of problems, but the people there are precious. I value the experiences and friendships I made there.
We are currently back in St. Louis for the next few months to work as photographers and visit with friends and family. We are focusing our business on portraits. (Family photos, individuals, high school seniors, and business portraits).
I honestly love taking photos of people. My time in Myanmar helped clarify how important family, friends, and relationships are. I want to show how meaningful those relationships are in the photographs I take.
Our ultimate goal for the next 5 years is to spend 9 months in Myanmar and 3 months in the USA working to support our work in Myanmar.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
I love this quote from Conan O’Brien, “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.”
I had really wanted to be a newspaper photographer that got that Pulitzer award-winning photograph. I became that person who carried a camera with me everywhere (before cellphones had cameras). But after 9/11, a lot of newspapers started cutting expenses and freelance photographers were some of the first to go.
So in 2003, I shifted to becoming my own boss and a wedding photographer. Being a creative and an entrepreneur and having to figure out all the aspects of a business (taxes, financial, marketing, sales) was a huge challenge, but I learned. And it allowed me the freedom to work with the people I wanted to and create the things I wanted to create.
Similarly, getting “stranded” in Myanmar for over 2 years was a challenge personally and financially. But it allowed us to help people and clarify what is important to us and how we run our business. We are constantly learning new things to make our business more efficient and connect better with our clients.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Photographers capture moments in a fraction of a second. Choosing which second to capture depends a lot on the photographer’s beliefs and personality. A dozen different photographers will each capture an event differently based on their world views and experiences.
I am a photographer that specializes in photographing people. I think people are amazing. Everyone has hopes and dreams, a story to tell, and a personal style. What makes my photographs beautiful is that they capture the personality of my subjects. But what sets me apart is my genuine interest in my clients and making sure they think their photos are beautiful.
I’m known for being kind, patient, and a bit of a perfectionist that wants my clients to love their photos. I’m also quick to smile and at times (maybe all the time) I’m a bit quirky. And if I ever say “Just one more photo” know that I’m probably lying and there will be 4 or 5 more because I’ll find something else that is beautiful to photograph.
How can people work with you, collaborate with you, or support you?
I’m booking portrait sessions now through October of 2022.
I’m looking to photograph families, couples, high school seniors, and business professionals. I like people who are passionate about their work and interests and I want to provide photos that reflect that.
Please visit our website to sign up for our newsletter and find out when and where we will be booking sessions.
Business phone: 314.454.6612
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zettlphoto/ (business)
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mymyanmarlife (myanmar travels)
Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephaniezettl/
- Website: www.zettlphoto.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zettlphoto/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/zettlphoto