Since moving to NYC in 2014, a few months after graduating from ArtCenter, freelance photographer and alumna Heather Sten (BFA 13 Photography and Imaging) has photographed a diverse group of celebrities, filmmakers, musicians, actors, artists and executives including Spike Lee (wrapped in an American flag), Lena Waithe, Tiffany Haddish, Stormy Daniels, Neko Case and Glenn Close for outlets such as the The New York Times, Time, Vice, Out and Google, and for fashion clients such as Steven Alan.
“I love meeting new people and photographing them, which is interesting, because I used to be so shy when I was younger,” Sten says, scratching the head of her black-and-white dog Calcifer, named after a fire demon in Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle.
Her down-to-earth approach to photo shoots reflects a certain vulnerability. “I try, with my photos, to capture someone’s personality in their natural calm state,” says Sten, wearing a gold Buddhist necklace her mom gave her in elementary school. “I don’t like to push people. I want to get a feel for who they are and be as fluid as possible.”
Sten’s mom, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam and raised Sten as a single parent, wanted her to be a doctor. Taking photos since she was 14, Sten instead decided to go in a creative direction, diving into photography at ArtCenter. Inspired by instructors Mary Trunk and Jona Frank, whose work ranges from portrait photos to films, Sten created a visual diary about her grandma, who had Alzheimer's. It became her series Con Chau. An internship with fashion and advertising photography duo Juco (Julia Galdo and Cody Cloud) motivated her to pursue freelancing.