Capturing Emotion with a Ready Lens: Profile of a Compassionate Photojournalist

As a new addition to the Talon this past fall, Photo Editor, Stephenie Baker has been busy taking pictures for the magazine and telling the stories of communities impacted by the overturning of Roe v Wade and the national celebration of PRIDE.

This has been a shift for Baker herself. Before last year, her photography focused on lifestyle (family, couples, and boudoir). However, she has embraced this as a new challenge. 

Her work and goals offer representation of students of all kinds at the Community College of Denver, capturing emotions, and leaving you with something to think about. "I want to capture emotions. From styled shoots to candid. As much as I love lifestyle and enjoy the people I work with, I want people to feel something from the photos I take," said Baker.

Stephenie grew up in Buena Vista, a town with a population of under 3,000. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community she felt as if the representation of those like her was limited. However, her experiences at CCD and in Denver have been different. And when it comes to Roe V Wade, she has the freedoms and rights of herself, her daughter, and society itself to think about.

How long have you been a photographer for the Talon?  
I have been a photographer for Talon for about a month. 

How long have you been doing photography overall?  
I have been doing professional photography for almost a year. Though I have mostly done lifestyle (family, couples, boudoir).  

These are two national topics; how did you try to localize them to the community in Denver?  

In terms of localizing them I took photos of Denver’s capitol building. I also localize them in discussions pertaining to the photos. Most of the people who follow me are from Denver. 

Why was it important for you personally to cover these events?  

It was important for me to cover these events, because they are part of who I am. I am a woman, and I am a woman who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

What equipment did you use?  

I used a Canon EOS TI7 with a 70mm-200mm telephoto lens. 

Where was this event held?  
This event was held at Colfax next to the Capitol Building.

Why did you decide to photograph the Pride festival?  

We go to pride every year. We go to celebrate my partner's grandmas and we go to celebrate ourselves.

I see that most of the pictures seem to be of the parade, did you take pictures of/go to any other activities?  

These were during the parade! I got a couple photos at the events after, but we did not stay long. I have a cranky three-year-old who needed a break.  

I see that most of the pictures are candids as well, is it mostly the people walking in the parade or the crowd?   

All of the photos taken were people in the parade itself. I ended up finding a few of them through social media and got to send them their photos! 

Did you feel like people were accepting of you being there taking their picture?  
With me taking photos of the parade itself, people generally expected it. They weren’t shocked at all and some even stopped to pose. Though I do believe that if I had been taking photos of people in the crowd without permission, that would have been a different story.  

What was the story you wanted to tell and why?  

I grew up in a small rural town, Buena Vista, so being seen as part of the LGBTQ+ community wasn’t always accepted. It’s more of a statement than a story, we are here, we do exist, and we are proud. It’s important to see people in the media that you relate to.

Why are these pictures important to CCD?  

These are important to everyone, not just CCD. In terms of their importance to the school it is important that people are represented. Some CCD students relate to these photos.

These are photos of people in the community they deserve to be celebrated.

Do you have a favorite of these pictures, if so, is there a story that goes along with it?  
My favorite photo is of a gorgeous drag queen with a flowing rainbow gown. She has a white wig on with a sequin dress under the gown. She almost made me cry. I found her on Instagram and sent the photos: she responded. She not only loved the photos, but told me that the photo that I had taken captured every emotion they were feeling in that moment and that has really stuck with me.  

Roe V Wade  

What equipment did you use?  

I used a Canon EOS TI7 with a 70mm-200mm telephoto lens.

Where was this event held?  

This was held at the Capitol building 

Why did you decide to photograph the Roe V Wade protest?  

As a woman with a daughter, my rights are actively being taken away along with hers. I wanted to photograph this because this is a change in history. The overturning of Roe V Wade is dangerous and detrimental to society so the documentation of it is important.

What was the most interesting story someone told you?  

One story that will always be in the back of my mind is the woman who needed to have an abortion due to the fetus passing in her womb. This baby was wanted, loved and would have been taken care of, but if she did not have an abortion, it would have killed her. This is important because people think that an abortion means you had unprotected sex and just didn’t want a child. Which is far from the truth, sometimes an abortion is a lifesaving procedure. So, when people are chastising others for being “pro-choice” on social media they forget that these are real people, and no one will ever know the full story or reason why they had an abortion.

How did being in the middle of the protest make you feel - scared, concerned at all?  

I wasn’t scared. Even when people driving by were screaming “baby killer” out the window. I don’t know if it’s ignorance, or lack of safety concern; maybe the anger overshadowed all of it. I felt like the people I was surrounded by would protect me, like I would protect them. Being in the middle of a protest is powerful. You’re surrounded by people who care about what you care about. 

Were there counterdemonstrators? If so, how did that make you feel?  

There were not, to my knowledge, any at the protest. There were people who drove by yelling out their window, but nothing passed that. I feel indifferent about people who do not support Roe V Wade. I can only give information and support to those in my life who support me. I do not view them differently than my 50-year-old uncle who does not support it. Why would they? It does not affect them. They are not the ones who need birth control or access to cervical cancer screening. The overturn has nothing to do with their rights.

Do you have a favorite of these pictures, if so, is there a story that goes along with it?  

My favorite photo from these is the photo of a woman yelling with bold black eyeliner. There isn’t a story other than she was leading in the chants. This is my favorite because it holds a lot of power to it. When I look at it, I can feel the emotion behind it.

Did you feel like people were accepting of you being there taking their picture?  With a protest people take photos so generally speaking many people showed up knowing that others would take photos. I usually hold my camera up, make eye contact and get a head nod when taking photos so I would say it was accepted pretty well. I also had the intention of being in the protest, so I believe that helped people feel comfortable with me taking their photos.

What was the story you wanted to tell and why?  

Roe V Wade is not the end of taking away human rights. It is only the start. I wanted to give people information and I wanted it to be known where I stand in the matter. I wanted to show that these are real people, and this protest is important.

Why are these pictures important to CCD?  

These are important to CCD because the overturning of Roe V Wade affects students who attend CCD. The students at CCD need to be supported and represented in the school.