Coffee + Art + Friends : Steve Tague



Photographer • Creative Technician • Master of Light


One of the things I see in Art is the individuality and the means to express yourself. Everybody has their own interpretation of what they’re doing and their meaning behind it. You can walk into an Art show, a photo gallery— I just recently did this at First Friday- and people are standing around talking about a particular photo and you hear so many different interpretations.

I’m sure that it is a reflection of that person and possibly how they are feeling, their experiences, but it so individual. To hear three different people talk about the same photo, and if you didn’t see the photo, you would think they were talking about 3 different pictures.

I think for me, its a reminder of how different we all are. We grow up and I think as kids you are excepting of people being individuals and wanting everyone to be your friend and you just have fun. And as we grow older, especially as I’ve been growing older, you become set in your ways. Even if you are with your best friend and they want to tell you how something should be done, but you’re set in you’re way of how it should be done. It’s easy to get caught up in that blinder of “your world” and thinking everything should be done this way. Everybody should think like I think and everybody should see like I see.

Art is this huge reminder that there is not just one way to do things. We are all individuals. Just because I like this food and I want my friend to like it doesn’t mean he is going to like it! To see how people express their individuality and see their personalities through their artwork is huge. On top of that, to look at artwork and analyze my own intreptations of it is a form of therapy. Why is my interpretation so different from his? And hearing someone else interpretation and analyzing that and wondering where that is coming from.

In conversation, it is a great way to meet people you don’t know and start asking questions about how they came up with something and why they see it. I love going to museums. I love to see Art for that reason. It is a place where all different types of people gather. And all different types of minds gather. It’s a place where a lot of the guards are down and you are able to approach and more than approach but accept other people’s differences.

I always enjoyed photography as a kid. When I was 15 or 16, I bought my first camera— a Canon AE-1— and carried it everywhere. I just loved to take pictures and document everything. I took a darkroom course and it was just something I liked to do.

So, I get out of high school and I have no idea what I’m going to do, I don’t know what I want to do. My friends are all goingrto UCLA, USC, SanDiego. Here I was, not going to college right away because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

It was in that first year, I was having a conversation with my girlfriend-at-the-time’s father. We used to work out and hang out and talk. One day, we were talking about careers and he asked me “Have you ever thought about being a photographer?” And I think my first response was “Is there really a career as a photographer? Can you really make a living doing that?” He worked for a big corporation, very unhappy, but he was telling me that he had to go and get a head shot for this company. He went to this photographer’s studio and it was beautiful and the guy was awesome. It seems like he just enjoyed what he was doing and it appeared that he was making a good living doing it.

He said “I don’t know, it’s something to look into if it is something you enjoy pursuing.” So I started looking into it. I saw there were schools where I could go. I found the Art Center and it became my goal to work towards getting into that school. Financially, I didn’t have help from my parents, so I saved my money and fortunately had odd things come around- like a friend who had a Hasselblad and didn’t want it any more and gave it to me, and things like that. Eventually, I made it to the Art Center and had enough money to make it through the first semester. I worked my butt off and was able to get scholarships to get me through the majority of the rest.

One of my brother’s best friends grew up on the east coast and knew some photographers, who I had been studying. He said, “If you really are interested in doing photography, come to New York and I’ll introduce you to some of my friends.” And so I did. The first night I went to New York I found myself in Art Kane’s studio looking out at the Empire State Building with a room full of photographers and models and thought, this is what I am going to do.

My work is so commercial- either of a product or a person. I haven’t done any personal projects in a while. I need to do that. Someone asked me recently, if I took a specific photo of the Deschutes River with a kayak, and I said “Yeah, I did take that” and they told me how they kept that and they have it hung up because they loved it so much. It’s funny because I don’t often get the opportunity to take photos like that. There are so many people around here who take such great photos that I don’t even bother to take my camera with me when I have day off. But when somebody hires me and says “We need a really great picture that says Bend, Oregon and we need the river in it” and that’s my only guidelines? That’s what I love because then I do get to be creative and do get to do my own thing. That becomes a personal project to me even though I am being commissioned to do it.

It still personal because they trust me wrought to get them a great image. Thats when I get the creative projects, and that’s when I come out with great stuff. Facebook recently did that for me. They said “We just need images that say Central Oregon” and I ended up getting a shot Downtown that took me 10 minutes, that is just an awesome shot of downtown and I love it. I just don’t put myself in the position to go out and get those shots unless they let me do it.

You asked what Art means to me, and in your email you referenced reaching out to artists and included me in there! I have a creative side, but I view myself and my work, these days especially, more as a technician, a lighting technician, more than an artist. I am being hired to take specific photos and make it as good as it can possibly be and that require skills.  And sometimes there is creativity involved and I am given that freedom, but it has always been a little bit of a hurdle to look at myself and consider myself an artist. I’ve always thought I have more focus on the  technical aspect of it and as I have been getting older, thats more something I am trying to blend. Yes, I am doing the technical thing, concentrating on that, but I have to consciously break away from that and step back and think “What do I really want to do here? What do they want? And what do I want to do? What can I do to make this better?” and relaxing and going with it a little bit more. That is big piece of it for me. I have such deep technical understanding of how light works and how to take a picture that the technical stuff can fall away and the artistry can come in.

Stackhouse Coffee • June 7, 2016 • Bend, Oregon

Check out Steve’s work here!