Fresh off her first year as a photography student at the Tisch School of the Arts, Photography and Imaging major Denise Stephanie already has an enviable portfolio. The Brooklyn native and Business of Entertainment, Media, and Technology minor was a featured photographer for Vogue in August 2020 and shot a cover of actor Emily Blunt for Marie Claire at age 17.
Denise’s early interest in photography blossomed in high school during a summer program with Red Hook Labs. There, a small photography and videography studio based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, she learned craft techniques and important industry insights.
“I was a super shy kid,” Denise says. “But a photographer has to speak with the subject. You have to make them feel comfortable in order to create an accurate, personal piece. So it’s really about that communication and trust.”
As a photography student at the studio, she learned the power of connecting with people, networking, and following up in order to get out her name and her work. When Marie Claire partnered with the studio for a cover, Denise submitted her portfolio. Marie Claire picked her to do the shoot.
“It was really fun working with an actress who has been in the industry for a while and is really comfortable in front of the camera,” Denise says. She also fell in love with the experience of working with a team, including the lighting and styling professionals. “I love how we all collaborate as a group and create something we’re proud of.”
Denise often turns her camera to members of her own family and Brooklyn neighborhood, capturing everyday moments of humanity. “A lot of my work, no matter the project, is very intimate, in terms of the personal relationships between a community of people,” she says. “There’s a beauty to my community that I think is overshadowed by Hollywood and the stories in the news. There’s something so simple about viewing my community as human beings and seeing the ways that they interact with each other.”
As a photography student at NYU, Denise is able to learn from some of her inspirations, like photography professors Deborah Willis and Lorie Novak, as well as her fellow students. “I knew that the community of students and professors at NYU was pretty unmatched. NYU had those people who really were passionate about what they did. And coming here finally, I can confirm that it was everything I expected and more.”
Over the summer, Denise interned with Greenpoint Pictures. There, she directed a film based on a friend’s poem. Now she is interning with fashion designer Tia Adeola as a creative producer—a role that Denise created and stepped into after working for Adeola as a social media intern. She foresees incorporating varied visual mediums into her future work. Perhaps eventually moving into a broader creative director role—putting together people and resources to produce even more amazing projects. “I have a lot of ideas that I want to see come to fruition,” she says.