Memories of Life: Photography by Valerie Stephenson
We live life day by day, as opposed to a year at a time. Because of this, we assume that the everyday things we did yesterday we’ll do today, and then tomorrow. We won’t forget.
But that’s not the way it is. A year later, two years later, ten, we’re no longer doing the everyday things that we thought would never end. Too often, the only remembrance we have of them is our memory.
Photographer Valerie Stephenson wants to provide something more tangible than memories. Driven by the idea of catching life in its moments, the Burbank artist, who lives just above Sacajawea State Park over the Snake River, works with individual clients to capture vignettes of their day, in effect creating a visual journal of a slice of their lives.
“These types of photos are cherished many years down the road, especially the everyday memories,” Stephenson says. “Because these moments are so everyday, so expected, we don’t realize that we don’t have a photo of them — like reading a book with our child, or the decorations in grandma’s house, a childhood spot by the lake, or the neighbor lady we grew up next to and talked with.
“Often we don’t have those memories captured before the seasons permanently change. I aim to provide a customizable photography experience, one built around a person’s unique story and capturing memories that will be important many years down the road.
“And then when we see these photos, they bring an array of feelings — like thankfulness, joy, wonder — at being able to relive those moments.”
Moments and Memories to Hang Onto
As an example, she described a photo shoot she did with a nephew and his uncle on the family ranch. Before this session, there were no photos of the uncle doing what he had done his whole life on the ranch, and there were no photos of the nephew who spent his childhood summers there working with his uncle. Though she couldn’t go back to the nephew’s childhood, she could capture the essence, the moment, the memories of what the two did every day.
“The photographs enable us to relive, rewrite, and preserve some of the things we hold dearest in life,” Stephenson says.
When she isn’t doing commissioned photo shoots of people’s lives and memories, Stephenson is outside with her camera, capturing Nature, and her day to day moments. An outdoor enthusiast, Stephenson is a lifelong forager of wild edibles and medicinals, as well as a participant in numerous sports — backpacking, canoeing, road biking, skiing, snowboarding. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Outdoor Recreation, she has a long and varied career of leading and teaching others in these areas.
“I have always found my peace outside, and I enjoy doing most things outdoors,” she says.
“I enjoy most things that go back to a simpler, hands on, more family oriented way of life. That is what I am aiming to capture in my photography — relationships, the emotion of the moment, the wrinkles, the honesty.”
Words to Accompany Photography
One of her dreams is to write devotionals that are enhanced with her photography. In them, she wants to include science along with scripture because God, she believes, is the author of both.
“I have been doing lay counseling since I was very young. It involves listening to others, being there as they go through what they’re going through, sharing what I have learned in life. The devotionals are a way of combining visuals with words to create a statement of hope and encouragement.”
Good, bad, funny, sad, light, dark, colorful, grayscale — life is all of these, Stephenson believes, and like a path in the forest, it unfolds before us as we walk, each day, on our journey. There’s so much to it that it’s hard to maintain perspective, keep it fresh in our mind before another experience, another place, another element comes to the forefront. Photography enables us to stop each moment and make a tangible, visible image we can hold onto, hang on our wall, reflect upon before we take the next step.
“Printed photos in my hands bring me back to the moment, the memories, and the feeling,” Stephenson says.
“That’s where I want my photos to take people — to a place they want to be.”
Valerie Stephenson is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from August 23 through September 19, 2022.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.