Local Austin Photographer Spotlight: Stephanie Duprie Routh

Local Austin Photographer Spotlight: Stephanie Duprie Routh

Posted by Caroline Janes on 25th Oct 2021

Local photographer Stephanie Duprie Routh frequently photographs around the globe searching for how her personal experiences and photos relate to the rest of the world. Embarking on new projects while keeping up with ongoing projects all with recurring themes running throughout is a cornerstone of her work as a photographer. I got to learn more about her travels, involvement in galleries, and meaning behind her photos via email as followers below. 

How did you get started in photography?

Stephanie Duprie Routh: My parents gave me a camera for high school graduation. In college, I took several photography courses as electives. Ten years ago, I decided to go back to college to earn a Masters in photography. I continue to photograph and work with mentors.

Your work has been featured in several galleries globally from the Wittliff Collection in Texas State University’s library to as far away as Japan! Tell me more about how you get involved in gallery collections. What kind of work is featured at the Wittliff in particular?

SDR: The Wittliff Collection at Texas State University features artists from the Southwest, including Texas and Mexico. Several years ago, one of my mentors suggested I meet Bill Wittliff to discuss some of my images for the permanent collection. I was fortunate to meet him and that was the beginning. Mr. Wittliff introduced me to David Coleman (director) and Carla Ellard (curator), both of whom have continued to acquire work from my Tex-Mex Project as well as copies of my book for the permanent collection.

Looking through your work and Instagram, I’d say it’s safe to assume you like to stay busy in your photography projects! I’d love to learn more about some of your ongoing projects including the Tex-Mex Project, World is my Muse and Bang! Bang! Women Rising. What unites the photos included in these different series?

SDR: The Tex-Mex project is an ongoing, never-ending project for me. I grew up in south Texas and went to Mexico often. The project began as an exploration of the symbiotic relationship between Texas and Mexico, highlighting the similarities and positive attributes of both places. My initial goal was to make images that were indistinguishable in terms of place. However, the project has grown and evolved along several tangents. My current focuses of the Tex-Mex project involve photographing fishermen and elements around the Virgen de Guadalupe.

The World is My Muse is a project that is travel-based. My book is largely based on this project. Bang! Bang! Women Rising is a current project that just entered phase two. This project centers on women, their position in life, what they achieve and how they achieve. It is probably my most controversial project to date because it discusses double-edged swords, glass ceilings, and a host of other ideas that lean towards feminism.

The unification of all my projects is that they are deeply personal. My thumbprint, thoughts, and ideas somehow find their way into every photo I make regardless of where it lands within a project. These elements are not narcissistic but rather exploratory, done from a point of curiosity about myself and my relationship with the world in general.

I understand you just released a book called Where the Ocean Drinks the Sky. What was the inspiration for this monograph? How long did it take you to put it all together?

SDR: The inspiration for the book came after months of sourcing images from my archives and beginning the pairings and sequencing. The World is My Muse was the basis for the book and the ultimate thread is "Same, same but different" as it relates to all of humanity. It took 18 months, 5 days a week, to get the book in a position to send to the publisher.

Did you discover something new about your photography when you were composing the chapters? Do you have a favorite or stand out chapter?

SDR: About halfway through the process, I began to see that I am constantly looking for ways in which I, or my experiences, are similar to other people or places in the world. I find connections with other people and places by wandering. Eventually, I realize the connection relates to some aspect of my life. The book was a journey of how I fit in the world. Each chapter of the book is very specific to a certain idea or emotion. It's hard to pick a favorite!

You’ve travelled all around the world for your photography from Istanbul to Greece. What has been one of your favorites places to shoot? Why?

SDR: I have several places I return to yearly to photograph. Mexico is, of course, one of my places because of the familiarity. I return to India yearly to visit friends and photograph the culture. I think I may have been an Indian in a previous life because it feels like a very natural place to be for me. I also return to Greece yearly along with my mentor to photograph a shepherd and his village. I've made friends there as well and the terrain is so much like Texas, it feels like home.

I understand you participated in our Street Photography, Documentary Portraiture Workshop and Exhibition back in the summer. What were some of your favorite parts of this workshop? What was your biggest takeaway?

SDR: I had a great time during the Street Photography workshop. I rarely photograph in Austin so it was a good opportunity to hit my own streets with fresh eyes. The best part of the workshop was meeting new people and wandering around with them. We were fortunate to have an exhibit at Artworks, which was very nicely done.

What elements make for a good photograph?

SDR: When I was in college, one of my professors told me that art should create an emotion with the viewer. It didn't matter what the emotion was—they could hate it—but if they felt something, then it was good. I agree. (And of course, the technical stuff of composition, light, etc, etc.)

What are your go-to pieces of equipment?

SDR: I currently shoot with a Fuji XT-4 and a Leica QP. Those are my workhorse cameras. I am incredibly simple with my gear: I don't use flash, tripods, double exposures, or filters, and I try to make the best picture I can in camera because I don't like post-processing on a computer.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?

SDR: I was recently included in the PhotoPlace Gallery Weather exhibit, juried by Alyssa Coppelman. I am working on an exhibit in Austin at the Wexel Art Gallery after the first of the year that will include some of the images in from the book. Hopefully, I will still have copies of the book at that time because the limited edition is halfway to done!

You can find more of Routh's work on her website and Instagram. Her book is available here