Interview with ASMP Spotlight photographer Steve Swieter by Virginie Kippelen
Steven Swieter is a happy photographer. It is not in his official résumé, but this is
the impression you get when you sit down with him. On paper, Steven has built a
corporate communications photography career since moving to Atlanta in 1983,
covering meetings and events of all types and sizes. What makes his heart beat
a little bit faster, however, is when a project involves some form of action,
such as flying an helicopter or going underground to shoot in a mine (not
surprising when you know he is a Boy Scout troop leader). He is also known for
his technical abilities and complex projects, such as his two-and-a-half-year
time-lapse documentation of the renovation of Lenox Square in Atlanta.
Q: Swieter Image is
celebrating 31 years this year. That is quite an accomplishment. How did you
start in photography?
A: I started way back, in Philadelphia. I was hired in 1975
by a corporate communications firm to do
black & white and Cibachrome color printing when it first came out. It
evolved later into creating slideshows featuring animation and special effects.
It was fun and very challenging because when you are working with slides, if you
get one step wrong, or if you have a big piece of dust on it, you have to do it
over. My personality worked well with the perfectionism of getting the right
thing the first time. Then in 1982, I moved to Atlanta with the same company and
I worked there another nine months. In September of 1983, I started to work for
myself, Swieter Image, doing corporate and industrial photography mainly.
Q: What is the
difference between corporate and industrial photography?
A: I like to do things that involve flying helicopters or
going underground. And that I would say differentiates industrial from
corporate. The industrial is the fun stuff that I like to do. Corporate is more
of a people thing. Most of my work is with in-house communications people, but
I also do work for PR firms and meeting planners; I also do a lot of portrait
work for the Web. On my own, I do what people call ‘fine art’ but I would call
it “shooting what I like to shoot.” I make a lot of my own frames…I do
sculptures, some of my work involves welding. I do a lot of things that have
nothing to do with photography but they allow me to work with different
materials and it keeps my mind busy. I feel very fortunate to be able to do
what I like to do, since I first picked up a camera at age 13.
Q: How long have you
been an ASMP member?
A: I have been an ASMP member for at least 10 years. I am a
I remembered meeting Daemon Baizan and Art Rosser and
showing them my portfolio to get their thumbs up or down.
Q: Where do you see
the benefits of being part of this association?
A: I like being able to network with people who are like me,
professionals. There is this social aspect, but then there is also a technical
aspect: You can call people and ask them questions, like how they do their
lighting, for instance. People are very supportive, especially here in Atlanta, which is kind of
a small town from a photography standpoint.
Q: What is your next
A: This week, I am flying to Cincinnati to do a one-day
shoot in a security operations center, which monitors the Web for its clients.
At the end of the month, I will shoot a mining facility in Pueblo, Colorado,
which I think will be pretty cool.
Q: How do you prepare
A: They gave me a good shot list, which is always helpful. So
I will do that, but I will stay open to interesting things that happen in front
of me and that may not be on the list. Sometimes they might use it.
Q: How do you get your
A: There are a couple of clients I have worked with for
years. I have been fortunate that the people who were in the position to hire
me way back gave my name to everybody
else that asked. It is also about following up with clients that hired me,
thanking them for what they did, making sure that technically and
photographically I gave them more than they asked for. I always try to make
people I am working with happy that they hired me because that eventually will
turn into a repeat. I refer my clients to my website, swieterimage.com, but also I make sure to give them the ASMP site. And
that brings me back to another benefit of being part of ASMP: Find a Photographer. It is really an
amazing tool, not only for networking. People can find my name there and if I can
’t do the job, I tell them to look at the ASMP website in Atlanta or anywhere
in the US where the job is located, and I hire a person who is an ASMP member.