Stefen Pompée Chats With Us About “What God Sees,” PMP, and More

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Stefen Pompée, an independent artist and photographer, has been shaping the contours of contemporary photography with his unique perspectives and compelling visuals. Born and raised in the heart of New York City, Pompée’s upbringing in this vibrant metropolis has greatly influenced his artistic trajectory. A graduate from Fiorello H. Laguardia Arts High School for Fine Arts, Pompée’s engagement with art has always been more than just a pastime—it’s the lens through which he views life.

His transition from a potential career in skateboarding to becoming an established photographer is a testament to his versatility and creativity. Stefen’s works seamlessly blend urban culture with fine arts, a reflection of his skateboarding days in the bustling city. Over time, his photographic interests have evolved from landscapes to a primary focus on portraits, largely due to the intriguing dynamic between the photographer and his subjects.

In 2019, Pompée launched his agency, PMP, with a vision to represent a diverse array of talents. The New York City-based agency prides itself on its inclusivity, representing curve, petite, and non-binary talents. PMP’s ethos ties into Pompée’s own philosophy about his art and his drive to challenge the status quo of the industry.

Below, we had the pleasure of chatting with Pompée, where he shares his journey, upcoming exhibit for “What God Sees,” and his ambitions for the future with PMP.

First and foremost, how did you get into photography?

I began my journey into photography through skateboarding, we were always taking videos of each other for documentation. I thought I would become a pro skateboarder, but as I got older, I found myself focusing more on art. This transition took place more rapidly as I worked in skate shops in the city, where I started taking photos. Over time, I found that I loved photography more than skateboarding.

I used to think the world revolved around New York City. It wasn’t until I left the country that my perspective shifted. I’d been to Miami and Mexico, but my time in LA and beyond made me realize there was so much more. Interestingly, when I told people from these places that I was from New York, they seemed very impressed.

So apart from the process of networking and actually taking photos, how do you figure out what you’re interested in?

My interests in photography initially revolved around skateboarding, then transitioned when I worked at a skate shop. I began taking photos of people wearing the clothes, which was a switch from skateboarding. Now, most of my photography is portraits for brands. There was a phase where I did a lot of landscape photography, but I wasn’t as into it as portraits. I found out people liked the way I took photos, and so, I focused on that more.

Tell us more about PMP—what inspired you to launch your own agency? What do you hope to achieve through it?

PMP, my agency, started when friends noticed that I shot a lot of cool people and suggested my photos could make someone’s portfolio. I quit my job and started the agency without any experience. It was a tough first year with no income, but I persisted. I wanted to make an inclusive agency that represents different kinds of people, including those who are curvy, short, non-binary, and people of color.

That being said, how would you define your role as a photographer in the confines of owning an agency?

My role as a photographer changed as I started my agency. Initially, I was shooting the talent, but as I became more experienced, I’m trying to focus less on shooting and more on making the agency more dynamic. I aim to bring in more collaborations as that’s what’s going to bring in more work.

What have been your favorite reactions from your subjects upon seeing the final images?

When subjects see the final images, their reactions vary. Some have been moved to tears, as not everyone I shoot is a model. I like making people happy, and seeing their reactions is one reason why I keep doing what I do.

You also have an exhibit coming up titled “What God Sees”—can you give us a sneak peek or hint at what to expect?

My upcoming exhibit “What God Sees” is a project I’ve been working on for a few years. It started when I talked to my girlfriend about some nude photos I’d taken. I realized that there weren’t many black artists doing this kind of art photography. So, I decided to create a book of colorful, warm images. The project allowed me to put together a show, which was another important step for me.

Although you’re still early on in your journey, what advice do you have for up-and-coming photographers trying to develop their point of view and grow a following?

In my opinion, I have a small following and I mean my life in general is to just have fun with what you’re doing. If it stops being fun, take a break. Balancing between what’s fun and what’s profitable is important. I’ve freelanced for three years, and even though it’s not always as profitable as I want it to be, I make sure I’m enjoying it.