We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaylee M. Steffel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaylee M., why did you pursue a creative career?
I can’t see myself doing anything else. My first memory as a kid of being a “creative” was writing a 7th Heaven remake in 4th grade. It was never shown to anyone but it existed. I’ve done everything from producing a song to making glass bead jewelry. It just comes naturally. We often moved, which guarded me a bit from inviting people to our house. So, it was about entertaining myself, too. Today, I focus primarily on the photographic medium. With that, it’s about telling stories through visuals. During the mandated shutdowns last year, I created a photography book that told the story of 2020 through my images. It is a self-published piece and it goes back to my truth, which is creating has always been an outlet for me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My influences in the photographic medium are from the 60s and 70s. I was photographing a male artist the other day and we were using Sid Vicious as an influence for the shoot at one point. I’m also heavily influenced by the early 2000s pop-punk scene and the grunge era of the early 90s. While many artists are buying new, I have been picking up my Pentax from the late 60s and disposable cameras more. I still very much photograph with my Nikon D800E the majority of the time but I have kind of used the disposables as a branding piece. This leads me to the difficulty of getting where I am today. I didn’t really have “my thing” for a while and it was a challenge to promote myself when I didn’t have a clear vision of who I was as an artist. I was just doing what I thought people wanted from me. It wasn’t until I started infusing my influences that it became easier for me. That was one of the biggest lessons to me and something I have gotten exponentially better at addressing. I recently went to a long-term client and told them I wanted to try to infuse ideas that might not be traditional in the country music space and they agreed to try it. It became the favorite image for both of us. It’s really about getting over the fear of an idea not working. As far as what I’d like people to know about me, I am proud of my work but I’d like to leave a legacy of being a decent, genuine person. I truly respect the people I work with and care about them as more than clients.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Nashville, so it’ll be a little different. However, I would take them to Whiskey Jam at Winner’s in Midtown, which is legendary at this point for how many hitmakers have played that stage. You never know who will show up. We will definitely have to plan a lunch at Prince’s for the hot chicken and dinner on a rooftop, I prefer White Limozeen. We would also need to visit Cheekwood to burn the calories. It’s exciting to me that no one ever feels like a stranger — no matter where you show up. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The person that deserves a shoutout for where I am is my brother, Kyle. He is my sounding board for ideas, the guy that helps with the business side and someone that has believed in my talents since we were children. He is a champion of my work and has always been supportive of my endeavors. My parents also deserve credit for fostering an environment where being creative was encouraged. On top of a great support system within my family, I have incredible friends that have been the test subjects for different ideas over the years. It’s rare that they turn me down when I ask to create something, which is huge for creators.
Personal Photo: Brandon Ellis Portfolio images used with permission from: Ashlea Calhoon, Taylor Borton, Ashley Ryan, Tory Grace, Eddie and The Getaway and Eli Gable