Featured artist | Steve Hart

May 12, 2022

Local Photographer embraces his life-long hobby

Written by Judy Schmidt

It began decades ago as a unique, teachable, interesting father-son pas-time to be shared between twelve-year-old Steve Hart and his Dad, Steven Senior, already a seasoned hobbyist in the field of photography. From the moment young Steve was gifted with his first camera–a Minolta XGM–learned to develop film in a converted walk-in closet re-designed and equipped as a darkroom in their Sterling, Illinois home and acquired a collectible amount of paraphernalia for this new activity.

He was hooked–hooked on a hobby of taking pictures that carried him well into adulthood. It literally broadened his scope of what to shoot, learning new methods of creating and manipulating the right scenes, positions, lighting, and transitioning between the history and methods of early film to digital times. 

Also, there was a growing passion, that excitement that builds on an adventure, continually bringing new knowledge and experiences. However, before venturing into this particular field of art and becoming a photographer that now regularly displays his work in fine art centers and other prominent places, for which he has earned recognition and awards, Steve gleaned many tricks of the trade by practicing with his Dad and on his own. 

As a budding photographer in a small Baptist Christian school near Sterling, he took pictures of students’ sporting events, individual lay-up shots as needed, and other opportunities as they arose. He also took pictures needed of their church during that era. Spending time learning photography with his Dad was a “wonderful project”, he remembered. They had several years of sharing a connective hobby until his father passed away in 1987. 

“It was tough to keep doing it after Dad died,” he recalled. However, his mother, Betty, who was an artist and hobbyist in her own right, was making Teddy Bears out of mohair, alpaca wool, and other materials at that time. So, Steve began taking pictures of the Teddy Bears for her, which were put on the Internet and displayed on “The Paula Sands Live” show, where Betty was featured and interviewed. Helping his mother in that way became a new means of bonding with her that not only re-ignited his photography passion but drew him to a new genre he never experienced before. 

“I never thought I’d go out in marshlands,” he said. “But my Mom liked birds.” So, with binoculars and cameras in tow, they headed out to identify and photograph different species of birds along rivers and other places. Steve took an evening photo of a snowy owl on top of a telephone pole. “You get what nature gives you,” he said. “She never left for half an hour.” “I like doing wildlife shots because they’re never going to complain about how the picture looks,” he added. 

Photography, however, is not just a fun pastime running around randomly clicking images that might magically appear in a view finder. Comparing photography with other fine arts Steve believes it may require equal time to find the perfect composition. “Oil painting may take months to complete compared to taking snapshots, but a photographer may have to study a location waiting for a sunset or the sun moving or changing colors. They always have to look for the right light and clouds and consider the atmosphere. There may be distracting elements in the background to consider. “Everything through trial and error,” he said. “Art is subjective and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but putting yourself out there makes you vulnerable or open to criticism.” 

Still, there are times of encouragement, and Steve has been recognized at different times. In 2021 he received a best of show for a photo of the Sterling Theater and recognition at other shows for photos displayed at CGH Commerce Towers in Dixon. “You can have thousands of images in a hard drive,” he said. “But that doesn’t compare to finalizing your image, putting it into a print, picking your mat and frame, and seeing a tangible item you put on the wall. 

That’s where The Next Picture Show comes in,” he said. Steve’s work was on TNPS’ feature wall for March of 2022. He is an active volunteer at the center, photographing different events. He enjoys the atmosphere, the people, and meeting other artists. He is a lifelong resident of the city of Sterling. 

His love of photography began as a hobby, grew bigger as an older hobby. And today it is still just that–a hobby that he loves.

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