Q&A with 2015 Photography and Multimedia alum Stephen Richmond

Stephen Richmond

Stephen Richmond, 42, of Battle Creek, graduated from Kellogg Community College with an Associate of Applied Science in Photography and Multimedia degree in 2015.

Richmond, a 2001 graduate of Battle Creek Central High School, started College as a nontraditional student at age 30 and made an immediate impact on campus. He won a half dozen awards in KCC’s Annual Student Art Exhibition – including Best of Media awards in the Animation/Video and Alternative Photography/Printmaking categories – and was the College’s Outstanding Achievement in English and Outstanding Achievement in Art award winner in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

As a student he joined a summer internship program producing media for the manufacturing company Whirlpool, and today he works as part of media crew at Whirlpool’s Wow Studios.

Why did you choose your major/area of study?

I originally intended on attending KCC to get my basic classes out of the way while I pursued a filmmaking degree at one of a handful of schools whose programs I sought out. Having already gained experience in video editing, I wanted a better understanding of a camera and how to employ that as a tool from a place of deep understanding to achieve the best results in my personal and professional work. I took Intro to Photography to get my foundation set, but I fell in love with the art form from what the root of the name means: painting with light. After that semester, the decision to stay at KCC and enroll in the entirety of the Photography Program was executed and it was as enriching as it was challenging and rewarding.

Why did you choose to study your major specifically at KCC?

The Photography Program at KCC is one of the very few in the country that still offers a film- and darkroom-based education, and this was the huge catalyst that informed my choice to stay at the College and take every possible course in the field. The beauty of a film-based photography education is that you are ingrained with a specific kind of discipline that harbors a philosophy of being more deliberate with every snap of the shutter rather than taking 300 digital images and hoping a few turn out to your liking. You really learn to be mindful and meaningful of how you fill the entirety of the frame to convey whatever emotion or chapter of a story you’re trying to purge onto the silver salts. From getting to partake in a 140-year-old format to learning how to scan and digitally repair old negatives, I was constantly being pushed to learn new ways to develop my skills in this craft.

What are you doing now, and how did KCC help you on your path?

Currently, I am a member of a commercial video crew at Wow Studios for Whirlpool following seven years as a 360° product photographer. Now I’m responsible for lighting the sets, color balancing the lights, setting up shots, pulling focus for the camera and creating ways to achieve challenging shots while using practical methods. All of this was made possible by KCC participating in Whirlpool’s summer internship program, which granted me the opportunity to spend three months digesting the real-world experience of working in a high-functioning studio. The previously stated discipline that the Photo Department instilled in me was key to the success of clutching my spot in the internship program while concurrently carving out a space to be a member of the studio family for years to come. I’m forever grateful for that because now I get to do what I love surrounded by people that I love for a living.

Was your favorite part of your time at KCC, and why?

Working in the darkroom was my absolute favorite part of being a Bruin student. Developing film, creating prints, experimenting with alternative techniques, all while spending time with like-minded students was integral for helping me understand that I was on the right path in life. The input from our professors during our critiques was definitely a remarkably helpful aspect as well because they choose to be honest with you about what things you need to focus on and what areas you’re excelling at while continuing to foster your desire to improve and achieve.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned at KCC?

The Alternative Techniques course was absolutely the most interesting course I was a part of! We were able to recreate past processes that haven’t been used in decades to add to our arsenal of tools to level up our art sense. There’s nothing like bleaching out specific areas of an image and painting back in with copper so there’s a reflective aspect to the piece that you never would have known you could do, let alone get to learn how to do it thanks to the program.

What advice do you have for current or future KCC students?

My advice to any current and future students, number one: Listen to your professors. They want to ensure your success so they’re never saying anything to hurt your feelings. Our professors are being real with you to keep you open to criticism that will only better your ability to complete challenges, thus creating a forward momentum even after you’ve graduated. Work as hard as you can while you’re tethered to this campus; it only gets harder when you become a part of the machine, so prepare yourself now to understand that success is arduous and never guaranteed on your first or even 15th try, but keep going at it and one day you’ll be exactly where you want to be.

Anything else you’d like to say?

No dream is silly. I didn’t start college until I was 30. I lived out my youthful arrogance and waited until I was ready to change my life for the better. I came back into schooling nearly 12 years older than my classmates, but I was there with intense purpose and took my education as seriously as I did my recreational passions. I chased fancy against societal norms and kept my head toward a degree in art. After applying every atom in my body to finishing out the program at the highest possible level in terms of participation and achievement, that bastion of dedication was noticed and the amazing faculty ushered me into my career with a recommendation that changed my life in a way that I never could have imagined. Don’t ever stop chasing your fancy and working as diligently as you can to catch it. One day, you will.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Richmond.

This article first appeared in the March 2024 edition of BruIN magazine. To read the issue online, please visit kellogg.edu/bruinmagazine.