If you engaged in a conversation with Steveo Spirals while selecting ears of corn at a farmer’s market, you’d quickly find out that he’s the proprietor of a digital marketing agency. Amid zucchini and tomatoes, he might mention that he constantly craves new experiences and excitement. That’s why he’s visited five continents thus far. You’d be struck by his warmth, friendliness, and genuine desire to connect with perfect strangers. Discovering that – for a long time – he considered pursuing a career in the healing arts would just seem fitting.
It’s at that point, during the inspection of kale and broccoli, that you would ask him, “So…what do you do for fun? What’s your passion?” That’s when Steveo would fully come to life.
I had always dreamed of being a real deal photographer. Then three years ago, I finally decided that I was going to get really good at it, whatever that took.
Steveo Spirals – the head honcho behind Spirals Photography – admits that he’s gone to somewhat “obsessive” lengths to hone his entirely self-taught craft. His process has included – among many other things – “lots of trial, error, and driving friends crazy” while endlessly pointing a camera at them. His practice makes perfect approach enabled him to “develop the technical capabilities necessary to tell the messages” that resonate with him the most.
It’s quite evident that Steveo gravitates toward a darker narrative, but don’t be so quick to merely just write it off as a popular aesthetic. Almost everything that this artist does is motivated by a desire to capture emotional substance in a manner that liberates the heart and soul. “Every person,” he explains, “comes with the duality of pain and joy. I believe I see things in people that they may not be able to see in themselves.”
In the midst of the darkness, Steveo Spirals uses his art form to elevate the spirits of his muses. He approaches his craft the way that a healer might, going below the surface in an effort to facilitate emotional release.
It’s never just been about pointing a camera and taking a picture. I create a safe space to bring to life whatever must be manifested in that moment. It’s a therapeutic experience.
Steveo expands on the vibe of his shoots: “Sometimes, I’ve helped people to see their own beauty. Other times, I’ve pulled from an experience. I’ve definitely channeled the darkness and brought it to the surface.” There is one thing that makes his photographic approach as stirring for the lensman as for the muse. “I’ve been able to create far deeper, more meaningful images” he says, due to “the powerful, shared healing that has taken place.”
Steveo Spirals’ mad crush on photography wasn’t born overnight. Indeed, an affinity for creative expression has always rippled through his life. Growing up, he was exposed to his grandfather’s film-based photographs and the multimedia creations of his mother. Like so many children, he spent a great deal of time drawing. As the years progressed, he dabbled in everything from literary arts and music to performance art, video, and painting. There was even a point – following his public performance of a self-penned literary piece – when someone referred to him as “Jim Morrison reincarnated.”
Oddly enough, he never actually regarded himself as an artistically talented individual, however. “I believe I saw the world through an artist’s eyes,” Steveo reflects, “but at the time, I didn’t have the self-worth to label it as such. That only happened once I discovered my true place in the world.” We must look to his formative years to understand why there was such a disconnect in his perception of the creative skill that was always bubbling below the surface.
Children tend to think that the world rises and sets with their parents. What effect, then, does the tragic death of a parent have on one who is ill-equipped to process such a devastating loss? In Steveo Spirals’ case, his mother’s ovarian cancer cut their time short. Understandably, that traumatic event resulted in a substantial amount of mental health fall-out for the young child. Steveo’s feelings of rejection and emotional immolation were only amplified when his father asked his aunt to become his full-time guardian.
As a result, that pain and anguish infiltrated his many childhood drawings, often in ways that alarmed the adults in his life. “In most of my writings or my drawings, I was obsessed with suicide, death, and sex,” Steveo recounts. “I needed to escape from being in my own skin. Every waking moment, I was so incredibly angry. I would either doodle really bizarre and abstract concepts or I would draw stick figures brutally killing each other. I was just always drawn to the darkness.” Sadly, a regular part of his formative years consisted of interventions and institutionalizations.
Even if you have a relatively stable upbringing, life can be challenging enough to navigate. It’s no wonder Steveo Spirals’ “completely chaotic childhood” made him assume that he’d end up becoming “a destitute angry punk who would die young.” He became “obsessed with death and tragedy”, which resulted in a drug habit that loomed large within his life.
Now that we comprehend Steveo’s personal history, it makes his current chapter and overall outlook all the more admirable. It seems as though he’s tapped into a transformative inner force. That enables him to propel the Steveo 2.0 version of himself forward. These days, he wastes no opportunity expressing how grateful he is for the purpose and fulfillment that he experiences in myriad areas of his life.
Steveo’s photographic practice is a notable source of personal joy and satisfaction for him. Imagine hearing someone describing the way they feel during a vibrationally elevating yoga session. That parallels his discussion of the creative process that courses through his work.
Depending on the person I am working with, I tap into a fluid flow state where I am almost acting intuitively. I always walk away from those sessions feeling almost high from connecting to the source, whatever that is. I feel so present when I am shooting that nothing else in my life is even on my mind in those moments besides the work that we are creating together.
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to be in the creative zone knows that the above words ring so true. Furthermore, Steveo seems to be genuinely enamored with the human spirit. He regards figurative photography as particularly enchanting: “I think people are the most interesting, unique, and beautiful subjects. To me, even a landscape looks better with a person in it. I am a shit painter, but with photography, I can create cool concepts utilizing my muses that are comparable to what could be put on canvas.”
All of the images illustrating this article are conceived and executed by Steve along with collaborative input from other creatives. In fact, he is so motivated to continue honing his craft that he answers the call of the muse several times a week. Quite frequently, his photographs are either improvised or inspired by “a story, or a color palette, or a general theme.” Like any artist magnetically attracted to their chosen craft, he loses himself in the editing and refining process. Additionally, those endeared to the photographic arts will appreciate his penchant for prop collecting.
I collect random things everywhere I go that I may one day use in a shoot. I have even made my own spur of the moment clothes during shoots to style with.
Steveo Spirals may be relatively new-ish to dark photography, yet he’s already amassed 20.9k Instagram follows. He was fortunate enough to have one of his images go viral, but it’s the homegrown nature of his creative approach that seems to be especially appealing to his fanbase. Steveo is not motivated by an aesthetic blueprint. While he clearly maintains a dark vibe in his art, he states matter of factly, “I just shoot what I want to shoot.” He appreciates when people resist the urge to fit his art form into a tidy little filing cabinet, because “being defined by one thing is so boring.”
Steveo’s creative efforts are certainly about artfully representing and giving a voice to diverse subcultures. Capturing an overall mood, immortalizing the essence of a muse, and solidifying personal connections are also just as integral to his practice. In fact, he makes a point of befriending every one of the individuals in front of his lens.
Once we get to know each other and let the walls down, the weirdness and the darkness can commence.
His subject matter, which often revolves around “the void, the unknown, ominous and ancient beings, darkness, pain, trauma, agony, sombre beauty, raw emotion, and human bodies”, actually seems to emanate just a little bit more intimacy and insight into the darker end of the spectrum. Why? Because Steveo’s images are raw, emotive, and unvarnished – just like real life – which make the beholder feel at times that they see their own reflection in the mirror. It may not be perfectly fluffed and puffed, but it is perfectly relatable.
Individual creative and collaborative credits to // Tyreik Andrew Thomas, Liryc Not Lyric, Diana Price, Pyro aka Rottdflesh, Shaylyn Wade, Mariah Dunn, Lord Lilith aka Femina Flower, Jamaica Carter aka Cleopatruuh, Brianna Leonard, Wabi aka Wabi The God, Sonny aka Spitforsale, Cherrybomb, Bambi aka Broke Paris Hilton, Alisa Traskunov, Julie Bird, Brad King, Hexovthewest, Ash aka Volcanic Ash, Abigail Lopez, Meg Keruskin, Stylz The Artiste, and Nene Brigit.