Summit Right Brain: ‘Every day I have a camera in my hand, it’s a good day’ |

Summit Right Brain: ‘Every day I have a camera in my hand, it’s a good day’

Stanley Stansfield is the featured artist of the month at the Arts Alive Gallery throughout July.
Stanley Stansfield / Special to the Daily |


What: Artist reception

When: July 9, 4–8 p.m.

Where: Arts Alive Gallery, 500 S Main St, Breckenridge

Cost: Free

To find out more about Stanley, go to his website at

Stanley Stansfield and his wife had been coming to Summit County for its winters for 12 seasons when they decided to stay for summer. That was in 2011, and they’ve been living in the area full time since, this year logging their 17th season on the hill.

From Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, the couple began coming to Summit after getting into skiing in Wisconsin and smaller ski hills in the area. Friends introduced them to ski patrol, and the couple spent 12 years working at Keystone Resort, eventually moving to guest services and working as volunteers.

Although Stansfield semi-retired as a commercial photographer after his permanent move to Colorado, he continues to take pictures both for work and for pleasure.

“After I moved out here, I had to build a whole new portfolio,” he said. “No one here is going to buy a photo of a McDonald’s hamburger or Dewer’s Scotch. I had to figure out for about four years, what do I like, what do I like doing?”

Stansfield recently joined the Arts Alive Gallery co-op in Breckenridge about a month and a half ago to exhibit the work he has been doing in the area. He is the July artist of the month with the Gallery, and his photo exhibit “Unique Patterns of Nature and the Old West Yesterday and Today” will be on display throughout the month. An artist reception to meet the photographer will be held on July 9 from 4-8 p.m. and is open to the public.

As a commercial photographer, Stansfield has been taking pictures most of his life. After apprenticing with photographers out in Chicago and a stint with the Air Force, he eventually opened his own studio, with a specialty in still life and special effects.

“This was before digital, when everything was done on film,” he said.

With the initial change to digital and the costs that went into that, he closed his studio down and opened up a photo lab. Photographers in the area came to Stansfield for post-production work, but he also continued to do location work.

Although he is now semi-retired after moving to the county, he continues to take photographs within the ski industry, including promotional photography for a ski shop in Chicago.

He has decades worth of lessons he’s learned in the industry and believes professional photography work is as much about solving problems as it is lighting and angle. For example, he has shot plenty of promotional photos for beer companies, and, just like food, there are certain ways to make the ad more attractive.

“Beer is a liquid that you want to photograph,” he said. “What does it do? It has a certain temperature and, at a certain temperature, it releases the gas and forms a head on top. If it’s too cold, the head looks really crispy and crackly. If it’s too warm, it’s releasing the gas too fast. We actually photograph beer with a baster you use for cooking meat. You pour the liquid in — use can beer because can beer has a hole in the top when you pull the tab it sucks all the air in … can beer will pour smoother. You pour it to get that level of where the head is, and you stop, and then you take the baster and you put the baster in, and suck up the beer and then you shoot it back in. What happens is the head releases. If the head’s coming up too fast, you take the baster and suck up the foam, so it doesn’t overflow too fast. When you’re photographing something, whether it’s a hamburger or cheese, it has certain chemical properties to it that you learn how to handle and do. Photography is not all glamorous and taking pictures and lighting; it’s trying to solve a problem.”

Locally, his work can be seen at the Gallery, and he has also done volunteer photograph work for Roundup River Ranch, a summer camp for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses in Dotsero.

What do you like to photograph most often for pleasure, not for work?

Every day I have a camera in my hand, it’s a good day, it’s a happy day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pleasure or job or whatever. If you have an assignment, you’re given a window, you’re given restrictions. I love that. What can I do with this assignment, what can I do with this bit of information I have? … Actually getting a photo assignment sometimes is very pleasurable.

What are your other hobbies and interests besides photography?

Skiing … hiking, biking — whatever we do out here for fun.

What advice would you give to other aspiring photographers?

First of all … keep shooting, keep taking photographs, but look at your work and say, how could I have made it better? Could I have done it at a different angle, how could I have made it better? Also learn the history of your craft. Why is everybody in a group portrait back in the 1800s not smiling? Do you know why? Long exposure. They had braces behind their heads. … Do you ever notice a family photo, everyone is looking at you straight on, they are straight, no smiles, but there is a kid that’s kind of blurry? He’s moving because the kid won’t sit still. Learn why they did everything.

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