Heather Sten’s photographs elicit a particular tenderness. This sensorial quality cuts through the glossy beauty that typically dominates editorial portraits and instead reaches for something softer, more natural and full of joy. Sten’s work is about paying attention – tuning into daily life and the nuances of gesture, expression, emotion and human connection that often go overlooked or underappreciated. She cherishes these subtleties, making pictures that honour the small details that accrue into a life.
Over the last decade, the photographer has steadily built up an impressive roster of clients. She is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as creating campaigns for Ssense, Airbnb, Nike, Google, Gap, and Mr Porter. You’ve likely seen her work many times but perhaps don’t know her name because Sten says no to most interviews.
“The pressure to PR yourself as a photographer gives me anxiety,” she says. “I hate the feeling of being looked at by people – I prefer to just focus on the work.” For Sten, picture-making is almost a sacred space – an opportunity to connect with someone and “respond to each other’s energy and make something together”.